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WSOP Casino Employees Tournament

Most amateur poker players would love a chance to play in the World Series of Poker, and more than a few would quit their current jobs if they thought they could make a better living playing poker professionally. Poker dealers are so close to living that dream that they can taste it... .1

Every year, they get a special chance to play in the WSOP Casino Employees Tournament, whose fields have topped 1,000 players. However, only one employee has won the event and gone on to win another bracelet in an open event. Eight years after topping his fellow employees, David Warga won the 2010 $1,500 Seven-Card Stud Hi/Lo 8 tournament for $208,682.

WSOP Casino Employees Event

YearWinnerEntrantsPrizeNotes
1983Ted Binion10$10,000While WSOP.com says he has two bracelets...
1984Sandy Stupak14$14,000Officially counted as a bracelet (her husband Bob joined her with his bracelet in 1989)
1985Ted Binion10$10,000... the Hendon Mob database doesn't even list him.
2000Dave Alizadeh109$21,8007 small cashes, none at the WSOP
2001Travis Jonas224$40,20024 cashes, 2 small ones at the WSOP
2002David Warga272$47,300Won the 2010 $1,500 Seven-Card Stud Hi/Lo 8 for $208,682 and has 5 other cashes; last WSOP cash in 2011 (appears to have moved to Colorado)
2003David Lukaszewski208$35,8001 small cash but not at the WSOP
2004Carl Nessel279$40,00013 small cashes in Los Angeles before this win
2005Andy Nguyen662$83,390Biggest cash was 2nd in 2007 Seven Clans Kinder Cup, $3,000 + 100 No-Limit Hold 'Em for $137,643
2006Chris Gros1,232$127,496Also finished 31st in 2007 for $2,478; one tiny circuit cash in 2010
2007Frederick Narciso1,039$104,701Also finished 27th in 2006 for $3,604; one tiny circuit cash in 2013
2008Jonathan Kotula930$87,929Also finished 10th in 2010 for $4,273
2009Andrew Cohen866$83,8333 open cashes and 1 circuit cash, all from $12k to $17k
2010Hoai Pham721$71,4242 open cashes in 2011 for $15,950 and $47,107 (212nd in Main Event)
2011Sean Drake850$82,292Finished 3rd in 2014 No-Limit Hold 'Em Monster Stack for $619,521
2012Chiab Saechao732$70,8593 open cashes, incl. $42,675 for 12th in 2013 Little One for One Drop
2013Chad Holloway898$84,9155 open cashes; Chad is a senior news editor for PokerNews.com (and poker historian and memorabilia collector)
2014Roland Reparejo876$82,8352 small cashes in 2013 & 2018 Seniors events
2015Brandon Barnette698$75,704Cashed again in 2016 & 2017
2016C.J. Sand731$75,157Finished 609th in 2016 Main Event for $18,714
2017Bryan Hollis651$68,8172 small cashes, neither WSOP
2018Jordan Hufty566$61,9092 small open cashes in 2018
2019Nicholas Haynes686$62,345The Aria dealer had signed up to deal at the 2019 WSOP until his victory. He had three small cashes during the rest of the festival.

Notes:

More than a few poker pros worked as dealers before their playing skills were sufficient to turn poker into a career.

Poker Pros Who Were Once Dealers

PlayerCasinoNotes
Joe AwadaCircus Circus (Las Vegas)Took up dealing after an injury ended his juggling career
Joe CernutoStardust (Las Vegas)Hated the job and moved back to Daytona Beach, Florida
Johnny Chancasino in Las VegasChan had his own dealer school as part of the Johnny Chan Academy from 2007 to 2008
David ChiuGilpin Hotel (Black Hawk, Colorado)Also a restaurant owner at the time
Scott FischmanMirage and Sahara (Las Vegas)Family moved from South Jersey to Las Vegas when he was 12
Layne Flackcasino in MontanaAlso dealt part-time in Deadwood, South Dakota when he was at college before he dropped out to play poker full-time
Ted ForrestPalace Station (Las Vegas)Also served as a prop player
Juha Helppicasino in FinlandLearned poker on the job but played online for a few years before taking up live play
Bobby Hoffcasino in Victoria, TexasPlayed poker with his tip income and became good enough to move to Las Vegas as a player
Kenna JamesHollywood Park CasinoGave up his dealing job to become a prop player at Crystal Park Casino in 1999.
Chip Jettcasino in ArizonaWorked as a dealer for a year then turned to playing poker for a living
Tuan Lampoker saloon in Barrie, OntarioSoon gave it up to play
Erick LindgrenCasino San Pablo (San Pablo, California)Dealt blackjack
Minh LyLas VegasWorked as a dealer and Chinese restaurant cook while he steadily improved his playing skills
Mike MatusowGold Coast, Palace Station, and Sam's Town (Las Vegas)Got a job as a dealer after his initial burst of success playing poker ended and worked at least part-time for five years before quitting.
Michael MizrachiSeminole Casino Hollywood (Hollywood, Florida)Didn't last long before getting fired in 2002
Robert Mizrachicasino in South Miami (Florida)Started the Mizrachi Dealer Academy with brother Michael and fellow pro Stacy Matuson in 2012
Evelyn Ngpoker clubs in TorontoAlso dealt blackjack and played pool for money before she turned 17
Scotty NguyenHarrah's Holiday Casino (Las Vegas)Also worked at the Golden Nugget in Vegas and another casino in Lake Tahoe
Gavin Smithunderground poker room in Guelph, OntarioDealt for two years before starting his own poker room in 1998
Stu Ungarunderground game room in New YorkDealt before he was old enough to legally play
Cyndy VioletteFour Queens Casino (Las Vegas)Dealt poker and blackjack

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