The first bracelet of the 2022 World Series of Poker, awarded late Wednesday night, went to Cleveland-area casino dealer Katie Kopp. In the process, Kopp set a couple of historical precedents on the way to victory, which she achieved by coming back from short-stack status, going on a heater at the final table, and finishing off each of her last three remaining foes.
Kopp’s rush to the victory came with her mother and poker-travel partner, Patty, cheering her support, along with a healthy rail that offered cries of “Can’t stop Kopp!” as she closed in on the win. For Kopp, it was both her first bracelet win and the largest live payday, $65,168, of her live-poker career. In an interesting twist, Kopp’s now-second-largest live tourney payday came in this very same event in the 2018 series. That year, she finished third for $26,250, which remains the only other five-digit live cash of her career.
Kopp’s triumph also marked the first bracelet awarded at the 2022 WSOP, half a day ahead of David Peters’ triumph in the $100,000 High-Roller Bounty. By extension, it’s also the first-ever WSOP winner’s bracelet ever awarded at Bally’s, which will itself be renamed as Horseshoe sometime later this year. Bally’s has hosted numerous WSOP Circuit stops in the past and has seen plenty of Circuit rings awarded, but as for bracelets, Kopp’s is numero uno at Bally’s.
There was also a technical first involving previous Employees’ event winners… sort of. While Kopp becomes the first bracelet winner at Bally’s she’s not the first woman to win an employees-event bracelet. Yet that tale comes with its own asterisk. The Casino Employees event has gone through several iterations, format changes, and titles through the years. Back in 1984, it wasn’t really an “employees” event at all: It was a $1,000 event called “Employee Event – No Limit Hold’em Casino Operators,” which was offered more to owners and casino executives. It would have been something more like a $5K event by modern standards, given four decades of inflation.
Just 14 players entered that winner-take-all event, and Sandy Stupak won the $14,000 prize and the accompanying bracelet. Sandy Stupak was the wife of flamboyant Vegas casino operator Bob Stupak, who played a leading role in several of the most colorful Vegas casino tales of that area.
Bally’s Event Center opened for final table
The firsts with Kopp’s win, however, don’t end there. Originally, the two-day Casino Employees event was scheduled to play to a conclusion in the Bally’s Grand Ballroom, where most of this year’s Day 2 action takes place. However, when the final four tables managed to play down to a single nine-player final table, roughly at the day’s dinner break, WSOP officials pulled a little switcheroo.
Instead of continuing on to a winner in the Grand Event, the players were relocated to the adjacent Bally’s Event Center, which wasn’t even supposed to open until the following day. Play resumed at one of the outer tables in the Event Center at about 7:40 p.m., just in time for Kopp to go on her late rush. The players were not able to finish the event up on the “Mothership” (the featured table for filming and live-streaming), or the secondary feature tables, but they were, unexpectedly, the first players of the 2022 WSOP to play inside the Bally’s Event Center.
It wasn’t until the following day, Thursday, that the High-Roller Bounty Event #3 returned its final five players. That entire final table took barely an hour and a half before Peters overtook Day 2 leader Chance Kornuth and finished off his fourth bracelet win. Three short stacks, including controversial series participant Ali Imsirovic, busted in the finale’s first few orbits.
And with those first two bracelets, Kopp’s and Peters’, the entire WSOP footprint at Paris and Bally’s has been opened for business. Call it another first.
Featured image source: World Series of Poker