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WSOP Gold -- The Bartender from N.Y. Lives His Dream

Andrew Cohen Becomes the First Bracelet Winner of 2009


Andrew Cohen“That’s your daddy,” Andrew Cohen’s mother-in-law whispered to his six-month-old baby girl, Jaxon, as Cohen accepted his championship bracelet with the Star-Spangled Banner booming over the speakers in the Amazon Room of the Rio.

Cohen, a bartender at the N9ne steakhouse at The Palms in Las Vegas, couldn’t help but smile widely as he answered questions about the greatest win of his life.

“It doesn’t get much better than this,” Cohen told Card Player minutes after he accepted his bracelet for his win in Event No. 1, the Casino Employees Championship. “I accomplished my dream. Winning at the World Series of Poker — it’s the highest accolade a poker player can achieve.”

Cohen earned $83,833 for the $500-buy-in tournament.

The New York native has been playing cards all his life, but he really started to take to the game after he moved to L.A. for a job in the entertainment business.

“I just got hooked,” said Cohen, after he began playing in local casinos. “I started doing pretty well, cashing in a bunch of tournaments. Then I hit one tournament for $7,000.”

Poker can be a tough sell for a man’s girlfriend, but that wasn’t the case with Cohen. His girlfriend at the time, Bree — now his wife of three years — had one destination in mind after his $7,000 cash: Vegas.

“She’s the greatest person in the world,” said Cohen. “Being married to a poker player is probably the hardest thing in the world, but she’s the best.”

So the couple moved to Las Vegas, and Cohen began his quest to become a better poker player. But it wasn’t easy.

Before this tournament, Cohen had played in about seven World Series events. He failed to cash in any of them. He still remembers his most heartbreaking moment, at the 2007 WSOP main event.

After an amazing start in which he knocked out the legend himself, Doyle Brunson, Cohen had accumulated a nice-sized chip stack by the end of Day 2. But when he pushed all in with pocket kings pre-flop, he watched as his competitor’s pocket queens drew out on him to push him to the rail just short of the money.

“I was devastated,” he said. “Ten thousand dollars is a big deal to me.”

But he pressed on, gradually learning to accept the bad beats as part of the game.

“The bad beats are going to happen,” said Cohen. “You just got to get your money in as best you can, and let the poker gods take care of the rest.”

Still, the poker gods were not being friendly to Cohen even in the past few months. After a deep run in both a Venetian Deep Stack tournament and a daily tournament at Bellagio, he was unable to close the deal in either tournament. At Bellagio, his opponent rivered a two-outer on him for the chip lead.

But he didn’t get discouraged. In fact, he was inspired.

“I knew I was playing the best poker that I could possibly play,” said Cohen, who ambitiously told a co-worker before the World Series started that he was going to win this event.

After two days of play against 866 other players, Cohen’s prediction came true. In the final hand of the tournament, Cohen’s pocket sixes held up against ace-queen after his opponent pushed his dwindling stack all in pre-flop.

“It’s not a life-changing amount of money, but it’s definitely a cushion for my family,” said Cohen. “Isn’t this the greatest sport in the world?”