Aces and Eights: Magriel, Hansen, Farnood, Meehan Cash Out in 2018

4 min read

Though poker players might scoff at the notion, taxes aren’t life’s only inevitability. For the poker lives that ended in death in 2018, there were sad passings of colorful personalities, and one standout who died under mysterious circumstances. While Paul Magriel, Thor Hansen, Sherkan Farnood, and Minneapolis Jim Meehan may not have been made-for-TV superstars, their presence had a discernible impact on the game.

Paul Magriel
Influential poker pro and backgammon expert Paul Magriel was one of the poker players who sadly passed away this year. (Image: Berlin Backgammon)

Backgammon Pioneer, Quirky Quack-Quack

For those present during the initial poker boom, Paul Magriel became famous for his “quack, quack” catchphrase.

A leading backgammon pro and a regular on the poker circuit, Magriel was known for his mathematical if not a little quirky approach to the game. As news of Magriel’s passing at the age of 71 hit the headlines, Erik Seidel was quick to offer his condolences and remind the community of X-22’s contribution to poker.

“Woke up to the sad news that backgammon legend Paul Magriel (X-22) has passed away. He changed the game with his book, was a generous and enthusiastic teacher, he changed my life and the lives of many others,” Seidel tweeted in March.

Farewell to Norwegian Legend

Thor Hansen
Thor Hansen was a legend across Scandinavia, and a familiar friendly face across the US and European pro circuits. (Image: Pengespill)

Pulling up a chair next to Magriel in the big poker game in the sky was Thor Hansen. Known as the Godfather of Norwegian poker, Hansen was not only a bracelet winner and cancer survivor but an ambassador for the game.

A gentleman that played alongside everyone from Stu Ungar to today’s online whiz kids, Hansen was loved by the community. The Norwegian pro remained active until the end, enjoying his final few hands of poker at the WPT Seminole Rock N Roll Poker Open in Hollywood, Florida, back in November.

After hearing of his passing at age 71 on Dec. 5, Phil Hellmuth joined the wave of condolences for Hansen, calling him a “great human being and a great player.”

Sherkhan Farnood
Sherkhan Farnood, founder of Kabul Bank, stood accused of grifting hundreds of millions of dollars, and with $627,647 in poker winnings, he was the most successful tournament player in Afghanistan history. (Image: Washington Post)

Top Afghani Player Found Dead in Prison Cell

Messages of condolence were ringing out across the community once again in August after WSOPE bracelet winner Sherkhan Farnood was found dead in an Afghani prison cell.

Farnood was the top tournament player from Afghanistan in history. As well as notching up 24 live cashes, including an outright win in the 2008 WSOPE HORSE event, Farnood was a successful business man.

However, after some dodgy financial deals during his time as the head of Kabul Bank, the poker player was sentenced to 15 years in prison. According to the official report, the 57-year-old died of a heart disease but Farnood’s family believe it was down to foul play.

“I talked with my brother one day before his death. He was fine. We have no idea about it, the government knows how he died,” Farnood’s older brother Sherin Khan told Tolo News on Aug. 25, 2018.

Midwest Rounder Rides Off into Sunset

Minneapolis Jim Meehan became 2018’s final pre-poker boom pro to play his final hand this year when he died on Dec. 6. Active on the circuit long before the internet generation took over, Meehan was an old-school grinder who was as gifted with his words as a deck of cards.

Often seen at the table wearing a leather bush hat, Meehan was a practicing lawyer for 20 years before entering the poker scene. Earning his stripes and reputation in Minnesota, the Midwestern pro would go on to feature in multiple WSOP broadcasts during the early noughties.

Despite taking step back from poker in 2005, Meehan was inducted into the Minnesota Poker Hall of Fame in 2015 and had live earnings of $1.4 million. In passing at the age of 66, Meehan left behind four sons and a wealth of memories for those who remember the rise of poker at the turn of the millennium.

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