Denny Crum, college HOF basketball coach and poker enthusiast, passes at 86

Haley Hintze
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Posted on: May 10, 2023 6:50 pm EDT

Denny Crum, the legendary college basketball coach and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame member who led the University of Louisville men’s team to two NCAA champions, died in Louisville on Monday at age 86. Beyond his historic coaching career, Crum was also a poker enthusiastic and part-time player, particularly after his retirement in 2001 from his three decades as Louisville’s head coach.

Crum’s enthusiasm for poker and frequent visits to Horseshoe Southern Indiana to play eventually led to him agreeing, in 2007 to become the casino’s official “host” for occasional poker events. The casino is situated across the Mississippi River from the metro Louisville area and is the primary poker destination for players in northern Kentucky and southern Indiana.

Crum reportedly played poker for his entire adult life. In a 2007 interview, he remarked that he embraced the game as a college student, playing to earn meal money. That love of the game stayed with him for more than six decades.

Part of Crum’s hosting duties for Horseshoe Southern Indiana, which was replaced by the new Caesars Southern Indiana in 2019, was the Denny Crum Poker Open. The gathering named in Crum’s honor began with a single poker tourney in 2007 and slowly expanded into a small series held annually in the riverboat casino’s basement lower-floor poker room. The series was shelved due to the COVID-19 pandemic and has not been held since 2019.

Crum also participated in special poker events that benefited other Louisville and Kentucky causes. Those included the Derby Poker Championship, held in association with Churchill Downs’ famed Kentucky Derby and benefiting needy childen in the Louisville area. Veteran poker pros Phil Hellmuth and Robert Williamson III commented on Crum’s long-time support of the poker benefit after learning of Crum’s passing.

Crum did more than just play in local events. He made occasional visits to the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas and recorded three cashes, in 2005, 2017, and 2021. Crum reached the final three tables of a $1,500 no-limit in the 2017 WSOP, eventually finishing in 20th place for a career-best $11,144 payday. Crum’s Hendon Mob profile credits him with seven poker-tourney cashes between 2005 and 2022, for lifetime poker earnings of $16,106.

Featured image source: Twitter / @CoachDennyCrum