2008 World Series: The pride of Uncle Stan

It was a quiet day at the World Series of Poker, between the end of the $50,000 HORSE tournament and the start of the long main event day one. Two poker writers took a trip to Downtown Las Vegas, visited the Gamblers Bookshop, picked up a steak dinner in the Golden Nugget, then settled down for some gentle $3-$6 limit hold 'em. Nothing too stressful, nothing too taxing and nothing too costly.

As expected, the $3-$6 game had some of the characters familiar to any low-limit ring game: there were a couple of silent, aging rocks playing aces and sometimes kings (provided no one had already raised); there were the calling stations prepared to see a flop with any two cards and joyfully suck out with their jack-deuce; and there was an engaging couple of bickering Floridians resembling none so much as Morty and Helen Seinfeld from the show bearing their son's name.

There was also Ylon Schwartz.

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"I'm sorry, this guy reminds me of Eric," said Morty Seinfeld to his wife. "I'm going to call you Eric," he told Schwarz, sitting silently but behind huge mountains of chips in the four seat.
"You can call me Eric," Schwarz said.
"And you can call me Uncle Stan."

With this established, the conversation began to flow. "Does Eric have the crazy hair?" Schwartz asked, referring to what indeed was "crazy hair". Tied in a pony tail, it still frizzed a good six inches from his head. You probably wouldn't want to see it first thing in the morning. Actually, you probably wouldn't be able to see anything but it.

Morty, or Uncle Stan, chuckled his assent. He then described his 19-year-old nephew Eric as something of a drifter, not ready to settle down, directionless but amiable; the kind of nephew that every uncle says should get a job and settle down, but secretly envies and adores. The kind of nephew that every aunt cooks huge dinners for until he can't eat no more. Schwartz may have looked the part, but he's slightly older and the guy had some focus. He was running that $3-$6 table.

"We might have to leave this game," whispered one poker writer to the other. "That guy's got a lot of chips. And he's pretty good. This is going to be tough." On the opening hand, Schwarz had re-raised pre-flop, got a bit feisty through the expensive turn and river street betting, then showed down jack-high. Obviously one of the writers had gone all the way as well, mostly because writing about poker doesn't necessarily mean you can play poker. They chopped it.

And the writers didn't leave for several hours because the conversation was good and the game was fun. They got to known Morty and Helen and Ylon over the coming couple of hours, even as they traded chips. It was fairly obvious right then and there that Schwartz was a proper poker player, slumming it for want of anything better to do amid the writers, the rocks and the Seinfeld parents. But just how good didn't really become apparent until yesterday, when, dressed in the familiar PokerStars colours of all the best players, his name appeared on the main event leaderboard.

"That was a tough game at the Nugget," he joked to the same poker writers. "It schooled me for this."

In truth, this is nothing new to Schwartz. He has 11 cashes in World Series events, dating back to 2005. He's also been on final tables in many of the sizeable events in the east coast casinos -- Foxwoods, the Borgata, etc., which are closer to his Brooklyn, NY home. Presently, he has more than a million chips with fewer than 250 players remaining in the biggest game in town.

Uncle Stan is filling with pride.

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Update: Team PokerStars Pro Hevad Khan is out. He three bet pre-flop with pocket nines against Tiffany Michelle. Michelle went with him to the flop, and then called Khan's all-in shove on a queen high board. Michelle tabled queen-king and it was good. Khan headed to the cashiers cage and his World Series is over.

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The employers of PokerStars qualifier Damien Creurer might want to watch our latest video blog very closely. As he explains, they might never be seeing him again, if he wins this one.


Watch WSOP 08: Damien Creurer Online Qualifier on PokerStars.tv

See more resignation letters in video form at PokerStars.tv