2008 World Series: From the heartland to the big time

A staple of the countless entertainment channels the world round is the "Before They Were Famous" show -- clips of famous sportsmen turning out for their elementary school team; a senator in a college debate; Britney and Justin on the Disney Channel, that kind of thing.

Before the World Series began, we sent out a player survey to the 2008 PokerStars qualifiers who had won their seat to the main event in a PokerStars satellite. We asked a few basic biographical questions, asked them to detail their qualification process and a few speculative questions about what they would do with a huge win in Vegas. For those players now going way, way deep (as we knew some would) these surveys provide us with our very own "Before They Were Famous" and give us charming lines such as: "I won a $33 rebuy with one add on. $63! Hope to make it into a whole lot more!"

That innocent hopeful was PokerStars qualifier Tim Loecke, from Highland Park, Illinois. Loecke is still seated in the Amazon Room at the Rio Hotel and Casino among only 55 others still surviving in the main event. That $63 is indeed already a "whole lot more!" Even if he loses all of the million-odd chips he currently has on the very next hand, he will win $154,100. And there's no reason to think he can't earn a "whole lot more!" than that.

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PokerStars qualifier Tim Loecke

Loecke's player survey was actually one of the best we received this year, and one of the most engaging "Before They Were Famous" clips. "I used to milk 70 cows a day as a kid on our family of seven kids farm," Loecke wrote. "I grew up on a farm in smalltown Iowa, Greeley, town of 300. Still consider it home."

The 37-year-old has since travelled through 10 other towns or cities before settling just outside of Chicago, where he has now upgraded from milking cows to being a director of sales. Poker has been a constant through all these transistions. Having learned to play as a child, Loeke first logged onto PokerStars about five years ago and has been milking the profits ever since.

But home is still very much where the heart is, and Loeke has big plans for Greeley should he really make a huge score here. Asked what he'd do with the money, he was the picture of generous humility: " I don't think I would want to change my life much. I would give some away and buy some land in Iowa. I might restore Greeley, Iowa a little, it could use some work. Maybe restore the little league baseball program in Greeley."

And who would be the first person he called once he took it down?

"My mother."

Of course.