2008 World Series of Poker Final: Interview With Ylon Schwartz

Written by:
Jenny Woo
Published on:
Ylon Schwartz

Continuing my interviews with the World Series of Poker final players, I had a chance to sit down with Ylon Schwartz. 

You could say that I was his cup of morning coffee as my phone call woke him up.  We got the interview started immediately and Jenny learned a thing or two about this veteran of poker in which he's been playing for the past 15 years.  However, he played professional chess for 12 years before he realized he could make more money in the poker world.  He opened up to me and told me what he does in his spare time to who he voted for in this years election.   

JENNY:  What's your opinion on the WSOP final table being pushed to November this year?

YLON:  I have mixed feeling about it.  In the beginning I was kind of happy to take a break; I was kind of tired and didn't want to come into day 8 totally exhausted.  It was a relief at the time but I think ultimately I didn't like it.  I think it goes against tradition; we're playing a marathon.  In WSOP the person who is the champion was someone who had the most tenacity, who was tough and who was able to stay alert and focused for the entire marathon.  That was sort of taken away.  It could be interesting for tactical and positional purposes at the final table as far as skill level.  I think it's a little unfair that some players were pulled out of their zone.  For instance, Dennis Phillips was running very well; he was strong.  Peter Eastgate was raising a ton.  And now they might have to alter their game plans a little bit.  But that's the essence of poker, which you have to constantly involve to win.  I think it's a little unfair to those who were in their zone.  

JENNY:  What have you been doing these past 3 months?  And have you been doing anything to prepare yourself for the final table?

YLON:  Oh yeah, I've been trying all different variations of red wine and have been taking it easy.  I do some yoga and hanging around with friends.  In my life I haven't really changed too much as far as my daily activities.  But I've talked poker with my friends who are professional players with a lot of knowledge.  Eric "Sheets" Haber from PokerXFactor, some of the other guys and my best friend who is a professional player as well.   

But I think the key element to victory here will be relaxed, calm and focused.

JENNY:  You seem to be a person who doesn't want to be in the "limelight".  Have you been getting use to it now?

YLON:  The main reason why that's true is because I'm in competition mode.  I've been playing games for a really long time.  I know myself.  Whenever I have a serious thing going on, I sort of have to step back from the "real world" for a moment so I can collect my thoughts and try to maintain my equilibrium.  When it's all over, I may turn into a big ham.  I'm not sure.  I'll have to see how I feel but I know I have to keep it cool right now.    

JENNY:  Does Russian Ivan Demidov intimidate you at all?  The guy just made the final table of the WSOPE (World Series of Poker Europe) and here he is in the WSOP final table with you.

YLON:  No.  Nobody intimidates me.  The one person I fear at the table is myself.  Everybody and anybody can snap at any moment.  I see it a thousand times.  I just hope I can maintain myself.  You're ultimately in charge of your life and all of your decisions.  Being afraid of someone is tactically bad for your poker game.  So it's incorrect to be afraid.  

He plays really well.  The truth is, he's an excellent player and there are a lot of excellent players at this table.  It's just a very tough table.   

JENNY:  Who do you see as the weakest and strongest player at this year's final table?  And does one specific player stand out from the rest?

YLON:  No.  I'm thinking about this thing in stack sizes.  The different stacks will determine a little bit about how everyone is going to be playing.  There are more experienced players and less experienced players.  I think everybody is going be playing well - or maybe not; maybe everybody will just go nuts and the 3 month break was very intense for everyone.  I don't know.  

JENNY:  Do you believe the game is more luck or is it more skill?

YLON:  It's a 100% skill over the long run.  The luck in temporary and everybody has the same amount of valiance in their game.  It's obvious that it's not a luck game at all.  If you look at the pay out lists for all of the top players, their names keep repeating so it's over and over again.  The people who look at the game in the most microscopic way are coming out on top in the end.  It's amazing how people like Doyle Brunson are still winning after all these years.  Greenstein and Brunson are consistently winning year after year.  So it can't be luck.

JENNY:  Is there anyone specific in the industry that you admire?

YLON:  Nobody famous or you know.  People I came up with in gambling were all out of New York City.  There are a lot of people I admire that came out of those channels that ended up making a name for themselves who grew up very poor and ended up having comfortable lives.  And that's something I admire.  I mean I admire the accomplishments of the big name guys like Doyle but I don't know them personally. People who are closest to me are more likely to be my idols.   

JENNY:  Underground Poker Rooms are big in New York.  Have you played in the underground scene?  And if so, do you still?

YLON:  Sure.  I learned to play tournament poker at a club in Manhattan.  They had tournaments every weekend.  There were about 80 players.  It was fantastic.  It's a shame that government for some reason doesn't want to allow people to have fun.  Those were great days and I really had so much fun in that poker room.  It's a shame cause most of them are closed.    

JENNY:  What will you do with the $9 million?  Besides going off to a far country. (Haha)

YLON:  (Haha) I've got a couple places in mind.  I'd buy a couple of places; I'd get a place somewhere warm and then somewhere in New York.  Then maybe a fully loaded Mini Cooper.  (Haha)   

JENNY:  (Haha) Nice.

YLON:  (Haha) I like Mini Coopers. They're great cars and they've got a lot of power. I can't see myself in an Aston Martin.     

JENNY:  What have you been doing when you're not playing tournaments?

YLON:  I play some chess and yoga sometimes.  I listen to music and I play a couple of instruments.   

JENNY:  What instruments do you play?

YLON:  I play the drums a bit and I play an African thumb instrument called Kalimba.  It's fun and it's my bedtime lullaby I play myself. 

JENNY:  What are your thoughts on the UIGEA?   

YLON:  I don't know a lot about it but it's obviously ridiculous.   

JENNY:  Doesn't the UIGEA actually prevent new talent (competition) from entering the poker arena?

YLON:  No, these kids are going to find a way.  I mean, how many times have you heard about a 16 year old sneaking into a casino?  Gambling finds a way; gambling is like life.  It's going to happen no matter what.  People are going to find a way to get their money down.   

JENNY:  Do you vote this election year?  

YLON:  Oh yeah.  I'm a hard-core liberal, radical, left wing, strike oriented, upper west side, New York Jew.

JENNY:  And who does a hard-core liberal, radical, left wing, strike oriented, upper west side, New York Jew.  for?

YLON:  Obviously Obama.  He had to win.  

JENNY:  Hopefully Obama will do a lot of good for this country for the online poker industry as a whole.  I really appreciate you spending time with me and wish you the best of luck this week.

Jenny Woo, Gambling911.com Senior Correspondent