Veteran poker and gaming columnist and author Bob Ciaffone has passed away at the age of 81. Ciaffone died on Friday of undisclosed causes, and his passing was announced on social media by his friend, chess grandmaster, Ben Finegold, with whom Ciaffone had once co-authored a chess book.
Ciaffone, who was nicknamed “The Coach”, may have been best known in poker for his long-time role as a card columnist for Card Player Magazine. He also authored or co-authored five poker rules and strategy books, including Omaha Poker: The Action, Middle Limit Poker, Pot-Limit and No-Limit Poker, Improve Your Poker, and Robert’s Rules of Poker. Ciaffone’s “Coach” nickname came neither from his poker or chess experiences, but rather from his younger days or organizing and teaching an area bridge club.
Ciaffone did plenty of coaching in poker as well, and his Robert’s Rules of Poker served as guidelines for various public and private organizations years before such entities as the Tournament Directors Association came into being. Roberts also created the group Fair Laws on Poker (FLOP), which sought to help states create and enforce standardized guidelines for the governance of poker games in their jurisdictions.
A Brooklyn, New York native, and a resident of Saginaw, Michigan since infancy, Ciaffone also excelled at chess, bridge, and backgammon. Ciaffone co-authored two other strategy books on chess, including the one with Finegold. Both the United States Chess Federation and the American Contract Bridge League awarded Ciaffone the title of Life Master.
Ciaffone’s poker history dates to before the creation of large-scale online databases that track tournament results, though the Hendon Mob online database credits him with 31 cashes for a total of more than $347,000. Eleven of Ciaffone’s known cashes came in WSOP events, including three final tables.
Though he cashed at the WSOP as recently as 2019, in the Super Seniors event, Ciaffone’s best stretch at the WSOP came in 1987. That year, he finished fourth in the $2,500 Pot-Limit Omaha tourney. Less than a week later, he finished third in the WSOP Main Event, earning a career best $125,000. Johnny Chan won that Main Event, for the first of his back-to-back triumphs in that event. One of his poker students, Dr. Bruce Van Horn, finished as the runner-up in the 1996 Main Event for a $600,000 payday.
Featured image source: Pokerology.com archive