By Steve Beauregard
T.J. Cloutier is widely regarded as one of (if not THE) all-time greatest tournament poker players. His tournament record at the World Series of Poker is testament to that.
In total, Cloutier has won 60 major poker tournaments, and has over $10 million in career winnings. On the HendonMob’s ranking of all time money list of players from Texas, Cloutier ranks number one.
In just the WSOP, he has 64 cashes and six bracelets, (seven if not for an unlucky 9 on the river. More on that later). Of his ten million in winnings, $4.6 million of it is from World Series of Poker events. Only eight people in the world have won more WSOP bracelets, and by my count, he has made the final table at a WSOP event an astonishing 40 times.
Cloutier’s first World Series of Poker cash came in the big one. In the 1985 Main Event, T.J. finished second, picking up a $280,000 pay day.
His first bracelet came two years later, in 1987, at a $1,000 Limit Omaha Event. His most recent came in 2005, when he took down the $5,000 No-Limit Hold’em event, which was good for a $657,000 payday. It was in this event, where T.J. uttered a now-famous line shown on ESPN. “I flopped the joint.”
— phil_hellmuth (@phil_hellmuth) April 18, 2016
In between those two bracelets are wins in 7-Card Razz (2004), Pot-Limit Omaha (1998), Pot Limit Hold’em (1994), and Limit Omaha Hi-Lo (1994). As you can see, Cloutier’s six bracelets have come in six different events.
Despite the diversity of this wins, T.J. says his best game is no-limit hold’em, while his weakest game is Stud 8 or Better.
More amazing to me than his six bracelets in six different events, is T.J.’s WSOP Main Event record. Most of us would be thrilled to make the final table of the Main Event once. He’s made it four times, finishing in 5th, 3rd, and in second place twice.
“Yes,” some of you are saying, “but the fields were much smaller back then.” Very true, but let’s look at the final table participants of the 1985 WSOP Main Event, which had 140 runners, and in which T.J. finished second.
1985 WSOP Final Table
Bill Smith, Berry Johnston, Hamid Dastmalchi, Johnny Moss.
That’s six Main Event bracelets combined at that final table. Not bracelets, mind you. Six MAIN EVENT bracelets. (Moss won the Main Event three times).
Another final table participant not on this list, Jesse Alto, ended his career with five Main Event final table appearances, including a 2nd place finish to Doyle Brunson in 1977. Counting T.J.’s second place in this event and his second in 2000, this WSOP Main Event final table featured six Main Event winners and three runner-ups. In other words, the lineup wasn’t too shabby.
At the 1988 WSOP Main Event, Cloutier finished 5th. This was the final table made famous in poker film, Rounders, when Johnny Chan defeated Erik Seidel.
Ten years later, at the 1998 WSOP Main Event, T.J. would again make the final table. This time, the tournament featured 350 runners. If not for a bad beat from the hands of amateur Kevin McBride, T.J. would have wound up heads-up against eventual winner Scotty Nguyen. Instead, Cloutier finished third, which was good for $437,500.
In the 2000 World Series of Poker Main Event, Cloutier made his fourth, and thus far last, Main Event final table, where he ended up heads-up againstChris Jesus Ferguson for the bracelet.
At one point, Cloutier, (who had slightly fewer chips), had Ferguson all-in pre-flop while holding Ace/Queen versus Chris’s Ace/9. However he lost his chance at the title when Ferguson caught a nine on the river. In other words, T.J. was basically a three-outer from being the Main Event winner, and having ownership of poker’s greatest title: World Champion.
Although he doesn’t play in as many events, (he says he used to play almost every single WSOP tourney), T.J. did make an impressive run in a $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em event in 2013, making the final two tables. His 13th place was good for $23,812.
As for WSOP free roll events (yes, there are such things), T.J. made the final table of the 2010, WSOP TOC event (Tournament of Champions). T.J. finished in 9th place, (good for $25,000) in a murderer’s row of a final table that included the likes of WSOP Main Event champions, Johnny Chan, Huck Seed and Joe Hachem, along with poker luminaries Daniel Negreanu, Barry Greenstein, and Jen Harman.
In addition to the WSOP Events (T.J. doesn’t play the World Series of Poker Europe and WSOP Asia-Pacific), T.J. participates in WSOP Circuit Events. In fact, he has 12 cashes in WSOP Circuit Tournaments, good for over $51,000 in winnings.
(Photos courtesy of Matt Waldron via Flickr.)