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Posted by on Jun 22, 2013 in Blog, World Series of Poker | 9 comments

The Things We Never Knew



Richard Turnbull died a few days ago.

He was the oldest dealer on the World Series of Poker staff.  Richard may have been 86 in calendar years, but he was 21 in spirit.  Richard loved poker and his favorite time of year was traveling to Las Vegas every summer to be with so many of the people he called his friends.

It’s a mystery as to why it happened.  Senseless really.

A few nights ago, Richard stepped off a curb and tried to cross the street.  He didn’t see an oncoming car and was struck.  He died a short time later.

I didn’t know Richard well.  That was my loss.  I read about Richard’s life in today’s Las Vegas Review-Journal.  I learned more about him from various poker websites which reported on the tragedy.  He seemed like a very nice man.

This morning, poker icon Mike Caro contacted me by e-mail.  To my surprise, Mike knew Richard.  They were close friends.  In fact, Richard stayed at Mike’s cabin next to the lake in the Ozarks at what’s known as “Hermitage,” where Caro now lives.

Mike wrote some extraordinary things to me.  Things I didn’t know.  Things that surprised me.

For instance, Richard goes so far back in poker that he knew Doyle Brunson before he was ever famous.  Richard actually witnessed the accident that ended young basketball star Doyle Bunson’s athletic career, causing him to decline an offer to play for the NBA’s (then) Minneapolis Lakers.

I also learned Richard was a true intellectual.  In his earlier years, he toured the nation and conducted training for the “Great Books” discussion program.  Mike Caro wrote to me, “(Richard) had tremendous influence on my early thought process.”

I would have liked to know Richard better, especially after learning these things about him.  I would have liked to hear about the people he met and the things he saw — both at the poker table and away from it.  I would have liked to hear which was Richard’s favorite book, and why.

But that might have been just scratching the surface.  How much else about Richard was there that we don’t know?

Sadly, it’s too late now.  With his passing, most of his fascinating stories and experiences go to the grave.  Lost forever.  All that would have been necessary to give them life would have been to talk to him.  To ask questions.  I think Richard would have loved to answer.

It too late to know many of the things Richard knew.  But it’s not too late to learn about someone else who is interesting.  How many other “Richards” are out there among us?  How many “Richards” would love to be asked about their favorite memory?  How many things are there that we don’t know?

In memory of Richard, let us pledge to erase our ignorance about each other, and to learn.  To learn a lot more.  For it is we who shall forever be the winners for simply asking the right questions.

Read Mike Caro’s wonderful blog entry on Richard Turnbull HERE.



  1. Thanks, Nolan. That’s a perfect tribute to my friend, thoughtfully crafted, as your writing always is.

    Straight Flushes,
    Mike Caro

    • Nolan,

      I greatly appreciate your taking the time to elucidate Richard’s experience in life and in poker. You are an indelible asset to the poker community. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to honor this gentleman. He will be remembered.

      David Slowik
      Poker Shift Manager
      Horseshoe Hammond

      • David,
        We’re going to have to give you a warning and a one round penalty for hugging nolans nuts too hard.

        • Owned and humbly accepted. Thank you for the conventional wisdom Mr. Nut Hug Defender. Never shall I appreciate something so rare and precious as your expertise and insight into this fine matter. You are so very benevolent kind sir.

  2. I didn’t realize that I knew Richard, until I saw his picture in your blog. I had the pleasure of having Richard as a dealer to me numerous times, and on all occasions he was professional, courteous, and chipper. I’ll miss his smile.

  3. Nolan, As always, very nicely done. You are right on. Poker dealers come from varying, intersting and sometimes surprising backgrounds. Just take the time to ask each other.

    • Richard was a very close personal friend if mine Nolan thank you. If you wanna here some more Richard stories call me anytime!

    • Richard was a very close personal friend if mine Nolan thank you. If you wanna here some more Richard stories call me anytime!

  4. I met Richard a few weeks ago when I took my seat in Event 3A – my first ever WSOP event. Richard asked for my ID, and when he noticed that I was from Louisiana, he said: “Are we playing boo-ray?”

    I replied, “Sure. Are you going to match the pot if you misdeal?”

    He got a good laugh out of that.

    I had a foreboding feeling when I clicked on the Cardplayer headline announcing the death of the oldest dealer at the WSOP. My premonition told me that it was Richard before I saw his picture on the next page.

    My condolences to Richard’s friends and family. I only knew him for 30 minutes, but he had an infectious smile and jovial demeanor which will forever be etched in my memory. I hope that he passed on that spirit to the dealers who will follow him.

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