Lyle Berman, business and poker

Friday, 12 September 2014

Lyle Arnold Berman is businessman, poker player, WSOP bracelet winner and chairman of the World Poker Tour board. So, it’s a high-stakes poker player with a fierce entrepreneurial streak. And for the most part, his risk-taking has paid off. In the 1970s, when leather goods were seen as upscale, he transformed his family’s small leather-wholesaling company into a mass-market retailer. He burst onto the gaming scene with Grand Casinos Inc., the first operator to spot opportunities managing Indian casinos in Minnesota and in dockside gambling along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Education and first business

Berman grew up in Minnesota and attended the University of Minnesota where he was graduated in 1964 with a degree in business administration. He then went to work for his father’s leather business, Berman Buckskin. When the business was sold to W. R. Grace in 1979, he stayed on as president and CEO. The company was then later sold to the Melville Corporation where it became Wilsons Leather. From 1994 to 2000 he was the chairman and CEO of the Rainforest Cafe chain of restaurants and retail stores.


Berman began playing tournaments in the mid-1980’s, with his first memory coming from when he knocked Tom McEvoy out of one of the first events he ever played.  Although he didn’t play much, he always tried to play in the bigger events.  In 1994 he won first place at Amarillo Slim’s Super Bowl of Poker in the $500 Pot Limit Omaha event, winning $97,750.  His success at the World Series of Poker has been even greater.  He won his first of three WSOP bracelets in 1989, defeating all comers in the $1,500 Limit Omaha event, winning $108,600. Number two came in 1992, winning $192,000 in the $2,500 No Limit Hold’em event. Number three came just two years later, winning $128,000 in the $5,000 No Limit Hold’em Deuce to 7 Draw Event.  On top of three bracelets he also finished second three times. He has shown that despite calling No Limit Hold’em his best game, he can hold his own at any game thrown in front of him. Berman has also found success on his own WPT, finishing in the money of three tournaments. His career tournament earnings are approaching three million dollars.

Big Business

Berman also played an important role in gaming companies. In 1990 he was a co-founder of Grand Casinos, a company that sought to create gambling establishments outside of Las Vegas and Atlantic City. It was identified by Fortune Magazine as the fastest growing company in America, and in culmination, 1998 brought the substantial merger of Hilton Casinos and Grand Casinos, with the formation of the Lakes Gaming Corporation as a spin-off company.

World Poker Tour

Lyle might have been happy with the immense growth of his casino operations and innumerable business successes under his belt, but it can’t be said that he will pass up a promising new business opportunity.

In 2001, Lyle agreed to meet with Steve Lipscomb to discuss a proposition to televise poker tournaments. It had the ingredients of a successful venture, including Lyle’s gut feeling to invest in the idea. With the blessings of Lakes’ Board of Directors, the finances were in place, and the first tournament was held, taped and offered for sale. The Travel Channel entered into an agreement with Lakes to air the first season of the World Poker Tour.

WPT Enterprises broke from Lakes in order to become a public company in 2004, but Lyle, who had the confidence to back the project from the beginning, remains deeply committed and sits on the board of directors of WPTE. He plays an integral role in the company’s decisions to license its products, broadcast its shows internationally, and find new ways to market the ever-growing WPT brand.

Lyle Berman has made a living from keeping an open mind and making sound investments and wise business decisions. Through these qualities and a tremendous amount of life experience, he has gained the respect of the business world and the poker community alike.

He has recently had a book published, aptly named „I’m All In”. The autobiography gives a considerable insight into his upbringing, work ethic, family and friends, and the secrets to his successful life so far.

Awards & Results

He won the B’nai B’rith Great American Traditions award in 1995 and the Gaming Executive of the Year award in 1996.

In 2005, Lyle Berman competed in the National Heads Up Championship. He finished in fifth place losing to eventual champion Phil Hellmuth Jr.

Although he prefers high-stakes cash games, he has as of 2009 won over $2,500,000 in live poker tournaments. His 16 cashes at the WSOP account for $1,446,317 of those winnings. He was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2002.

According to the James McManus book Positively Fifth Street, Berman has bankrolled T. J. Cloutier in numerous poker tournaments, including the 2000 WSOP main event, where he finished 2nd. Berman currently resides in Plymouth, Minnesota and has 4 children.

The best poker results:






16th Annual World Series of Poker
Event #2 – WSOP Limit Hold’em



May 5, 1985

18th Annual World Series of Poker
Event #7 – WSOP Pot Limit Omaha



May 6, 1987

2005 National Heads-Up Poker Championship
No Limit Hold’em



Mar 5, 2005

20th Annual World Series of Poker
Event #1 – WSOP Limit Omaha



May 1, 1989

20th Annual World Series of Poker
Event #14 – WSOP World Championship – No Limit Hold’em



May 14, 1989

23rd Annual World Series of Poker
Event #16 – WSOP No Limit Hold’em



May 7, 1992

25th Annual World Series of Poker
Event #20 – WSOP No Limit Deuce to Seven Lowball



May 5, 1994

28th Annual World Series of Poker
Event #16 – WSOP No Limit Deuce to Seven Lowball



May 4, 1997

31st Annual World Series of Poker
Event #12 – WSOP No Limit Deuce to Seven Lowball



May 4, 2000

39th World Series of Poker 2008
Event #45 – WSOP H.O.R.S.E World Championship



Jun 25, 2008

41st World Series of Poker 2010
Event #2 – WSOP PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP. Omaha Hi/Lo Limit Hold’em, Seven Card Razz, Seven Card Stud, Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo, No Limit Hold’em, Pot Limit Omaha, 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball



May 28, 2010

World Poker Finals / WPT Event Season 4
WPT Main Event – No Limit Hold’em



Nov 18, 2005

WPT World Championship / WPT Event Season 5
WPT No Limit Hold’em Championship



Apr 27, 2007




Residence Plymouth, Minnesota
Born August 6, 1941 (age 72)

World Series of Poker

Bracelets 3
Money finishes 16
Highest ITM
Main Event finish
5th, 1989

World Poker Tour

Titles None
Final tables 1
Money finishes 3

Author: Editor

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