6/9/10 – A New York professional poker player and fan of the game suffered what appeared to be a heart attack and died on his way to the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas this week, reports the New York Post.
 
Paul "Smalls" Kitsos, (55), a one-time Greek basketball player, fashion industry businessman and professional poker player, was aboard a United Airlines flight bound for San Francisco Monday evening, intending to connect through to Las Vegas.
 
About 20 minutes after takeoff, Kitsos called for cabin assistance, complaining of feeling ill and apparently having difficulty breathing. Shortly thereafter a doctor aboard the flight pronounced him dead, and the pilot returned to JFK airport.
 
Kitsos had some poker action in mind, and was carrying $11 000 in cash, reports indicated. He was a competent Texas Hold’Em player, earning $387,764 on the World Poker Tour, and recording 18 cashes in various tournaments since he began playing professionally five years ago.
 
He finished 320th in the 2008 World Series of Poker in November 2008, earning $32,166 and his biggest paycheck — $103,500 – came in June 2009, when he finished fifth in the Borgata Summer Open.
 
His wife, Stella Spanakos, told The Post her husband of 20 years had a love for poker and a zest for life. He fell in love with Texas hold ‘Em when it became popular after the 9-11 tragedy, and he was always a very sharp card player, reading voraciously on the subject, she said.