Poker Community Mourns Norm Macdonald Death
There are many celebrities who play poker. There are several comedians who play poker. But then there are celebrities and comedians – who are one and the same sometimes – who love the game of poker. They entrench themselves into the game and the community that surrounds it. Only a few people fit into that last category: Gabe Kaplan, Ray Romano, Brad Garrett, Hank Azaria, and Kevin Hart.
Norm Macdonald was one of them, too.
Norm Macdonald died this week after battling cancer for nine years. Few knew about his leukemia diagnosis until it killed him on September 14 at the age of 61.
The Quebec native grew up as the middle child of three, raised as the son of two teachers. Comedy was second nature to Macdonald, who began appearing at amateur comedy clubs in the mid-1980s. After some recognition in Montreal and a few breaks, he went on to write for Season 5 of the television comedy Roseanne.
From there, Saturday Night Live offered the opportunity for Macdonald to join the case, which he did in 1993. His raw and deadpan delivery made him a natural to perform impressions of people like Larry King and Bob Dole, but some of his most memorable work happened at the anchor desk for SNL’s Weekend Update. He was not afraid to be controversial and often spoke without a filter, leading to his eventual removal from the news desk and then the show altogether in 1998.
Since then, Macdonald appeared in comedy films, both as an actor and voice actor. He had his own sitcom on ABC for several years beginning in 1999 called The Norm Show, and he often did stand-up comedy when possible. He even released a sketch comedy album in 2006, began hosting a podcast in 2013, and appeared on numerous TV comedy specials through the years.
Lots of folks reaching out about the passing of Norm Macdonald. Norm was responsible for some of the happiest moments of my life (see below). To open for & become close with my favorite comedian of all time, I will be forever grateful. I'll miss him. I'll miss his comedy more. pic.twitter.com/GnXkOTTLq0
— Joe “Legacy Blue” Stapleton (@Stapes) September 14, 2021
A Passion for Poker
Officially, Macdonald first appeared on the poker scene as the cohost of High Stakes Poker for its seventh season on Game Show Network. He replaced original cohost Gabe Kaplan and commentated alongside Kara Scott.
Macdonald’s love for poker was evident long before his cohosting job in 2011, though. He first learned how to play as a young man, and his travels allowed him more access to games through the years.
His tournament cashes on the Hendon Mob date back to 2003 when he played a televised Hollywood Home Game televised by the World Poker Tour.
We join the poker world in mourning the loss of Norm Macdonald. He was a big poker fan and joined us for the WPT Invitational way back in Season 1. pic.twitter.com/imZrdAzkXn
— World Poker Tour (@WPT) September 15, 2021
He played the occasional tournaments in the years that followed, though he often played online until Black Friday and sometimes preferred cash games in casinos. He did win an Aria Nightly event in 2013 and another one in 2019, while making final tables in others. His deepest run in the World Series of Poker was in 2007 in a $3K NLHE event, when he finished 20th from a field of 827 players.
Pic took of Norm Macdonald at the 2007 World Series of Poker. RIP. pic.twitter.com/w8VVVAboou
— Amy Calistri (@amy_calistri) September 14, 2021
Poker players looked forward to his presence at a poker table in a Los Angeles cash game or a tournament, as he was more than a celebrity. He was funny but also wanted to talk poker. He was interesting but more interested in learning about other people.
Macdonald even flew to the inaugural PokerStars Players Championship (PSPC) in January 2019. Of course, he played in some games, but his primary purpose was to perform a comedy set for PSPC prize package winners.
While his relationship with gambling was never good, Macdonald figured out at some point that poker had a skill component. From that point, his relationship with poker improved, though it wasn’t perfect. In 2011, he admitted to a gambling addiction and to going broke three times via gambling. The worst episode was losing $400K. Years later, in a PokerNews interview, he admitted to multi-tabling online poker prior to Black Friday but stopped after that 2011 site shutdown. “I was just grinding out and couldn’t even sleep,” he said.
Over time and overall, Macdonald was fond of poker and the community in which it operates. And many people in the poker world enjoyed his company as well. He will be missed.