On the Button: With poker pro Noah Schwartz

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Noah Schwartz, 30, is a poker pro who lives in Sunny Isles, Fla. He has been on the poker scene since 2006, but despite several final tables, didn’t capture a major title until last year at the WPT main event in Jacksonville. He collected a WSOPE Mixed-Max bracelet in October in Paris. Two days after arriving home from France, he was back in action at the Isle Open main event in South Florida, finishing sixth. Our Dave Lemmon talked to him during a break.

Winning a bracelet is a goal of all poker players; are you going to wear it? No, I was considering giving it to my mom . . . then I’ll have to go out and win one for myself.

When you won the WPT event a year ago in Jacksonville, you exclaimed, “Finally!” Is this another “finally” for you? Absolutely, this is another check mark off my list of goals. This summer, I got heads-up at the WSOP in PLO and I found a way to basically just throw it away; that really took a toll on me. So, to come back and win a bracelet so soon, it’s an awesome feeling. … When I got heads-up with Ludovic (Lacay) in Paris he had me 2-to-1, so the pressure was off me in that spot. He’s a talented player, so if I came in second, maybe it was meant to be. I decided to play slow, try to win some small pots and things worked out in my favor. I got lucky.

In the first Mixed-Max event at WSOPE this year, you got to the final four players, then got knocked out on the first hand of that heads-up match. What happened? In that tournament, I was playing the eventual winner (Darko Stojanovic) and he open-shoved and I had 20 big blinds. I looked down and had pocket nines, so I’m going to have the best hand 90 percent of the time. He had A-5. For me, I got a little unlucky, but I’m still very thankful. I’m playing a game that I love and meeting a lot of amazing people; that’s poker and with the law of averages, things even out.

You ended up playing with a serious bout with food poisoning. Poker doesn’t seem like a lot of physical activity, but there are physical challenges to overcome sometimes. Absolutely, it takes a toll mentally and physically sitting at a poker table for many hours concentrating so hard. In a foreign country, I ate some chicken that was undercooked; I had one meal after that over a 72-hour period while I was playing the event I actually won the bracelet in. Maybe it was good luck for me to eat some undercooked salmonella.

Tell me a little about the foundation you recently started. Well, it’s in the infancy stages and I’m working with a few companies so I’m trying to build a team to guide me on where we need to go, but it’s called the Schwartz Foundation and will be similar to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, helping terminally ill children experience their goals in their final days.

I want to focus on underprivileged kids, because I grew up poor and lost my father at 16, so it really hits home. If I can positively impact the lives of a few children it would mean the world to me. I also want to hook up with the One Drop Foundation, because I really believe in what Guy (Laliberte) is doing.

What are your immediate poker plans? After the first of the year, I will be at the PCA then maybe Australia and I have plans to play the $1 million One Drop next summer to get a chance to redeem myself there. Then I might scale back a bit and concentrate on the charity and maybe travel more leisurely. Things are all coming together for me; I couldn’t be happier.