The poker world lost another character as word circulated that three-time World Series of Poker (WSOP) gold bracelet winner Pete “Pete the Greek” Vilandos, whose real name was Panayote Vilandos, passed away back on July 24 at the age of 82.
Vilandos, who was born May 30, 1940, arrived in the United States as an immigrant from Greece when he was just 27 years old. Despite having already earned a degree at the University of Athens, he went on to graduate from the University of Houston where he earned a degree in electrical engineering.
According to The Hendon Mob, Vilandos had $3,266,764 in lifetime earnings dating back to 1990. Of that, $2,520,167 came in WSOP-related cashes including a trio of gold bracelets. His first came at the 1995 WSOP when he won Event #10: $1,500 Pot-Limit Hold’em for $148,500, while the second came at the 2009 WSOP when he topped a 2,506-player field to win Event #24: $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em for $607,256.
Amazingly, that win came less than two weeks after he finished runner-up to Steve Sung for $473,282 in Event #4: $1,000 No-Limit Hold’em, a tournament that attracted 6,012 runners.
Winning a Third Gold Bracelet
Panayote “Pete the Greek” Vilandos
Vilandos captured his final bracelet, and a career-high $952,694 score, by besting a 1,011-entry field to win the Vilandos. He did so by defeating Kyle Julius in heads-up play while Dan Smith, who captured his first bracelet this past summer, took third place.
At the time of victory, Vilandos became the 58th player in WSOP history to win three or more gold bracelets.
“Well, it’s between today and the last two times that I won,” he said at the time when asked if it was his proudest poker accomplishment. “Today, my wife was here with me, and she shares this…she stayed with me the whole way through the last table. So, I enjoyed it a lot better today. I was very calm and I was focused on my opponents, you know. There are some very intelligent people who sat here. The last table was very smart people. But I got lucky, and I played the way I know how to play.”
He added: “When you have your wife or your own people, you know, your own family, people to that are next to you and pull for you, pull for you in the tournament. I mean, of course, it’s a lot. It means a lot to me.”
A retired businessman in Houston, Vilandos played poker more for fun and believed his engineering background helped him at the tables. It was at the 101 Poker Richmond Spring Poker Classic $1,150 Main Event where Vilandos earned his last tournament cash back in May when he finished in 59th place for $2,600.
Panayote “Pete the Greek” Vilandos and his wife after his third bracelet win.
David Plastik shared the unfortunate news on social media, and unsurprisingly it didn’t take long for the poker community to offer their condolences and share memories.
“Peter was one of the first players to befriend me when I first started coming to Vegas over 23 years ago,” said former Aussie Millions champ Peter Costa. “Very sad. Condolences to his loved ones.”
Blair Rodman said, “Great player! I thought one of the amazing performances ever was when, in 2009, he took 2nd out of 6,012 in a 1k nl event, then a few days later beat 2,056 to win a bracelet in a 1500!”
Adrian Sanders offered: “Sad news! I loved dealing to Pete when I lived in Houston. I’ll never forget when he put someone to a decision for all of their chips, they would ask him what he has. With his accent he would always respond with; “a pair, a straight, and a flush draw.” He will be missed.”
PokerNews joins the rest of the poker community in offering condolences to the friends and family of Pete “Pete the Greek” Vilandos, one of the game’s true characters.
Executive Editor U.S.
Executive Editor US, PokerNews Podcast co-host & 2013 WSOP Bracelet Winner.