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Detroit Poker Dealer ‘Overwhelmed By Show Of Love’ When She Returned From Vegas With WSOP Bracelet

Ladies Event Champion Captured Gold For Late Father's Memory


When Courtney Kennedy won the $1,000 buy-in Ladies Event at the 2016 World Series of Poker, it was also her first time cashing in the event that she has played in for the past seven years. Kennedy, who works as a poker dealer at MotorCity Casino in Detroit, made the most of the deep run during the one week she was in Las Vegas, pocketing nearly $150,000 and grabbing the piece of poker history.

When she isn’t dealing cards, Kennedy is a cash game regular at $2-$5 no-limit hold’em and $1-$2 and $2-$5 pot-limit Omaha, but not at the casino she works at because of gaming regulations. She said that she’s been a card player nearly her entire life, thanks to her late father’s passion for poker.

The 37-year-old Kennedy told Card Player that even though her father passed away about a year ago, she knows he’s happy and proud that she is now a WSOP bracelet winner. She has the bracelet next to his urn on a small table dedicated to his memory.

Card Player had the chance to ask Kennedy about her love for card games and how her job as a dealer helped her fine-tune her skills as a player.

Brian Pempus: What was it like winning a bracelet this summer?

Courtney Kennedy: It was truly a surreal moment. That’s the only word I can think of. It was one of those things where I never expected to win, which is probably because I am more of a cash game player. When it was coming down to the wire it started to become more believable. I don’t even remember believing [I could win] until the last hour. This was the seventh year I played the Ladies Event and I didn’t cash in the previous six. I was ready to do back flips [before even making the final table]. The tournament was more of a mental endurance than anything else. It was truly a test of that at the end of the day.

BP: You said after you won that you’ve been playing cards for pretty much your entire life. How big of a pastime were card games for your family?

CK: Yeah, even to this day. I grew up in household where it was always some type of card game. It was never for money, and always for fun for the most part. I would hang out with my dad—I’m an only child. He passed last year, so that was the only thing missing from the tournament, that he wasn’t able to witness it. He was the first person who got me into poker, being around him in different venues where he’d be playing seven-card stud or five-card stud. I eventually started watching poker on TV and got into it on my own. I just picked up from there. I’ve always had a deck of cards in my hand somehow.

BP: Which card games did you play with your dad when you were younger?

CK: With him it was more like spades, trump, not really a lot of poker. I watched him play poker a lot. I kind of picked up the basics on reading people and reading hands, just the whole element of the game, from watching him play, even though he wasn’t a hold’em player.

BP: Do you feel like your bracelet was for him and his memory?

CK: Definitely. That bracelet sits in front of his urn I have at the house, with a plate and his memoirs, and I have it all on a nice little stand. Everyday I try to take a look at it. It’s definitely something I wish he could have seen in the physical, but I know he’s happy that I made it.

BP: Where do you plan on taking your poker game after this?

CK: I want to take a look at some Circuit events. I definitely don’t want to be a one-trick pony, as they say. I still enjoy my job, so I am not going to quit or anything like that. I’m going to take a look at some things over the next couple of months, maybe do some investing. You know, see where the world leads me. I don’t have a set venture yet, but I am keeping my options open.

BP: How has your job as a poker dealer helped you become a better player?

CK: I have been dealing at MotorCity Casino in Detroit for the past three years. I work with a great group of people and fantastic customers, mainly regulars but we do definitely have those who come and visit. I see a lot of hands a day. When you are a player and a dealer it’s hard to turn off that mode of still watching as you do when you are playing. I feel like I am playing when I am working. They go hand-in-hand. Dealing definitely contributed to me getting better. In this game, you become accountable, accountable for your own mistakes and missteps. It’s a matter of whether or not you take the good and bad and balance it.

BP: Yeah, some dealers are not thinking about poker strategy when they are dealing. But for you, you are trying to pay attention to what someone might be holding?

CK: Absolutely. I even listen to the conversation, especially if they get heads-up. Because we have so many regulars, I am able to remember what they have done before. It’s free lessons as long as you take advantage of it. That’s what I do. Poker players are creatures of the past, even though we don’t all do the same things, we might fit a stereotype or different modes of doing different things, so I try to pay attention to those things as much as possible. I have had this poker passion for so many years. My goal has always been to be the best that I can be.

BP: Were your coworkers really happy for you winning a bracelet this summer?

CK: Oh absolutely. When I walked into the casino after I got back, the dealers and the players and the floor people, everyone stood up and just started applauding. It was a very warm feeling. They told me how they were all supporting me and watching the hands online, and following it up until the minute I won. It was a great feeling. It lets you know people really want to see you do well. I was overwhelmed by that show of love.

BP: How is the health of poker in Detroit? I know Michigan has put restrictions on charity poker games, so has that had an effect?

CK: We still have a few [charity poker rooms] open, but with the different laws being broken, like theft, the charity rooms have died down. It has helped the business of the casinos. We have a very large turnout at Motor City. We’re definitely benefiting from the drop in the charity rooms.



almost 6 years ago

Good for her.

It's refreshing to see someone who's going to keep there job and not run off to Vegas to become a pro. We know how that story ends...