Sam Simon, co-creator of The Simpsons, avid poker player and former husband of Jennifer Tilly, has died at the age of 59 following a long battle with cancer.
While Simon may have been best known for his work as the writer, director and executive producer of The Simpsons, for which he won seven Emmys, he was also longtime poker player, amassing $356,600 in live tournament winnings since 1995, according to the Hendon Mob Database, and cashing in six WSOP events.
Simon’s private “Hollywood” home games were the stuff of legend and even inspired a celebrity poker TV show, Sam’s Game, hosted by Simon, which aired on the Playboy Channel in 2009.
Also in 2009, Simon appeared in an episode of the hit show High Stakes Poker pitting his wits against the like of Daniel Negreanu, Antonio Esfandiari and Joe Hachem and Howard Lederer.
Gave Away His Fortune
In a 2008 Bluff Magazine interview, he recalled how he learned the game as a child with his family, who, he said, were just as dysfunctional as his four-fingered, yellow-skinned creations: “On Sundays, we played Stud on the dining room table and we would order Chinese food,” he said.
“We played small stakes, usually nickels and dimes. We weren’t a real functional family, but something about poker made it possible for my family to make it through the night together. Poker’s a mean-spirited game. Maybe that is why we could do it as a family.”
Simon, who made a fortune through his work on The Simpsons, was a committed philanthropist who donated millions to good causes, particularly animal welfare charities. In 2002, he founded the Sam Simon Foundation, an organization devoted to rescuing dogs and training them to become service dogs for the disabled. On being diagnosed with cancer he said he wanted to give his entire fortune to charity.
“It is with much sadness that we must let you know that Sam Simon has passed over,” the organization announced on its Facebook page on Monday.
Tilly Tweets Goodbye
In fact, Simon was perhaps a little too “nice” to thrive in the cutthroat world of poker, and for him the game was always about fun and enjoyment. “I’m a little put off by the predatory nature of being a professional poker player,” he said. “Not so much in the tournaments, because it’s kind of like playing the lottery, but definitely in the cash games.
There are some really dangerous characters, and you have to be careful or you’ll go broke. I would also feel uncomfortable as a pro because I would be taking other people’s money on a regular basis when I know I’m better than they are.”
While Simon and Tilly were divorced in 1991, they remained close friends. A tweet from Tilly this week simply said, “Goodbye Sam.”