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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Where Are They Now – Jay Heimowitz

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Let’s be honest for a minute.  A lot of poker players like beer.  All Scotty Nguyen jokes aside, alcohol has been a staple of a poker table as long as the game has been around.  Many poker players enjoy a drink before, during, and after a session, sometimes all three.  However, there is only one poker player that comes to mind that has been able to make money from both the beer and poker industry.  Jay Heimowitz isn’t even a big drinker, but as a young businessman he realized that a lot of people are.  It was his combination of hard work and smarts that has made him both a highly successful businessman and also one of the best tournament poker players in the history of the game.  Only a handful of players can claim better success than him, but of that bunch, he’s the only amateur of the group.

Jay Heimowitz was born on December 26, 1937, in the town of Bethel, New York, not far from New York City.  Heimowitz learned poker as a child from his family and other kids in the neighborhood, and by the ripe old age of nine he was earning a reputation as a good player.  Instead of taking money off of the kids in the neighborhood, they played for baseball cards, which is just as good as money when you are that age.  By the time Heimowitz was a teenager he had quite the extensive baseball card collection, some of which he continues to hold on to today.

At 18 years old Heimowitz joined the Army, where he continued to play poker during his downtime.  In his four year stay in the service he honed his poker skills against other servicemen, this time playing for cash.  Not a lot of members of the Army had a lot of cash, but that didn’t stop Heimowitz from earning around $10,000, which in the mid 1950’s was quite a bit of change.
Because Heimowitz’s parents went through the Great Depression, they instilled in their son the importance of a dollar and making smart decisions with your money.  Even as a child Heimowitz knew he wanted to be a businessman of some sort, and with his $10,000 from his poker winnings he had a way to follow his dream.  With his money he bought a small beer company and a bottling plant.  Over the next two years Heimowitz put all of his money and time, averaging 80 hours a week, into his new businesses.  Heimowitz would soon see the fruits of his labor when Budweiser came calling, showing interest in his beer.  At just age 23 they made Heimowitz an offer to buy his beer and bottling plant, making Heimowitz the youngest Budweiser distributor in the history of the company, a record he still holds today.
Heimowitz continued working with the distribution plant, but now that he wasn’t putting as much time in, he started playing a lot more poker again.  Between cash games in the New York City area, and occasional trips to Las Vegas, Heimowitz earned the reputation as one of the best amateurs around.  In 1975 he made his first trip to the World Series of Poker, and has played in every event since then, with great success.  In his very first trip to the World Series of Poker he took down the $5,000 No Limit Hold’em event for $32,000.  This event was designated for “non-professionals” only, but because it was too hard to distinguish between the two, the WSOP got rid of this event shortly after.
If anyone doubted that Heimowitz couldn’t compete with the professionals, he has shown time and time again that not only could he compete with them, but he could dominate the action more often than not.  In 1980 Heimowitz finished 3rd in the Main Event, winning $109,500.  The next year he once again made a deep run, finishing 6th place, and adding $30,000 to his bankroll.   While he has never again made the final table of a Main Event, he has made a number of deep runs a number of times.  He has finished 11th in 1987, 15th in 1988, 14th in 1989, 11th in 1991, and 13th in 1997.  Basically for a 15 to 20 year period when you saw Heimowitz’s name on the Main Event entrants list you could put your money on him making a deep run.

The close runs aside, Heimowitz has had his fair share of victories too.  Heimowitz’s second WSOP bracelet came in 1986 in the $5,000 Limit Hold’em event, winning $175,800 for his efforts.  The third bracelet was achieved in 1991 in what many consider his best game - Pot Limit Omaha. Three years later he added a fourth bracelet, winning another Limit Hold’em event.  The new millennium did nothing to slow the then 63 year-old down, as he won his fifth bracelet in another Limit Hold’em event.  The next year Heimowitz added his 6th, and to date last bracelet, taking down a senior event.
Only six people in the history of the WSOP have more bracelets than Heimowitz, and all of them are professional players.  Mike Sexton, in an article for Card Player Magazine, called Heimowitz, along with Lyle Berman, the best amateur to ever sit at a poker table.  Even at 72 years old he is still a feared cash game player at the Omaha tables.

Heimowitz has also been called one of the founding members of the Mayfair Club in New York City, as he was there when they first opened their doors in the mid 1980’s and there when they were forced to close their doors in 2000.  Last year he appeared on NBC’s Poker After Dark with Mayfair Club alum Howard Lederer, Dan Harrington, Mickey Appleman, Steve Zolotow, and former club manager Mike Shictman.  Heimowitz went on to win the event and the $120,000 prize.

Heimowitz has been married since 1960 and has four children and eight grandchildren.  Despite having a successful business in beer, he’s kept away from it as mentioned.  He’s a self-professed health-nut and exercise nut, and even now in his 70’s nothing gets his blood flowing like a tough ski trail.  From baseball cards to over $2,000,000 in poker winning, Heimowitz has shown just how far an amateur can go in the game.

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