Firefighter, Carl Coach Nessel,
Sparkles in First Event at 2004
World Series of Poker
been a dream and a fantasy that I never
thought would come true, but here I am.
-- Carl Coach Nessel (after
winning his first championship gold bracelet))
World Series of Poker has established
a tradition of hosting a special tournament,
specifically designed for casino employees.
In recent years, the annual casino employees
event has marked the “official” beginning
of the world's biggest and most prestigious
poker tournament -- as dealers, floorpersons,
pit employees, bartenders, executives,
and personnel from virtually all areas
of the gaming business gather at the Horseshoe
in downtown Las Vegas to determine who
is most deserving as the casino industry's
top poker player.
year, the casino employees “world championship”
went to Carl “Coach” Nessel, a 57-year-old
former firefighter from Thousand Oaks,
CA. The Coach plays poker regularly and
works assorted tournaments part-time –
including this year's WSOP where he is
employed as a Chip Runner. The Coach survived
a grueling poker marathon, which lasted
an exhausting 15 hours and 45 minutes.
He won his final hand of the night with
a pair of Queens against the runner up,
Cory Pockat, a Poker Dealer from Colorado
Springs, CO. The Coach's ride to victory
did not come easy.
seventy-nine players started the tournament
promptly at 12 noon. It took 11 hours
to play down to the final table, comprised
of an well-rounded mix of casino employees.
Five of the 9 finalists were from California.
Addesso, originally from San Diego – who
works as a Table Games Supervisor in Las
Vegas -- was the first player to exit
in 9 th place. He received $2,520.
short time later, William Roffe was severely
short-stacked and exited in 8th place.
Roffe, a Poker Dealer who was playing
in only his second hold'em tournament
ever, had to be proud of his performance.
He collected $3,780.
Calhoun, a Poker Dealer from Bradenton,
FL went out next in 7 th place – good
for $5,040 in prize money.
hour into the final table, Roger Jenkins,
a Casino Shift Manager from Union City,
CA, was the shortest stack. He didn't
survive and took 6 th place, which amounted
to a payday of $6,300.
Richman was bounced off the final table
in 5 th place, when his hand lost to Cory
Pockat's straight. Richman, came in second
in chips, but could not sustain the momentum
he built mid-way through the tournament.
Richman, who has won smaller tournaments
here in Las Vegas, was awarded $7,560.
to four players, Pockat was close to the
chip lead with Bill Bruce, with about
$45K each in chips. After a short break,
blinds increased to $1K-2K, with betting
limits at $2K-4K. Pockat took the chip
lead when his A-K made top pair at the
expense of Bruce.
Bruce extracted some revenge a few hands
later when he was dealt A-A and won a
hand against Pockat. “I knew you had aces
when I saw your cards,” Pockat said jokingly.
However, Bruce's glory was short-lived.
He lost a key hand when the final board
showed A-10-10-x-x. Bruce flashed an ace
(good for top pair). But the Carl “Coach”
Nessel showed down a better kicker --
a few more orbits, Bruce was short-stacked
and made his final stand with A-Q versus
Pockat's A-10. Bruce was clearly in a
dominant position. But a 10 flopped for
Pockat, and Bruce failed to hit his queen.
The pair of 10s won the hand, and Bruce
went out in 4 th place. Bill Bruce, a
Poker Floorperson, from Menifee, CA who
was playing in his first ever live tournament,
had $8,882 reasons to be extremely proud
of his effort.
three players remaining, Pockat had the
chip lead, with about $65K -- versus about
$35K each for both the Coach and Leon
of the most important hands of the tournament
occurred when the Coach topped Pockat,
with A-K against A-Q. Both players caught
an Ace on the turn, and put in four bets
before the final card was dealt. The Coach
didn't need any help, but got it anyway
when a king fell on the river – good for
top two pair. The key hand (and $40K pot)
put the Coach back near the chip lead.
a few rounds, Wheeler was severely short
on chips and made a raise with A-5, which
was called by the Coach, holding Q-2.
The flop came Q-8-3, giving the Coach
top pair. Wheeler was committed and his
last chip rolled into the pot. Two blanks
fell on the turn and river, and Wheeler's
ace-his was topped by the pair of queens.
Leon Wheeler, a Las Vegas Poker Dealer
who finished 2nd in this event last year,
added a 3 rd place finish to his remarkable
two-year performance in this event. Based
on recent history, Wheeler, who took home
$11,350, seems destined to win this event
at some point in the future.
two finalists merrily shook hands as heads-up
play commenced, just as the clock struck
3 am. The Coach had a slight chip lead,
with about $80K to Pockat's $60K. The
Coach won the first five pots, and took
a sledgehammer to Pockat's diminishing
stack size. Within just a few minutes,
Pockat's chip position had dwindled to
less than $30K. But just when it the Coach
might runaway with the victory, Pockat
staged a nice comeback. He managed to
draw back to even at one point, and it
seemed that the duel might continue through
the early morning.
the Coach squashed Pockat's comeback bid
when he was dealt Q-x and made a pair
of queens against Pockat's pocket 10s
and took nearly half of his opponent's
stack. Down to his last $30K, the final
hand of the night was dealt at 3:38 am
in front of a surprisingly large crowd,
given the late hour:
flop came 9-7-5, giving Pockat top pair
(9s). But the Coach played his hand perfectly,
letting Pockat commit all his chips on
what amounted to an underdog hand. The
turn brought a 3 and the river brought
a 10, which meant the Coach's J-J was
the winning hand of the tournament.
Cory Pockat showed a mix of satisfaction
and disappointment with the result. “I
really thought momentum was on my side
when I got back to even (in chips),” he
said. “But in the end, he proved to be
the better player.” Pockat, making his
first significant cash in a poker tournament,
collected $22,000 as the runner-up.
the day clearly belonged to the retired
California firefighter, who came to the
WSOP to work as a Chip Runner, and play
poker on the aide. “I'm totally speechless,”
he said, as he stared at the coveted gold
bracelet, awarded to each winner at the
get to any final table, let alone the
World Series, is an accomplishment that
goes beyond anything else in poker,” the
Coach said. “I saw light at the end of
the tunnel when I got (heads-up against
Pockat), but the light turned out to be
a train,” he said complimenting his opponent.
been coming here since 1976. It's been
a dream and a fantasy that I never thought
would come true, but here I am.”
-- by Nolan Dalla