Unless you were around before the poker boom, you're probably not familiar with Stanley Schrier. An elder statesman of the game, Schrier was a part of what many consider to be the greatest final table in World Series of Poker Main Event history, one that included Phil Hellmuth, Mike Matusow, and Carlos Mortensen, just to name a few.
The year was 2001, and 613 of the best players in the world packed Binion's Horseshoe in downtown Las Vegas. A few years prior, Schrier, who was in his late 60s, sold his car businesses in Omaha and relocated to Vegas to play poker, but that year marked the first time he'd ever played in the WSOP.
As legendary players fell by the wayside – players such as Billy Baxter (37th - $20,000), Barny Boatman (33rd - $30,000), Mike Sexton (29th - $30,000), Allen Cunningham (27th - $39,960), and Jim Bechtel (23rd - $39,960) – Schrier remained. With just 11 players remaining, the field lost a young up-and-coming player, one who is now one of the most famous players in the world.
"I knew Daniel Negreanu real well," Schrier recently told PokerNews at a poker tournament in Omaha. "I think he took a bad beat. I remember when we were down to 11, during hand-for-hand, Daniel was at the other table, so I can't remember what he went out with. It was quite the experience."
Negreanu, who was the chip leader with 12 left, fell just shy of the final table, which in addition to the names already mentioned included future poker host and author Phil Gordon and 2008 Poker Hall of Fame inductee Dewey Tomko.
The 2001 WSOP Main Event Final Table
"All the guys were real nice," Schrier reflects. "I think the greatest memory was when we watched Hellmuth get busted out. He cried like a baby, and ran to his dad sitting back there. I mean, he's really a nice guy when you get him away from poker, but he can't take it when he losses. But he's really a nice guy, I always kid him about it."
"I knew all those guys," Schrier continued. "Mike [Matusow] I had played with. The guy who wrote the book, Phil Gordon, and then a guy about my age, or probably a little younger from Miami, he got second, Dewey Tomko. Real nice guy."
As for the man who won it all, Schrier kept it simple: "The young man who won it just got cards all day and played real well."
Like so many players back in the day, Schrier, who is going on 80 years old, never imagined poker world blow up as big as it did.
"Unbelievable, but it's great," he said. "I love it. To me poker is just about having fun."
Indeed, while he eventually left Vegas and headed back home to Omaha, Schrier has never quit playing.
"I'll be out at the World Series," Schrier confirmed to PokerNews. "It's funny, I'm not a spring chicken. They've got the Super Seniors coming up, so I definitely want to play in it. The thing is, I've already had nine of my friends call me wanting a piece of me, saying that they're putting me in. I want to put myself in [laughs]. At my age I can still play."
With $966,962 in total live earnings in the last 15 years, Schrier has shown he's more than capable of keeping up with the young guns. Among Schrier's other notable cashes were $48,790 for a ninth-place finish in the 2005 World Poker Tour Mirage Poker Showdown; eighth in the 2006 WSOP Seniors Event for $26,936; and 30th in the 2009 WSOP Seniors Event for $10,149.
PokerNews will be sure check in on Schrier this summer during the 2015 WSOP.