The best Eskimo Alaska could offer

June 16, 2015 3:00 AM


My friend Paul “Eskimo” Clark passed away this past April in Las Vegas at age 67. Poker has lost a real legend of the game.

A few articles have been written about him that focused on some of the more unfortunate aspects of his life. I have a little different take on Eskimo.

Eskimo was hard to miss. When I first laid eyes on the big guy, he looked like an that Eskimo just left Alaska to play poker. I remember he always wanted a piece of my tournament play, and many times he would say let’s go parlay some money on blackjack to play the tournament. He always had a plan.

Eskimo would say, “I am going to bet $200 and let it ride four times. If I win, we are both in the tournament.”

It rarely worked.

What I never understood was he would have $100,000 in his pocket at the time, but he would always want to win his or my way into the tournament.

Another time I remember he was staying at the Lady Luck or one of those hotels near the El Cortez in downtown Las Vegas. On one of our blackjack trips, he said, “Robert did you know I can sing like Elvis Presley?” I said no, and he started singing walking down Fremont Street. After about five songs, I said, “OK, I believe you!”

Eskimo always had business ideas. Once he invested over $200,000 to build his own online poker site. After running into problems, he asked me how he could find the guy who had run off with his money. I told him you can’t. He really was a trusting soul.

Another time he had just bought a new Lincoln Town car. He walked me outside the Horseshoe, showed me $500,000 in a paper bag and told me, “These poker players play so badly. They think they can beat me.”

I never knew if Eskimo had $20 to his name or $1 million. He really had a big heart. He helped many poker players and played both sides of the staking game.

In 1999 he wanted to go to Atlantic City to play a $500 buy-in tournament. On Tuesday, he offered to drive a few guys from Los Angeles. I saw them six days later. I said, “I thought you guys went to the East Coast.” They said, “We did.”

I could not believe Eskimo could drive to Atlantic City, play and be back in less than a week, so I asked one of the guys what happened. He said Eskimo drove non-stop, chain-smoking the entire time.

After Eskimo got knocked out of the tournament in less than 3 hours he said, “Let’s go back.”

They never even checked into a room. Imagine riding in a smoke-filled car across the country and back in six days. That had to be the most miserable poker trip in history.

I would see Eskimo playing $6/$12 poker, win $300 and move to $20/$40, win $1,000 and move right into a $100/$200 game and win $40,000 not once, but many times. He was a true gambler and did it his way.

One time he called me outside of the Bicycle Casino. He needed to borrow $100 and asked me to hold his bicycle until Friday. I asked if he rode it to the Bicycle Casino, and he said, “Yes, it a good bike.”

I could hardly hold back my laughter, but he was he serious. I gave him $100 and told him to keep the little red bicycle. Now the story gets crazy.

A few days later he said, “Robert, come outside. I need to sell my boat. Do you know anyone that would give me $50,000 for it?” As we are walking outside to the parking lot at the Bicycle Casino, I thought about the red bicycle and now here is a 50-foot yacht on a trailer. It was the biggest boat I have ever seen out of water.

He said, “Robert, I paid $250,000 for it new, but I will take $50,000 for it. I need to go the WSOP.”

I have no clue where the boat or the little red bicycle came from, but I knew never to judge a book by its cover.

Eskimo was a three-time WSOP bracelet winner with over $2,700,000 in earnings over his career. His 20 cashes at the WSOP account for $632,005 of those winnings. He won bracelets in 7-card Stud, Razz and 7-card Stud Hi/Lo, winning his last bracelet in 2002. He was a master of all games.

Eskimo was a true legend and I will miss all the laughter he gave me over the years. I will never forget him.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and billiard marketing expert, best known for inventing the game of Omaha poker and introducing it to Nevada in 1982 and to California in 1986. In the year 2000, he created World Team Poker, the first professional league for poker. He has over 30 years experience in the gaming industry and is co-founder of Crown Digital Games. Twitter @thechipburnerRobert can be reached at