Tunica Poker Legend & WSOP Bracelet Winner Galen Kester Passes Away

Earlier this week, the poker community learned the sad news that Galen Kester, a well-known player in Tunica, Mississippi, passed away.

“Galen Kester was a legend in Tunica, and played in enormous cash games with a great cast of characters,” Johnny Grooms posted on social media.

In 2001, Kester won a World Series of Poker gold bracelet when he topped a 145-player field to win Event #8: $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha for a career-high $167,035. He did so by defeating Poker Hall of Famer David “Devilfish” Ulliott in heads-up play and besting a final table that included Freddy Deeb and Jay Heimowitz, as well as deep runs by Erik Seidel (10th place) and Johnny Chan (14th place).

According to the Hendon Mob, Kester amassed just over $1.2 million in lifetime tournament earnings dating back to 2001. That put him fifth on Mississippi’s all-time money list at the time of his passing.

Kester also won the 2012 Gold Strike World Poker Open $3,000 Main Event in Tunica for $165,000, took down the Fourth Annual Jack Binion World Poker Open $1,060 Pot-Limit Omaha tournament for $152,096 in 2003, and was victorious in the 2006 Gold Strike World Poker Open $2,070 NLH event for $101,212. He also had a deep run in the 2006 WSOP Main Event finishing in 173rd place for $47,006.

The Poker World Remembers

Friends and fellow poker players were quick to offer either a kind word or a story about Kester.

“I was talking to Galen about running bad one day, I said the problem is I leave the poker table and go to the craps table because I am running bad, but it’s me running bad not the cards, I lose more money there,” Kevin O’Harra shared. “Galen said, ‘Tell me about it, I got up from the Omaha game, went to the craps table and lost $100k, they thought I went to the bathroom.’”

Galen Kester
Galen Kester

Todd Tucker also shared a story:

“The Horseshoe held a freeroll tournament in 2003 for players who logged a certain number of hours within a certain timespan. The winner got a WSOP main event seat and some travel cash. 2nd place got zilch. Galen and I got heads up and he had me out chipped about 3-1. Bad spot for me, being against a better player with a big chip advantage, but I decided if I was going down, I was going down swinging. I played fast and Galen was card dead and next thing I knew we were even in chips.

“He limped his button and I looked down at AA and for some reason I still don’t understand, I just checked. Flop was dry and we both checked. Turn was a brick and I bet a little. He shook his head and showed me AK before he mucked. He was trapping preflop. All I had to do was say the word “raise” and all the chips go in and it’s over. I showed him the AA and I think that gave him some momentum because I never won another pot. He was nice enough to trade a small piece when we got heads up, even though he shouldn’t have. I enjoyed playing with Galen and dealing to him.”

Teresa Sommerfeld added: “He was something else!! Always very sweet to me but I know some dealers who could tell a different story!! One thing I can say is he Loved his son, Dex. Never seen a prouder daddy!! Prayers for his boy and the family!!”

PokerNews offers its condolences to the friends and family of Galen Kester.

Galen Kester’s Top Five Tournament Cashes

Date Tournament Place Prize
April 2001 WSOP $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha 1st $167,035
August 2012 Gold Strike World Poker Open $3,000 Main Event 1st $165,000
January 2003 4th Annual Jack Binion World Poker Open $2,070 NLH 1st $101,212
January 2006 Gold Strike World Poker Open $2,070 NLH 1st $101,212
July 2006 WSOP Main Event 173rd $47,006


  • Galen Kester, a well-known player in Tunica, Mississippi, and a @WSOP bracelet winner passed away.

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Chad Holloway

Executive Editor U.S.

Executive Editor US, PokerNews Podcast co-host & 2013 WSOP Bracelet Winner.

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