Dave Ulliott and poker: free to play after young life of crime

Dave Ulliott has become a fixture on the British poker scene. The Hull-born player, who used to sport a trademark pair of dark glasses to complement his slicked-back, black hair and abrasive features, has become arguably the most successful English player ever.

He boasted in 2010 that he had lost £600,000 the previous year, but then won it all back and then won £600,000 more. However, the 'Devilfish', as he is nicknamed, has not always been enjoying the finer things in life.

Born in the Yorkshire city of Hull in 1954, Ulliott was raised in tough working-class family. He never felt motivated at school, and left at 15, starting work in a trophy factory in his home city.

He was sacked from this job eventually, after he had been exposed to gambling. Ulliott enjoyed a trip to the bookmakers with his father and won a bet, reportedly at odds of 50-1. As he became a regular punter, he took an afternoon off to go to the races and lost his job.

That became the trigger for the young man to throw himself into Hull's underworld, and he was soon part of a safe-cracking team which successfully pulled off a number of jobs in the city. When this gang was eventually caught by the police, Ulliott found himself in jail for nine months.

He gave hints as to this tourbled early life when he told the Daily Telegraph: "In the old days money was quite easy to get hold of. I had two mates, Fred and Dave, and we would break into safes. Eventually we got caught and I spent my 21st birthday in Armley prison [now HM Prison Leeds]. I spent nine months inside and when I got out my wife Sue left me, so I didn’t see my kids Paul and Kerry as much as I liked."

Ulliott was also jailed in his late 20s for the last time, on this occasion for a fight outside a nightclub, for which he received an 18-month sentence. This was his last period of detention before 'going straight'.

He soon began his career in professional poker. Free to play now, his streetwise approach has seen him hit the heights of the professional circuit.

That career has seen him attain wealth, though he still chooses to live in his home city. not far from where he was born. A personal highlight of his career is captaining England in the Poker Nations Cup in 2006.

Ulliott has written about his life and career in an autobiography. Entitled 'DEVILFISH: The Life Times of a Poker Legend', it was described by fellow poker professional Victoria Coren as being, "like the man, fast, funny, scary, smart, cocky, colourful."

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