Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2004 | 9:23 a.m.
After watching Henderson gambler Ken Flaton spread his arms and scoop up pot after pot in a poker tournament, the late Stu "The Kid" Ungar commented that Flaton swooped down on piles of chips like a "skyhawk."
The nickname stuck with Flaton, who had joined the poker tournament circuit in the 1980s and was credited with helping to popularize tournament games that now are broadcast several times a week on cable television.
Kenneth "Skyhawk" Flaton, who won several major tournaments including the 1996 U.S. Poker Championship at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, died Sunday at St. Rose Dominican Hospitals, Siena Campus, after suffering a heart attack, his family said. He was 64.
Services for the Henderson resident of 25 years were to be at 2 p.m. today at King David Memorial Chapel and Cemetery, 2697 Eldorado Lane, in Las Vegas.
"From my standpoint, Ken was one of finest gentlemen I ever met in the poker world or in life -- he never squawked, he just played the game," said Texas gambler T.J. Cloutier, who was runner-up in the 1985 and 2000 Binion's World Series of Poker $10,000 buy-in no-limit Texas hold 'em championships.
"He was a side (cash) game player who got into tournaments in the days before they were televised and, with a number of us, helped bring about the popularity of today's tournaments."
Las Vegas poker historian Dana Smith, co-author of "Championship Table," the history of the World Series of Poker championships spanning the past four decades, said Flaton "got a lot of respect from the other players" because of his tournament success that included a number of no-limit Texas hold 'em titles.
"He was a top competitor, one of the 50 or 60 best players in the world," she said.
Flaton was having a good year on the major tournament circuit, making five final tables, including a third and two second-place finishes at the LA Poker Classic in February, according to Card Player magazine.
In May at the Horseshoe, Flaton finished eighth in the $1,500-buy-in, no-limit Texas hold 'em game at the World Series of Poker, pocketing $34,520 and bringing his year-to-date major tournament earnings to $107,101, Card Player said.
At the 1997 World Series of Poker, Flaton finished 18th in the $10,000 buy-in no-limit Texas hold 'em game and collected $25,400. The winner was the man who had given Flaton his nickname, Ungar, a three-time world champion who died in 1998 at age 45.
Also in 1997, Flaton won the $1,000 buy-in no-limit Texas hold' em event at the Binion's Hall of Fame Classic.
Born June 28, 1940, in New York City, Flaton settled in Henderson in 1979 after serving in the Army.
Flaton is survived by his wife, Crystal Flaton, and son, Aaron Flaton, both of Henderson.
The family says donations can be made to the Midbar Kodesh Temple, 1940 Paseo Verde Parkway, Henderson NV, 89012, or the Chabad of Green Valley, 10870 S. Eastern Ave., Henderson NV, 89052.