Those who played poker with Layne Flack certainly remember the experience. The smile, the laughs, the jokes, the gregarious personality. An afternoon with Flack could be much more than just a few hours of poker.
The six-time World Series of Poker champion made an impression on those around him. He obviously had some big skills as well.
On Monday, Flack passed away at age 52. Those poker skills led to numerous final table appearances. His fun-loving personality added to his popularity with televised poker viewers during the game’s boom of the 2000s.
“He would make you laugh about anything, even serious matters,” Phil Hellmuth said. “He was lightning quick, and so fun to be around.”
Those sentiments were echoed by many around the poker world.
Life at the poker table
Flack was born in Rapid City, South Dakota, and grew up in Miles City, Montana. He learned to play poker at an early age with his grandmother.
While later working at a casino, he became engrossed with poker and began playing daily after his shift ended. He eventually left to pursue the game full time in the mid-1990s.
That decision led to his first WSOP bracelet in 1999. He earned the name “Back-to-Back Flack” shortly after for winning two consecutive tournaments.
Much of his rise in the game came during the poker boom of the 2000s. He scored another two WSOP bracelets in 2002 and an additional two in 2003.
Flack’s final bracelet came in 2008 in a $1,500 Pot Limit Omaha event. That produced a win of $577,725, the largest score of his career.
Appearances on the World Poker Tour also brought some nice results, as well as some fans. In the tour’s first season in 2002, Flack finished runner-up in the World Poker Finals at Foxwoods for $186,900. The same year he won the WPT Invitational for $125,300.
As the game’s popularity reached its peak in 2004, another runner-up finish at the WPT Aruba Classic earned Flack another $500,000. His overall WPT winnings totaled more than $1 million.
Players remember ‘Back-to-Back’
Beyond the poker chops and big wins, players remember Flack for his affable nature and quick wit. Always ready with a joke or smile, the poker pro was never afraid of socializing at the table. He seemed made for the televised poker era.
Flack’s sudden death came as a shock to many who knew him. John “Tex” Barch was a longtime friend. The two met in the late 1990s during a tournament at the Orleans casino in Las Vegas.
“We had mutual Montana connections and became fast friends and running buddies – from west coast to east coast and every casino in between,” Barch told USPoker. “Layne had a huge personality and a gift for playing poker. He lived life at full speed. Everyone who met Layne has a Layne story. I was lucky to have hundreds. I will miss my friend always.”
That idea of having a “Layne story” resonated with many players who took a seat at the table with him.
When @back2backflack sat at your table.
It was guaranteed to be a good time…
Horrible news to hear of his passing. We lost one of the good guy.
All my condolences to Layne’s family and close friends. pic.twitter.com/OEIQTs5v48
— Annie LePage (@AnnieLePage) July 20, 2021
Most players who knew remember positive experiences with Flack at the tables. At a time when many high buy-in events feature minimal table chatter, he took the opposite approach.
“Can’t believe Layne is gone,” 2009 WSOP Main Event winner Joe Cada posted on Twitter. “Such a good guy on and off the felt. He’s going to be missed by so many.”
Others echoed those feelings about Flack, who leaves behind one adult daughter.
“You couldn’t be around ‘Back-to-Back-Flack’ without laughing and having fun,” Amanda Negreanu also noted. “He was always the life of the party.”
Respected among his peers
Flacks’s death resonated with players across a wide spectrum – from newer online players to those who got in the game before the poker boom. Jennifer Harman remembered his charm and humor.
Poker has lost a legend!
RIP Layne Flack. We go way back and I know that he would want us to share the laughs and not the tears. There has never been one time that you haven't put a smile on my face. I will miss you.
— Jennifer Harman (@REALJenHarman) July 20, 2021
PokerStars ambassador Lex Veldhuis reflected on Flack’s kindness at helping him learn a new game. The Limit Omaha Hi/Lo tutorial came while playing at the same table during the WSOP.
“At the time I was trying a lot of different poker variants,” Veldhuis said. “I told him I was a noob and he proceeded to answer all my questions to get me excited about the game. He was one of the only people that took that approach.”
Flack’s exact cause of death isn’t known yet, but poker has lost a huge figure in the game. At a time when “bring the fun back to poker” is a regular theme among some players, Flack brought the fun every tournament.
“I feel gutted right now over the news of the death of Layne Flack,” poker pro Dutch Boyd reflected on Twitter. “Easily the funniest guy I’ve known. He was my poker hero when I started out and eventually a good friend. But I never stopped looking up to him. I loved that guy and I’m really going to miss him.”
WPT executive tournament director Matt Savage got to know Flack in 2002 as WSOP tournament director. Savage considered Flack the best No Limit Hold’em player in the world at the time. One fun moment stood out in his mind.
“Back in those days we used to put first-place money in cash on the table with an armed guard just two feet away, and created quite the visual,” he said. “Generally, the player would be escorted to the cage to pick up the check. But not Layne. He picked up the big bricks of cash and tossed them to his backer Ted Forrest across the room.
“Over the years I’ve had so many great laughs with Layne, too many to count. I will truly miss his smile and his needles about how he let me have my wife Maryann, as she would have surely chosen him if he didn’t. I was lucky enough to see Layne for the last time a few weeks ago on the golf course and able to play a hole with him. He was smiling, laughing, and telling stories – and that’s the way I will remember him.”
* Lead image courtesy WPT