Sunday marked the season finale of the “PokerStars.net Million Dollar Challenge,” which played out following NFL on FOX coverage. Mike Kosowski, a 9/11 first responder, banked $1 million after defeating show front man Daniel Negreanu heads-up.
Kosowski, who appeared on the fourth “Million Dollar Challenge” episode, battled Father Andrew Trapp, Iraq war veteran Denny Luna, and liquor salesman Brian Barboza in the Challenge of Champions. Trapp and Barboza both earned $100,000 on their preliminary episodes after defeating a PokerStars-sponsored celebrity and professional poker player. Kosowski won a single-table satellite after the contestants on his episode all lost in the first round to claim his seat in the Challenge of Champions.
Luna was the first player sent packing in the four-man tournament, which saw Negreanu serve in the role of dealer. Luna shoved with A-6 for 4,800 after starting with 20,000 and Kosowski made the call with pocket fives. The flop came 3-9-J and Kosowski was 78% to take down the pot and the turn came a five, leaving Luna drawing dead after Kosowski made his set. Kosowski, who hit the deck hard throughout the festivities, held half of the chips in play following the hand.
Barboza was the next to go. He raised to 4,000 pre-flop with A-8 of clubs and Kosowski, holding pocket eights, made it 8,000. Barboza shoved and Kosowski made the call to see the flop come A-5-3. Barboza had flopped a bullet to take a 95% lead in the hand and another five on the turn left Kosowski drawing to the case eight. Sure enough, the one-outer hit on the river, leaving Negreanu to exclaim, “I can’t believe I just did that.” Kosowski held a 4:1 chip lead entering heads-up play against Trapp.
In the final hand of the Challenge of Champions, Trapp called pre-flop with 6-7 and Kosowski checked his option with 9-5. The flop came 9-8-4 and Trapp made an elaborate “Little Engine that Could” reference. Despite the intimidation, Kosowski put Trapp all-in and the Catholic priest called with his open-ended straight draw. Trapp needed a five, seven, or 10 to hit on the river after a seven struck the turn, but an ace instead peeled off. Kosowski scooped $100,000 for winning the Challenge of Champions and received the opportunity to play Negreanu heads-up for $1 million.
Negreanu played for the Lili Claire Foundation, which would receive $100,000 from PokerStars if the sponsored pro emerged victorious. Holding Q-6, Negreanu raised to 2,000 pre-flop and Kosowski called with 5-7 of spades. The flop came Q-8-7, all diamonds, and Kosowski bet 2,000. Negreanu called with top pair and the turn came another seven. Kosowski fired out a bet of 5,00 after hitting trips and Negreanu once again just called. The river was a jack and Kosowski bet 5,000. Negreanu called and dropped a 28,000-chip pot.
Negreanu called pre-flop with K-2 and Kosowski checked with 6-5. The flop came 6-8-8, giving Kosowski eights-up, and he led out for 2,000. Negreanu came along to see a six on the turn. Kosowski open-shoved for 51,000 with a boat and Negreanu folded, despite saying, “I think you’re bluffing.” The hand propelled Kosowski to a 3:1 chip advantage.
On the final hand of the “PokerStars.net Million Dollar Challenge,” Negreanu pushed all-in with 4-K. Kosowski once again held 5-7 and called, saying, “Why not?” The flop came 6-9-K, giving Negreanu top pair and Kosowski a gutshot to an eight. One of four remaining eights hit on the river, giving Kosowski a dramatic four-outer with $1 million on the line. He told the assembled audience, “I had my miracles.”
The “PokerStars.net Million Dollar Challenge” has been renewed for Season 2, although its debut date has not been announced by the world’s largest online poker site. Check out our Mike Kosowski interview, conducted by Poker News Daily’s Dan Cypra.