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TJ Cloutier Biography

T.J. Cloutier Biography
by Chad H. of

Thomas James Cloutier, better known as T.J. Cloutier and nicknamed the “Paul Bunyon of Poker,” is considered by many to be among the most talented poker players in the world. Born on Friday the 13th, 1939 in Albany, California, but later moved to Texas. Cloutier was a naturally born athlete who attended U.C. Berkeley on an athletic scholarship and even played in the 1959 Rose Bowl, but later dropped out because of financial hardship. Soon after, Cloutier was drafted into the United States Army. After serving in the army, Cloutier went on to play in the Canadian Football League as a tight end for the Montreal Allouettes until a knee injury forced him to retire.

While working as a caddy at a golf course, Cloutier was introduced to poker and often played in between rounds of golf. After a failed food company business venture, Cloutier moved back to Texas and began work on an oil rig, where he played poker on his days off. Cloutier soon realized he was making more money playing poker than he was working, which inspired him to make the transition to playing poker full-time.

Cloutier was met with immediate success, which never seemed to stop. He has won over 50 major tournaments worldwide, but has never won the World Series of Poker Main Event (though he has come close finishing second in both 1985 and 2000). Despite not winning the Main Event, Cloutier has been successful in the W.S.O.P. winning six bracelets (1987- limit Omaha, 1994- Omaha eight-or-better, 1994- pot-limit hold’em, 1998- pot-limit Omaha, 2004- seven-card razz, and 2005- no-limit hold’em), being among the top players for number of “cashes”, and being the only person in history to have won events in all three types of Omaha (Pot Limit High, Limit High, and Limit 8-or-Better High-low split).

Cloutier has also found success outside the World Series of Poker. He was victorious at the 2003 Bellagio Five-Star World Poker Classic and the 2004 Festa al Lugo Main Event. He has also made two World Poker Tour final tables (with his highest finish being third at the 2003 Legends of Poker), and was invited to the WPT’s “Poker by the Book” invitational for poker-playing authors. In May 2006, Cloutier released How to Win the Championship: Hold’em Strategies for the Final Table and has co-authored four books with 1983 World Champion, Tom McEvoy (Championship Tournament Practice Hands, Championship Hold’em, Championship Omaha, and Championship No-Limit and Pot Limit Hold'em).

Cloutier has been inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame and was named Cardplayer’s Player of the Year in both 1998 and 2002. Cloutier has more than $8.9 million in tournament winnings. Like his friend, Doyle Brunson, Cloutier even has a card hand named after him, though it may not be as well known as the “Brunson,” or simply a ten and a deuce. Because Cloutier flopped three straight flushes in one year with the nine of clubs and jack of clubs, the hand has become widely recognized as the “T.J. Cloutier.” Cloutier currently resides in Texas with his wife, with whom he has had six children.


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