Keystone Crusher: PA School Teacher Joe Nicholas Scores PokerStars Main Event title, Platinum Pass in 24 Hours

October 4, 2022
Keystone Crusher: PA School Teacher Joe Nicholas Scores PokerStars Main Event title, Platinum Pass in 24 Hours

Winning a PokerStars Championship of Online Poker (COOP) Main Event would be quite an accomplishment for most players. Pennsylvania’s Joe Nicholas did just that last week, scoring $37,636.

If that wasn’t enough, as one of the top 500 players on the series leaderboard Nicholas earned a seat in freeroll for a Platinum Pass as well.

With his first tournament win in the bag, this recreational player from Easton went on to win that one too just a day later. It was a dream scenario for most online poker players and Nicholas couldn’t believe his huge run.

“Very incredible,” he said after the win. “The past 48 hours have been the craziest in my poker career.”

Nicholas spoke with USPoker about his amazing run in the series and his poker life in the Keystone State.

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Winning a PokerStars PASCOOP Main Event

From the beginning of the series, Nicholas looked forward to the $300 Main Event. The 31-year-old player is a regular on the site and even streams some of his action.

Things didn’t pan out well early in the tournament. He was losing coin flips, players picked off his bluffs, and Nicholas admits he wasn’t playing his best game.

Things slowly shifted however. Nicholas built his stack back up a bit and then a huge hand developed about 45 minutes from the end of late registration. He was all in with Ace-Queen against players with 4-4 and pocket Aces.

“I ended up getting runner-runner for a straight and that launched me into a top 20 stack in the tournament,” he says. “From that moment on I never left the top 20 or even the top 10 once I chipped up. Once it was all over, I was in complete shock and dismay that I just won the Main Event.”

The result was the largest tournament win of Nichilas’s career. He only began playing tournament poker in May 2021.

“I’ve had some scores in the five-digit range, but none that crossed the $20,000 or even $30,000 threshold,” he says. “My playing is limited to just Sundays so it means a lot to win when I don’t get to put in the volume as a lot of players do in Pennsylvania.”

When not battling online, Nicholas works as a math interventionist for students from kindergarten through eighth grade. The action played out in his basement office, where he sometimes teaches online courses and tutors students.

A whiteboard sits in the room, and his son and wife had drawn some animals on it earlier in the day. Nicholas also wore his lucky tracksuit as he clicked along. Everything just came together for a huge win – but even more was ahead.

Adding a Platinum Pass

PokerStars recently announced Platinum Pass opportunities for US online poker players. Those finishing among the top on the USCOOP series leaderboards would be among the first to have a shot at a pass. The $30,000 prize entitled a player to:

  • $25,000 buy-in to the PokerStars Players Championship in the Bahamas in January
  • six nights hotel accommodations for each winner and a guest in a five-star hotel
  • flights and airport transfers
  • $1,900 in spending money
  • unique Platinum Pass winner experiences during the event

The passes have become some of the most sought-after awards in poker. And a day after winning the PASCOOP Main Event, Nicholas took his shot and cashed in.

“After I won, I went upstairs and told my wife that we are going to the Bahamas and we both jumped up and down super excited,” he says. “It was truly an amazing couple of days for me. I also couldn’t believe the amount of support and celebration that I received from the Pennsylvania poker community. It was a great feeling to be shown such love from a ton of regs even though I am just a recreational player.”

Streaming and the PA poker scene

As a ringed-in market, players in Pennsylvania often see familiar names and faces at the tables. That has created a tight group who are friendly with each other, Nicholas says, and he loves the environment.

“We have a great poker scene in Pennsylvania,” he says. “The Discord is filled with a ton of great people that are there supporting each other and helping each other grow within the game.

“I’ve gained a bunch of different friendships through here and love having people to talk poker with on a daily basis.”

That love of poker has even led to some Twitch streaming for Nicholas. He jumped on the site to give him something to do while playing and to keep him more engaged. He now streams as “kidtracksuit.”

“The more I did it, the more I realized that I prefer doing dual streams or even the occasional tri-stream with friends,” he says. “I love the aspect of hanging out with people in the community while playing.”

However, his Main Event win came away from the cameras.

“I wasn’t streaming my run because I wanted to concentrate on the big spot that I had,” he says. “Sometimes streaming takes away my attention from the tables and that is definitely negative EV for me.”

His big victory and streaming presence led to Nicholas joining PokerStars PA ambassadors Mark Foresta and Keith Becker on the site’s official stream to discuss his win (interview below at about the 58-minute mark). It was quite a whirlwind of a week for Nicholas.


PSPC is next up for Nicholas

Away from poker, Nicholas enjoys playing and listening to music. He played in bands in the Philadelphia area before moving out to the suburbs. He now spends much of his time playing guitar and spending time with my family.

With a Platinum Pass in hand, Nicholas now has a shot to make his US online poker experience even bigger. A big score would only make an amazing 24 hours even better. This summer, Nicholas jumped in the live tournament action at the World Series of Poker.

Like most online players, he’s just a regular guy who likes to play poker. He’s glad Pennsylvania has given him the chance to play.

“I love that we were one of the first states to get legalized poker,” he says. “It definitely helped reinvigorate my love for poker and even more so, it introduced me to the wonderful brutal world of multi-table tournaments. I wish that all states were able to have legalized poker so more people can play and potentially discover their passion for cards.”

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