Longtime Comedian and Poker Enthusiast Norm MacDonald Dies at 61

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Norm MacDonald, comedian, satirist, talk show host, and poker aficionado has died. He was 61. 

Norm MacDonald
Avid poker enthusiast Norm MacDonald died Tuesday after a long battle with cancer. He was 61. (Image: Twitter/@normmacdonald)

According to multiple entertainment media sites, which received an announcement from his agents at Brillstein Entertainment, MacDonald died after a nine-year battle with cancer that he kept private. 

His long-time producing partner and friend Lori Jo Hoekstra said in the release that he was determined to keep his cancer struggle away from his friends, family, and fans.  “He was most proud of his comedy,” Hoekstra said. “He never wanted the diagnosis to affect the way the audience or any of his loved ones saw him. Norm was a pure comic. He once wrote that ‘a joke should catch someone by surprise, it should never pander.’ He certainly never pandered. Norm will be missed terribly.”

The Saturday Night Live alumni was completely open about his addiction to high-stakes gambling and claims he lost everything he owned three times, telling comedian Marc Maron the most he ever lost was $400,000. His Twitter account was almost exclusively dedicated to sports gambling.


Norm and poker

Macdonald was an avid and respected poker player who could often be found at the World Series of Poker and in card rooms throughout California and Las Vegas. He cashed in the WSOP four times, most recently in 2019, when he made the money twice. His best finish was in 2007 when he finished 20th in a $3,000 No-Limit Hold’em event for $14,606. His live cashes total just north of $50,000.

He appeared on many of the poker TV shows, including Celebrity Poker Showdown and Poker After Dark, where he won a $30,375 pot. He also hosted High Stakes Poker in Season 8. 

MacDonald loved Sit & Go tourneys and could often be found playing them at the WSOP. He admitted that before Black Friday, he would play upwards of 20 SNGs online at a time.  Generous with his time and access, story after story of MacDonald’s friendliness and generosity started popping up on Twitter as soon as the news broke.

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