A Grand Island poker player made a deep run at the World Series of Poker in honor of his brother.

Dylan Meier and his older brother Jordan dreamed of one day playing in the no-limit Texas Hold ’em tournament in Las Vegas, televised on ESPN.

Jordan died of an epileptic seizure at age 29. Two years later, a group of Jordan’s friends surprised Dylan with a check.

Through golf tournaments and a fantasy football league, they had raised $10,000, which was the cost to buy into the famous poker tournament.

The friends surprised Dylan with what he called a “Happy Gilmore-sized check” at the Jordan Meier Memorial Golf Tournament on June 8. Until then, Dylan assumed that they were starting a memorial fund.

“I was speechless, completely filled with emotion,” he said in a call from Las Vegas on Friday. “I saw ‘World Series of Poker Main Event’ (in the memo line) and it was signed by my brother. I lost it.”

Dylan quickly arranged to fly to Las Vegas in time for this year’s main event. The day before he left, he was eating dinner in west Omaha with his girlfriend when his car was stolen.

Again, his friends and family rallied around him, shuttling him to Grand Island in time for his flight and telling him not to worry about the car. The next day, Omaha police found it, missing a few items, abandoned in a bean field.

“I’m thinking maybe this will be a bad omen that’ll turn into something good,” Dylan said.

Indeed it did.

Dylan flew to Las Vegas on July 4, got off to a strong start in the tournament and then made it deep enough into the tourney that he got to play on a featured table televised on ESPN.

“The cards were falling right, I felt like everything I was doing was clicking,” Dylan said. “I found myself tearing up a lot. I don’t really know how to explain it, but I could definitely feel (Jordan) with me. It was one of the best experiences of my life because it was with him.”

His chips grew from 50,000 to 277,700 on Day One, ranking in the top 10 for the flight. On Day Two, he doubled his chips and kept going from there. He said he was playing a little less like himself and a little more like his brother.

“I’m a really aggressive player, and he helped me to stay a little more disciplined,” Dylan said. “He was honestly 10 times the card player that I am.”

Dylan finally was eliminated from the tournament on Day Five. He finished in 252nd place out of 8,569 competitors, earning him nearly $44,000.

“We’re nothing but proud of Dylan,” said Matt Hilligas, one of Jordan’s friends who, along with Jake Knouse and Tyler Jorgensen, organized the golf tournaments to raise money for Dylan. “Obviously, we all wanted to see him win, but he made Jordan, us and all of Grand Island proud.”

Before this tournament, Dylan had taken in about $30,000 in live tournament winnings. He said he plans to enter again in the future, using winnings from this tournament to buy his way back in.

When he does, he’ll remember some advice his older brother once gave him: “Getting that far is just more experience to be successful in the future.”

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