The 40th Annual World Series of Poker is only weeks away. Between now and the start of the Main Event BluffMagazine.com will be presenting the 40 Greatest Champions in WSOP history exclusively on WorldSeriesofPoker.com.
T.J. Cloutier has been such a consistent and constant performer at the WSOP that it’s easy to look past his success. The grizzled veteran has put together one of the most impressive resumes for a player that has never won the Main Event. He sits in second place for most final tables, fifth place for all-time WSOP cashes, and has four top five finishes in the Main Event. Cloutier was elected to the Poker Hall of Fame in 2006.
Cloutier has six bracelets, including one in each variation of Omaha. His first bracelet came in 1987 in Limit Omaha followed by his second Omaha bracelet in a 1994 Limit Omaha HiLo event. His second bracelet of 1994 came in a Pot Limit Hold’em event. His third Omaha bracelet came in 1998 in Pot Limit Omaha. His fourth and fifth bracelets came after poker boom, proving he can beat the large fields, amateurs, and the uber-aggressive online players. He won a Razz bracelet in 2004 and a No Limit Hold’em event in 2005.
Cloutier has been the bridesmaid twice, but never the bride with two runner-up finishes in the Main Event. His first WSOP cash was in the 1985 Main Event when he lost to Bill Smith. When Chris Ferguson edged out Cloutier in 2000 for the Main Event bracelet Cloutier moved in with A-Q and dominated Ferguson’s A-9, but lost the hand when Ferguson paired his 9 on the river. Cloutier took fifth in 1988 when Johnny Chan won his second Main Event bracelet. Then Cloutier finished in third place when in 1998 when Scotty Nguyen won his Main Event bracelet. Cloutier has won more than $1.6 million alone in the Main Event, which is more than any winner received before 2002 champ Robert Varkonyi.
Cloutier’s record of high finishes goes far beyond his multiple deep runs in the Main Event. Betting on Cloutier for a deep finish is a virtual lock, of his 54 WSOP cashes he has finished in the top 15 an astonishing 45 times. He had a string of 17 straight WSOP cashes from 1989 to 1996 where he made the final table for 15 of those cashes and the other two were a 12th and a 15th place finish. He also won two of his bracelets in that stretch. Cloutier had another notable finish when he took 5th place in the innagural $50k H.O.R.S.E. event when Chip Reese won.
Cloutier co-wrote the aptly named Championship Series with Tom McEvoy. In the series they have published “Championship Omaha,” “Championship Hold’em,” “Championship No Limit & Pot Limit Hold’em,” “Championship Hold’em Tournament Hands.”
As a young man Cloutier was a stand out athlete from Jefferson High School in Daly City, California. He went to the University of California, Berkeley on an athletic scholarship fro football and baseball. He was a part of the 1959 Rose Bowl when Cal was beaten by Iowa. He later had to leave school to help with his mother’s medical bills. Shortly after leaving Cal he was drafted into the Army. After his service Cloutier returned home and played in the Canadian Football League for Toronto and Montreal.
Cloutier left the CFL after a knee injury and started a wholesale food company. The company was not successful and Cloutier moved to Texas to work in the oil industry. While working on oil rigs Cloutier started playing poker and soon realized that he made more money playing cards than at his actual job.
Cloutier will be 69 years-old when he returns for this year’s WSOP. At an age when most have been retired for some years, Cloutier is still going strong. A testament to the adage that age is nothing but number Cloutier remains one of the most feared opponents to sit down a poker table.