The Luckiest Man Alive

PokerStars Million Dollar Challenge winner Mike Kosowski.

Mike Kosowski considers himself a very lucky man.

But his reasons extend beyond the fact he beat Daniel Negreanu heads-up in the season finale of the PokerStars Million Dollar Challenge on Fox to win $1 million.

In fact, that’s just the icing on the cake.

A former Detective Sergeant with the New York Police Department, Kosowski was on the job on Sept. 11, 2001 when the World Trade Center’s twin towers came down.

These days he considers himself lucky just to be alive.

“There’s no way I should have survived that day,” he told PokerListings from Nassau, Bahamas this week where he came to play in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. “You are talking about one lucky guy. That’s the way I look at it. I’m blessed.”

The sheer force created when the South Tower came down knocked Kosowski ten feet in the air. He went missing for the next three hours.

But despite suffering numerous injuries, he picked himself up off the ground and continued to work at Ground Zero for the next three weeks.

“We knew it was going to be a bad day, a lot of identification of bodies and that kind of stuff,” he said. “But we never thought the buildings would come down.”

Suffering from Induced Asthma and various other injuries, he was forced to give up his job with the NYPD in 2004.

By 2005, online poker had become his favorite pastime.

Kosowski sat with his wife one evening watching a World Series of Poker broadcast featuring Negreanu. When he explained his desire to play against the best of the best at the WSOP, she implored him to take the game more seriously, read more books and play live more often.

She also bought him tickets to see Tony Bennett perform in Atlantic City as an anniversary gift.

On that trip, he managed to chop his first real live tournament and within days of returning home, Kosowski had a prophetic dream.

“I had a dream that I played Daniel face to face and I beat him,” he said. “I woke up and I told my wife right there I’m going to play him face to face and I’m going to beat him.

“My wife was going to take me to a psychiatrist. She thought I was losing it.”

Kosowski started playing exclusively on PokerStars in 2006 and last year, when freerolls began running for a spot in the PokerStars Million Dollar Challenge, he jumped at the chance to make his dream come true.

He won an opportunity to audition for the show and was eventually flown out to Los Angeles as an alternate.   

In yet another stroke of luck, he got on the set, managed to win the elimination match and before he knew it, he was playing Negreanu heads-up with $1 million on the line.

“I just put my mind to it, got some good cards and I rolled over everybody at the table,” he explained. “Then when it came to Daniel, I just out-powered him in the final match. I got lucky and I beat him.”

With a million dollar bankroll now at his disposal, Kosowski says he has a new dream.

“My dream is to play in the World Series of Poker and I think I’m going to do that this year,” he said.

Lucky to have survived one of the greatest tragedies in American history only to go on and win $1 million on what is now the highest rated poker TV show of all time, the odds on a deep finish this summer have to be through the roof.

But Kosowski doesn’t seem to mind.

“I’m a lucky guy,” he said with a smile. “I really feel blessed.”

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