WSOP bracelet winner and former Full Tilt employee-owner Perry Friedman passes at 55

Haley Hintze
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Posted on: January 23, 2024 10:27 am EST

Perry Friedman, a bracelet winner at the World Series of Poker, a primary member of the “Tiltboys” poker-game group, and a former employee/minority owner of Full Tilt Poker, has died at age 55 after a battle against pancreatic cancer.

Friedman won his WSOP bracelet in 2002 in a $1,500 Limit Omaha Hi-Lo event, and he was a regular attendee at the live WSOP in Las Vegas, cashing at least once in every live WSOP series from 2002 to 2023. His 2002 triumph was worth $176,860 and was the largest of his 50 WSOP cashes that totaled over $1.05 million.

Stanford ‘Tiltboys’ poker group shaped Friedman’s life

Friedman’s larger fame, though, likely came from his Tiltboys and Full Tilt endeavors. Friedman was a brilliant mathematician and computer engineer who was accepted at several elite universities. He eventually chose to attend Stanford, where he soon became friends with Phil Gordon, Rafe Furst and others, all of whom were regular participants in a Wednesday poker game called Tiltboy Poker Night, where they played games such as ‘Spit-and-Shit Ding-a-Ling-with-a-Twist’.

The Tiltboys, which took shape as an informal group in the mid-1990s, took their name from their practice of trying to tilt their opponents at the table, a task at which several of the group’s members became proficient. They also took their act on the road to numerous poker events and other gatherings, many stories of which were gathered in a 2005 book, Tales of the Tiltboys, written by Gordon and fellow Tiltboy Kim Scheinberg.

From Tiltboy to Full Tilt Poker

Friedman, Gordon and Furst were the three most successful of the Tiltboys on the tournament felt, and that led to careers in poker for all three. Friedman left a burgeoning career at Oracle to become the first employee hired by an online-poker startup being put together by other players called Full Tilt Poker, and Gordon and Furst soon joined him in various ways at Tiltware LLC, the site’s software corporate entity.

All three of the Tiltboys also acquired ownership shares as part of their roles in helping launch the site, which was late to the original online-poker explosion but soon reeled in most of its largest competitors. Friedman, Gordon, and Furst formed a minority shareholder bloc that reportedly battled against the excesses and financial malfeasance orchestrated through more prominent executives such as Ray Bitar, Howard Lederer, and Chris Ferguson, though Furst, as a captive member of Full Tilt’s board of directors, was among those sued in a civil action by the DOJ that targeted several Full Tilt player-owners.

Philanthropy important to Friedman in later years

All of the Tiltboys who made at least part of their fortunes at Full Tilt were also noted for their philanthropic efforts in later years. Friedman, who settled in Las Vegas, later garned a second degree from the University of Nevada – Las Vegas, and then bestowed upon the university the Perry Friedman Civil Liberties Scholarship, which awards scholarships to two students each year.

Civil liberties were an important cause for Friedman, who battled a speech code at Stanford that was later struck down in a court case. “I fought hard against the code because I feel very strongly about protecting the First Amendment,” Friedman said, regarding his scholarship efforts at UNLV. “This is especially important on college campuses where the free flow of ideas is essential for academic freedom.

“Because of my unique situation, I was thrilled to be able to give back to the UNLV community, while also encouraging and rewarding others who want to give back to society by fighting for civil liberties,” he said. “I hope that Boyd [Law School] continues to produce outstanding lawyers who are ethical and responsible members of society. I hope, and I know, we can do many great things in the future.“

Remembrances of Friedman flood social media

Because of his outgoing and occasionally pranksterish nature, Friedman was quite popular within the poker world. Numerous remembrances and accolades about Friedman appeared on social media as word spread of Friedman’s passing. One of the most poignant came via Allen “Chainsaw” Kessler, who copied forward a heartfelt message from Friedman’s father written just hours after his passing:

Other poker-world friends of Friedman were quick to share their own thoughts and memories:

Featured image source: Joe Giron