TJ Cloutier attended the University of California at Berkeley on an athletic scholarship for football and baseball and played in the Rose Bowl in 1959. However, he later dropped out because of family financial hardship. He was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he learned to play poker. After the Army, he played football in the Canadian Football League for Toronto and Montreal, but an injury cut his career short.
He then started a food company, but it was not successful, so he moved to Texas to work on oil rigs. On his off days he began to play poker, and quit his job in after realizing that he was winning more money playing poker than working.
- 1987 $1,000 Limit Omaha Hi $72,000
- 1994 $1,500 Limit Omaha 8 or Better $135,000
- 1994 $2,500 Pot Limit Texas Hold'em $163,000
- 1998 $2,500 Pot Limit Omaha Hi $136,000
- 2004 $1,500 Seven Card Razz (poker) $90,500
- 2005 $5,000 No Limit Hold'em $657,100
Despite winning dozens of tournaments, he has never won the main event of the World Series of Poker, although he has placed four times in the top 5, including two 2nd place finishes.
Cloutier is the co-author (together with Tom McEvoy) of four books: Championship Tournament Practice Hands, Championship Holdem, Championship Omaha, and Championship No-Limit and Pot Limit Hold'em. He also writes for Card Player Magazine.
The Texas Hold'em starting hand Jack-9 of clubs is named the “T.J. Cloutier” in his honor because of flopping three straight flushes in one year with the hand. Cloutier is married to Joy Cloutier, has six children, and resides in Richardson, Texas. As of 2006, his total live tournament winnings exceed $5,600,000.