Everyday Grinder Stories: These Players Hit it Big in PokerStars PACOOP

January 20, 2020
Everyday Grinder Stories: These Players Hit it Big in PokerStars PACOOP

The US online poker market has gained some momentum in recent months. Players in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Delaware can legally play online.

Michigan and West Virginia have also given online gaming the go-ahead – including poker. With that growth in mind, USPoker’s new “Everyday Grinders” series regularly takes a look at some regular players those states.

This week’s edition features some big winners from the PokerStars PA Championship of Online Poker (PACOOP).

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PA parlay: Ticket winner to PokerStars Main Event champ

Ryan Gerber 

Age: 32

Hometown: Alburtis, Penn.

Occupation: Project management

The PokerStars PACOOP became the state’s first major online series when it concluded in mid-December. Because of turnout, the series featured two guarantee boosts with more than $1.5 million awarded over 18 days.

Ryan Gerber

The event many may have been watching was the $300 Main Event. The tournament brought in 640 entries and a prize pool of $179,200.

In the end, Ryan “Gyea08” Gerber came out on top for a nice $31,335 payday. How did it feel becoming the first PACOOP Main Event champion?

“It feels pretty awesome,” he says. “It definitely took a little bit to settle in, but I think it’s finally hit me that I won. It’s funny, I joked with some of my friends that I don’t know what’s cooler, the money or the title of first PACOOP Main Event champion. I’ll take both.”

After two days of action, the tournament ended at 1:15 a.m. With his 3-year-old daughter and fiancé sleeping, screaming in triumph was out of the question. Instead he paced around his house and called best friend who had railed him online. He remembers simply repeating over and over: “Dude, I just won the main.”

Hitting a nice draw

Gerber may not have believed he won, but his trip to the title is also quite unbelievable. He played in four earlier PACOOP events, cashing in two. For those who failed to make the money in an event, PokerStars awarded an entry into a tournament to win an event ticket. 

After placing for a $30 ticket, he parlayed that into a Main Event satellite. He finished in the top three and that run just continued the day of the tournament.

“I just love poker, bigger multi-table tournaments specifically,” he says. “After looking at the schedule after PokerStars released it, I knew no matter what I was going to make time for the main. I would have liked to play in more events than I did, but time just wasn’t on my side.”

With the added cash in the bank, Gerber plans on paying some bills and maybe make a down payment on a house. He also planned a celebration with family and friends.

A recreational poker player for 15 years, Chris Moneymaker’s historic World Series of Poker win served as his inspiration. He learned to play by reading books and playing regularly with friends. The PACOOP is the biggest win of his career. Playing again online in Pennsylvania has been a dream come true.

“I did play on PokerStars before Black Friday, and it honestly feels like a lot of weight off my shoulders to be able to play again,” he says. “I just really enjoy the comfort of being able to play online poker from my couch. Plus, the extra money isn’t bad either.”

New online player KOs the competition in Battle Royale

Ian Kim

Age: 25

Hometown: North Wales, Penn.

Occupation: Medical coding and billing

Poker night for the Kim brothers involved coins, cards, and a bit of tutoring. Ian “CashewSlippin” Kim vividly remembers a table full of coins when he was only 9 years old. His brother showed him the basic hand rankings, blinds, and how to deal.

“At that age, I’ll be honest, it didn’t seem fun at all,” he recalls.

Ian Kim

Sixteen years later, that attitude has certainly changed. After winning a $10 satellite with 100 players, he then topped a field of 677 in a $50 Battle Royale Progressive Knockout.

“I remember going to bed that night at around 2 a.m. in slight disbelief that I took it all down,” he says. “I had 15 to 22 big blinds the whole way into the final table. I kept focusing on the next pay jump, so I played more conservatively than I would’ve liked and it paid off.”

It paid off to the tune of $2,649 in first-place prize money and an extra $2,573 in bounties. The money came in handy to pay a few bills. He also was able to treat some loved ones.

“I had two birthdays coming up one for my dad and one for my girlfriend so it was nice to be able to treat them,” says Kim, who also enjoys cooking and programming in his free time. “And during the holidays, the company I work for does a ton of charitable work, so as I was picking up office decorations, it felt good to be able to pick up some nice things for those in need.”

Getting in the game via PokerStars PA

This was the biggest score of his poker career. He loves playing cards and enjoys watching the game on TV. After learning the game in dime-stakes games, he moved up to playing in casinos occasionally. 

Online poker in the US was shut down, however, before he was able to play. Kim is glad that’s changed and is off to a nice start with the recent win on PokerStars.

“What I love about poker is definitely the community,” he says. “It’s played everywhere in the world so the culture is thriving.

“The next best thing about poker is surely the game theory, the different levels of thinking. ‘What do I have? What does my opponent have? What does my opponent think I have? What does my opponent think I think they have?’ It’s like a war zone out there, but with chips and your brain.”

As a new PA online player, Kim is now battle tested and ready for more. 

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