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Mike Kosowski -- From Ground Zero to Poker Millionaire

NYPD Officer Becomes Million Dollar Challenge’s First Millionaire


PokerStars Million Dollar Challenge crowns a winner.On Sept. 11, 2001, Detective Sergeant Mike Kosowski rushed into the World Trade Center as one of the first responders to the largest terrorist attack on American soil. More than eight years later, he still chokes up thinking about the horror he witnessed, describing it on camera as “every kind of misery.”

Undoubtedly, 9/11 was one of the worst days of Kosowki’s life. He suffered three herniated discs in his neck and two herniated discs in back after he found himself under the collapsing South tower. Despite the pain, he was able to escape into the nearby World Financial Center, where he assisted a few others to safety. He was awarded the Medal of Valor for his heroics.

Kosowki knows he was one of the lucky ones. Unlike nearly 3,000 others, he was able to return home after the nightmare. He was still able to be a husband and a father.

In 2004, after 21 years in the New York Police Department, Kosowki retired due to lingering pain from his herniated discs and induced asthma brought on through his searches in the World Trade Center debris the weeks following the terrorist attack.

In his retirement, Kosowki saw the World Series of Poker on ESPN and decided to give online poker a try on PokerStars. That turned out to be a very good decision.

Kosowki finished in the top 10 of a freeroll with 16,000 players in it to qualify for a chance to be on the new poker TV series, PokerStars Million Dollar Challenge. After submitting an audition video, he was accepted as a contestant and flew out to Los Angeles for his chance to win a million dollars.

He would only need to beat a celebrity, then a pro, then Daniel Negreanu, then a sit-and-go of all the other people that beat Negreanu, and then Negreanu again to win $1 million. Only one problem – he wasn’t able to beat the celebrity.

Luckily for him though, neither could anyone else in his show’s lineup. With one spot remaining in the sit-and-go to play Kid Poker for a million, he played a backstage game with the three other contestants to see who would represent them in the final sit-and-go. After he won, he was off to play the show’s three previous star contestant star – Father Andrew Trapp, a South Carolina priest; Denny Luna, an Iraq war veteran; and Brian Baboz, a liquor salesman.

Kosowski was successful again, defeating the three players for his opportunity to face Negreanu. Declining the chance for suspense and instead capitalizing on its feel-good story, PokerStars announced in a press release that Kosowki was successful in his final showdown with Negreanu, beating the four-time bracelet winner and earning $1 million.

You can watch the show this Sunday after your local NFL on FOX coverage.

Click on the video below to learn more about Kosowski’s story.



over 12 years ago

Actually Mike didn't win 3 heads up matches. He lost but got to play an emergency sit-n-go vs. the other losers THAN won a 4 handed tourney to face Daniel and he caught every card he needed too from the 1st 16000+ player tourney to the h/u match. Nicely done, sir. Nuff Said.

over 12 years ago

seamar, you misspelled the word 'then'. Then you put it in all caps.