Poker Coverage:

WSOP Rewind: Poker Dealer Katie Kopp Talks About Winning A Bracelet

by Bernard Lee |  Published: Nov 16, 2022

Print-icon
 

Katie KoppDuring this series of columns, I will be interviewing 2022 World Series of Poker winners. These champions will provide observations, tips, and strategies for you, the readers of Card Player, about the specific poker game in which they captured their bracelet.

The Event: $500 Casino Employees Event
The Winner: Katie Kopp
The Prize: $65,168

After 17 years at the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino, the WSOP found a new home in 2022, right in the middle of the Las Vegas Strip. Bally’s (soon to be Horseshoe) and Paris Las Vegas are now the new summer destination for poker players from around the world.

The $500 buy-in casino employees tournament drew a field of 832 players, one of which would make history by becoming the first to win a bracelet in the new venue. Unfortunately, somebody would also have to make history by being the first person to be eliminated from an event in the new venue.

Incredibly, these two feats would ultimately belong to the same person!

Katie Kopp, a 36-year-old traveling poker dealer, had looked forward to the opening event. Unfortunately for her, she didn’t last long, and was in fact the first person to bust from the tournament. Undeterred, Kopp decided to re-enter, and made the most of her opportunity. Despite her early exit, she had good reason to be optimistic about her second bullet, given she had finished third in this very same event back in 2018.

Supported by her friends and family, Kopp once again made the final table and was showered with chants of, “Can’t stop Kopp!” In the end, she took down the tournament for her first bracelet and the $65,168 first-place prize.

“I’m very proud of her!” exclaimed her mother Patty, who was leading the chants from the rail. “Her brother and sister both have (WSOP Circuit) rings, and now Katie has a bracelet! It was awesome. I started crying right away.”

Kopp’s run continued a few days later when she took third from a field of 1,482 at the Golden Nugget for another $17,885.

Kopp originally started as a baccarat dealer about 10 years ago at the Horseshoe Cleveland. Eventually, she switched over to dealing poker and moved to Tampa to grind $2-$5 no-limit hold’em. In addition to dealing the WSOP during the summer, Kopp also works at World Poker Tour and Mid-States Poker Tour events.

I spoke with Katie for my radio show. (You can watch the full interview on YouTube (Bernard Lee Poker) or iTunes. Highlights from the interview appear below.

Bernard: Congratulations on winning the Casino Employee event. What a great way to kick off the summer!

Katie: Thanks so much! The whole thing was surreal. I was so happy to have my family there with me. I even asked my mom to pinch me to make sure that it was real life.

Bernard: Your family is very supportive, and also heavily involved in poker, right?

Katie: Yes. I have a brother and sister, who are twins, that are 32-years old. They both have won WSOP Circuit rings. In fact, my brother has won two. My mother also deals poker.

When we were younger, my grandpa taught us how to play poker. When Chris Moneymaker won, we started playing Texas hold’em. We would invite our friends over to play all the time when we were younger.

Bernard: Is there anything specific that your grandpa taught you that has stuck with you over the years?

Katie: Actually, my grandma used to tell me and my siblings something to think about in life, but we think about it a lot while playing cards.

She would tell us, ‘STAR.’ This stood for Stop, Think, Analyze, and React. So, for the employee’s event, I wrote a little star on my hand so I could see it to remember her saying. I wanted to stop myself from just bluffing off all my chips.

And now that I won, I’m going to get a little tattoo of the star on my hand. I think this is a good thing to think about for beginning players.

Bernard: I like that. Great advice from grandma and a cool mnemonic. Any other advice that you have for beginning players, especially who work for a casino and may have no or little experience playing in poker tournaments?

Katie: Well first, if you do work in a casino, even if you don’t work in the poker room, but really want to play in a WSOP event, the Casino Employee Event is definitely the great one to play. There are a lot of dealers who play in the event and are willing to help you out. Also, everyone is much friendlier and not as serious, especially at the beginning of the tournament.

Bernard: What about casino employees who have previous experience playing in poker tournaments?

Katie: Since there are lots of beginners playing in this event, you don’t have to force anything. Just play your best game and let the game come to you, especially in the early levels. Many beginners will often give away chips because they cannot fold hands.

Bernard: We have heard lots of stories of dealers that end up playing in tournaments and doing well. You have said that dealing helped you prepare for playing in tournaments.

Katie: I think dealing can be real helpful. When I deal, I’m always thinking, ‘What do these players have?’ I try to pay real close attention because it is always easier when you are just watching and not playing. Then when they show down their cards, I can see if I’m right or not. It is a great way to practice reading people with no financial risk. Then, I can make a similar read during a tournament when I’m playing.

Bernard: You made the final table in the Casino Employee event in 2018, taking third. What advice would you give a person if they were fortunate to make the final table?

Katie: I will say that I was definitely nervous my first time. But this time, I was more comfortable and I could tell some of the other players at the final table this year were nervous instead.

I would just tell people to try not to think about it even though that’s easier said than done. Take some nice deep breaths and don’t worry about the cameras and reporters. Just play the game that got you there and don’t worry about making mistakes. Fortunately, they didn’t show the hole cards in this event, so no one will know if you made a real bad play.

Bernard: Do you have any other advice for the players?

Katie: I would seek out other players who you feel are better than you. You have to put aside your ego and try to improve your game.

When I first started playing poker, I thought I was so good. But the more I played, I realized that I wasn’t nearly as good as I thought. Leading up to this summer, I spoke a lot with my brother, and he really helped me understand certain situations and plays. These discussions really helped improve my game.

Also, this may be a small thing, but I would definitely register early for the tournament so you don’t have to stress about waiting in line.

Bernard: Your victory was certainly great for women in poker. Do you feel that there is an advantage to being a woman when you play?

Katie: I think being a woman is a super advantage for two reasons. First, they always think that I have it and I get way more folds than I should. Second, they try to get me off hands, so I induce more bluffs from my opponents. I feel that I often have a good read on my opponents and can pick off these bluffs. These two things really help me build a chip stack. ♠

Bernard Lee broke into the poker world after a deep run in the 2005 WSOP main event. He has two WSOP Circuit rings, and is an author, having written for Card Player, the Boston Herald, Metrowest Daily News, and ESPN, where he was a host of the show The Inside Deal. His radio show and podcast, The Bernard Lee Poker Show, recently celebrated its 15th anniversary, and his latest book, Poker Satellite Success: Turn Affordable Buy-Ins Into Shots At Winning Millions, is now available on Amazon as well as D&B Publishing. Follow him on Twitter @BernardLeePoker or visit his website at BernardLeePoker.com or YouTube channel at Youtube.com/BernardLeePoker.