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Bartender wins first WSOP event

29 May 2009

Tournament Highlights:

The Winner

• The 2009 World Series of Poker "Casino Employees Champion" is Andrew Cohen, from Las Vegas, NV. Cohen is originally from New York.

• Cohen is a 39-year-old bartender. He works at The Palms Casino, inside the Nine steakhouse. Cohen is married and has one child, a daughter who was born last December.

• "The one thing that I always wanted – for any poker player, this is it," Cohen remarked in reference to winning the first WSOP gold bracelet of 2009. "I told all these guys here, it's not about the money to me, and I'm not even a rich guy. I'm a bartender. And, I don't care about the money. You can always get money. It's the bracelet that counts."

• Cohen plays regularly in Las Vegas poker tournaments, mostly nightly events spread at various Strip casinos. He has done well recently, with three consecutive cashes. But this was his biggest poker victory, by far.

• Cohen was moved emotionally by his victory. He was unable to contain his enthusiasm at various points during the post-tournament interview and took a few seconds to regain his focus on questions asked by reporters.

• Cohen called his wife moments after winning. He stated that she was crying at their Las Vegas home. "She knows how much the gold bracelet means to me. Life doesn't get much better than today," he said.

• Cohen is close friends with Alex Outhred, who is an instructor at the WSOP Academy. Outhred remarked afterward: "Andrew played flawlessly. He just played flawless all night long. This is the stuff you teach and you see it actually happen – it's even better to see it come out so perfectly in the end." Cohen also wanted to note the contribution of his friend, poker player Floyd Lewis.

• Cohen came into this year's WSOP planning to enter five events – three $1,500 buy-in events and a $1,000 buy-in event. He had just enough bankroll ($5,000) to cover a select number of modestly-priced tournaments. Cohen now says he will likely add the $10,000 buy-in Main Event to his future plans.

• Cohen collected $83,833 for first place. He was also awarded his first WSOP gold bracelet. The bracelet is/was to be presented at a special ceremony held at center stage held the following day. Cohen is/was the first gold bracelet winner to be honored in this way, which will include the winner's national anthem.

The Players

• The final table was comprised of nine players, which included the following occupations:

Poker Dealers (4)
Casino Games Dealers (2)
Bar Back (1)
Floorman (1)
Bartender (1)

• Two of the nine players at the final table were born in The Philippines. The remaining seven players were born in the United States.

• The runner up was Paul Peterson, from Las Vegas, NV. He is a bar back who works at the Mandalay Bay Casino in Las Vegas. "Don't tell them where I work, because I called in sick today," Peterson joked to the media.

• Interestingly, in a tournament filled with poker dealers, it was a bartender and bar back who ended up as the top two finishers.

• The third-place finisher was Casey Kuhn, from Bettendorf, IA. He is a casino games dealer formally employed at the Riverside Casino and Golf Resort in Iowa.

• The fourth-place finisher was Grant Yasui, originally from Waipahu, HI. He now works as a poker dealer at Fitzgerald's in Downtown Las Vegas.

• The fifth-place finisher was Jun Dulay, from Las Vegas, NV. He now works at The Mirage as a blackjack dealer.

• The sixth-place finisher was Bobby Rooney, from Oakland, CA. He is a Floorman at The Oaks Card Club in Emeryville, CA. Rooney previously cashed at the 2005 Aussie Millions poker tournament in Australia.

• The seventh-place finisher was John McAvoy, from Chandler, AZ. He is a poker dealer at the Gila River Casino at Wild Horse Pass. This was McAvoy's first time to play in a WSOP event.

• The eighth-place finisher was Ferdinand Boleski, from Las Vegas, NV. He is a table games dealer.

• The ninth-place finisher was Sammy Porter, from Bullhead City, AZ. He is a poker dealer at Harrah's Laughlin.

• The defending champion was Jonathan Kotula (Las Vegas, NV). He did not enter this year's event.

Odds and Ends

• The tournament kicked off in grand style with WSOP President and Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack and WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel standing at center stage. The center stage platform is positioned at the center of the Amazon Ballroom at the Rio Convention Center, which holds 160 of the tournament's 295 tables.

• During his introduction, Jack Effel thanked the tournament players, who are all casino employees. He stated, "It's you who are out there spreading the word about the World Series of Poker which keeps the players coming back again and again. Thank you!"

• During his introduction, Jeffrey Pollack noted "Jack Effel is the best tournament director on the planet," which brought a rousing ovation. Effel and his staff have worked tirelessly for months refining and some say perfecting the schedule and structures to the players' benefit.

• Jeffrey Pollack, speaking to the large gathering of casino employees and poker players stated, "Without you, the WSOP would not be possible. You make it happen."

• While exiting the stage, Jeffrey Pollack casually remarked to that he had difficulty sleeping the night before, in great anticipation for the opening of the 2009 WSOP. Summing up the thoughts and feelings of millions of poker players around the world he stated, "Last night felt like Christmas Eve."

• Next, Jeffrey Pollack introduced 11-time WSOP gold bracelet winner and 1989 world champion Phil Hellmuth to the crowd, who was bestowed with the "Shuffle Up and Deal" honors. Hellmuth made it clear that he supports the new rules in effect for this year's WSOP. He also joked with the crowd that he occasionally gets out of line, "but never, ever with the dealers – only the other players," he said. Although Hellmuth's introduction brought a predictable mix of cheers and boos from the good natured crowd, his comments were favorably received.

• Prior to the start of the event, the tournament room was filled with popular music from the year 1970. Since this is the 40th anniversary of the WSOP, much of the music and memories that his year's series will flashback to the earlier era. The three songs played as background music prior to the start were "American Woman" by The Guess Who, "Instant Karma" by John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band, and "Cecilia" by Simon and Garfunkel.

• The 2009 WSOP officially opened for business one day prior to the start of this tournament, on May 26th. While the biggest poker event in the world was underway at the Rio, less than a quarter-mile away at Harrah's sister property, President Barack Obama was speaking to a gathering at Caesars Palace Las Vegas.

The Event

• The first Casino Employees Championship was held at the 2000 WSOP. It was actually called the "Dealers World Poker Championship" at the time, since the tournament was open only to casino dealers (the following year, all casino employees became eligible). That inaugural event attracted 109 entries and was won by Dave Alizadeh, from Las Vegas.

• Casino employees were given their own poker tournament, which became a gold bracelet event from the first year forward. The tournament was added to the WSOP schedule to honor the efforts and commit of poker dealers and all casino employees who help make the WSOP so successful.

• The Casino Employees Championship is included amongst all official WSOP records and statistics. However, it is not an open event, since there are restrictions on entry. The event is generally grouped with the Seniors World Championship and Ladies World Championship, which are non-open events but which are still coveted titles afforded the same distinction as all gold bracelet tournaments.

• From 2000-2003, the championship was a Limit Hold'em tournament. Since 2004, the championship has been a No-Limit Hold'em tournament.

• The largest turnout in history for this event occurred in 2006, when 1,232 casino employees participated.

• Last year, the tournament was held towards the end of the WSOP (Event #55). However, this year the tournament returned to its traditional spot on the schedule as the opening event of the WSOP.

• The tournament was played over a two day period. The prize money was reached at the conclusion of the first day, which lasted 14 hours. The 81 in-the-money survivors continued play on Day Two, which lasted nearly 12 hours.

• The End Day One chip leader was Zurich Karli, from Zurich Switzerland. He ended up finishing in 15th place.

• Andrew Cohen (Las Vegas, NV) arrived at the final table with a slight chip lead. However, he lost his advantage about an hour into final table play. He regained the lead when his pocket kings scooped a big pot and essentially dominated play in the final two hours.

• The final table lasted about 4 hours and 20 minutes.

• The final hand took place when Paul Peterson re-raised all-in with ace-queen. Andrew Cohen called with pocket sixes. "I knew it was either a race situation or I had a big lead," Cohen said later. The board failed to improve either hand, which meant the pocket sixes won the last pot of the tournament.

• Although Cohen held a 5 to 1 chip advantage over Peterson when heads-up play began, he was modest about how the final hand was played out. "I got lucky on the last hand to win the race," he said. "And you know how important it is to win the races."

• The tournament officially began on Wednesday, May 27th at 12:06 pm. The tournament officially ended on Friday, May 29th at 1:52 am.

WSOP Statistics

• Through the conclusion of Event #1, the 2009 WSOP has attracted 866 entries. $389,700 in prize money has been awarded to winners.

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