Poker Hall of Fame member Walter Clyde "Puggy" Pearson died in Las Vegas Wednesday at the age of 77.
Considered a pioneering great among the giants of poker, Pearson was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 1987.
Pearson was a participant in the first World Series of Poker (WSOP) event at Binion's Gambling Hall & Casino in Las Vegas in 1970, and went on to defeat a field of 13 at the WSOP in 1973 for a $130,000 prize. His 1973 win against Johnny Moss was documented in the first televised broadcast of the WSOP.
Pearson was responsible for creating the freeze-out tournament format popular in poker halls and casinos across the world today. Freeze-out poker permits players just one starting stack of chips and forbids them to re-buy once they have run out.
Benny Binion, creator of the WSOP and founder of Binion's, adopted the freeze-out format for his inaugural WSOP tournament, and it is continued to be used for the majority of WSOP events today.
The cause of Puggy's death has not been made public. According to the Las Vegas Sun, an autopsy was conducted by the Clark County coroner's office on Thursday.
Members of Pearson's family say he had an "oral surgery on Tuesday and that he apparently hit his head when he either fell or had a heart attack on Wednesday."
Pearson had had a run of bad health in the last number of years but continued to play poker regularly. In fact, he was sighted in the Bellagio Hotel & Casino poker room this week, his favorite card room in Las Vegas.
A memorial service has been tentatively scheduled for 9:30 a.m. at the Bellagio on Monday, April 17.