Long-Time Pro Don Zewin Passes Away; Finished 3rd to Hellmuth & Chan in 1989

don zewin death poker

Don Zewin, a respected poker player who had great success in the 1970s and 1980s, reportedly passed away this weekend. Details remain unknown but Zewin's passing was confirmed by multiple sourses.

Zewin, who was married with three adult children, is the answer to one of poker's most interesting trivia questions: Who finished third behind Johnny Chan and Phil Hellmuth at the 1989 World Series of Poker Main Event?

Chan was coming off two straight world championships, but couldn't quite close it out against Hellmuth heads-up to make it a three-peat. Zewin took third place for $151,000, his deepest run ever in a no-limit hold'em WSOP tournament.

Phil Hellmuth Remembers Poker Great

Hellmuth, who won his first of a record 16 gold bracelets on that day in 1989, spoke high praise of Zewin upon learning of his death.

“Don Zewin was a poker legend," the Poker Hall of Famer told PokerNews. "He played high stakes poker for decades, and was liked by all."

The "Poker Brat" recalled the first time he ever met the late poker great. He said it occurred in 1986 at the Stardust, a demolished iconic Las Vegas Strip casino, the site of the new Resorts World.

"It was a $10-$20 limit hold’em game and everyone was whispering about how Don was a high-stakes player," Hellmuth said. "I remember watching him play $400-$800 at the WSOP in 1988, with Johnny Chan at the table — big game, like $2,000-$4,000 in today’s dollars."

Don Zewin
Don Zewin

Hellmuth said he played with Zewin at least 50 times in Las Vegas and Los Angeles over the years and referred to the late poker pro as "tough as nails" on the felt.

The 16-time bracelet winner got a bit lucky against Zewin in a hand during the 1989 WSOP Main Event. Hellmuth won a crucial pot with a suited Ax10x against the 10x10x of his opponent when an Ax hit.

Zewin, who moved from Niagara Falls to Las Vegas in 1979 to play poker for a living, and Hellmuth would go on to have more big run-ins at the WSOP over the years. In 2012, they were heads-up for the title in $2,500 Razz. The "Poker Brat" would win that battle, his 12th bracelet, extending his own record. For Zewin, the loss was as close as he'd ever get to a gold bracelet, but he did have three third-place finishes, his most recent one in 2017 in the $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. event.

"(Zewin) would occasionally remind me that I cost him the 1989 WSOP Main Event, with a smile on his face," Hellmuth said, referring to the Ax10x suck-out hand.

In total, Zewin finished with 38 cashes at the WSOP and $1.8 million in live tournament earnings.

Click here to read Zewin's 2012 interview w/ PokerNews.

  • Read about the career of poker pro Don Zewin, who recently passed away.

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PR & Media Manager for PokerNews, Podcast host & 2013 WSOP Bracelet Winner.

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