Dennis A., a retiree from California, won a recent PL.com freeroll for the Weekend with Daniel Negreanu event - but at the time he didn't realize what he'd won by outlasting a field of 993 players.
"I thought that I was entering a satellite to get into a tournament for the weekend," said Dennis, who had been playing kitchen-table poker for over 40 years before he started playing recreational small-stakes Hold'em online a little over four years ago.
"So when I won, I started looking around PokerStars trying to find the next tournament, and the only thing I could find was a listing for Aug. 8. And I thought, wait a minute - that's when the weekend is!"
Dennis sent PokerStars customer support an e-mail that night, and when he woke up the next morning he had a reply confirming that he had indeed won the weekend package valued at $15,000.
"I read it, and read it again, and called my wife in to read it, just to make sure I hadn't read it wrong," said Dennis. "I was walking around all that Sunday with an open mouth. I was quite happy."
Right up his alley
The early August weekend kicked off with a welcome reception and dinner at Negreanu's house, where the players met the four-time WSOP bracelet winner and their fellow attendees before getting down to the business at hand.
The next morning kicked off two days of seminars and live workshops designed to boost everyone's skills at the table.
According to Dennis, he doesn't learn well from books, so the structure of the event - personal, interactive sessions with just Negreanu and the attendees - was exactly his speed. Only he and 10 other players sat in with Negreanu, ensuring that each player received plenty of hands-on instruction.
In particular, Dennis stressed the value of a workshop where players would keep their cards after folding, allowing Negreanu to critique everyone's play after the conclusion of the hand. "That was perfect for how I learn," he said.
The weekend almost had a storybook ending for Dennis when he and the rest of Negreanu's weekend students faced off against each other in a private tournament with a seat in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure going to the winner. In the end he finished in second place, coming up short for the tournament entry but still winning a Cartier watch valued at $4,000.
Because the watch isn't his style, Dennis traded it in for two seats at the WSOP Academy, which he plans to attend with his best friend.
"I'm retired - I wear T-shirts and shorts all the time. If I wore a $4,000 watch somebody would expect me to put on a suit and tie, and I'm not doing that for anybody," he said with a laugh.
"I enjoyed the two days immensely"
Dennis said he was down "a few hundred dollars" over the time he spent playing 50¢/$1 Limit Hold'em and $3 sit-and-go tournaments. It's no surprise, then, that the weekend package counts as the biggest score he's ever had.
In addition to the personal experience, he also got a free year of training at Poker VT and plenty of free gear.
The Las Vegas experience that Dennis won through PokerListings.com has made him a lot more confident at the tables. He's made the transition from fixed-limit to No-Limit Hold'em online and felt he had improved as a poker player thanks to the personal instruction from Negreanu.
He also said that he was "very impressed with Daniel" as a person.
"I'm a 'speak it as I see it' kind of person, so I'm not telling you anything I didn't tell Daniel - he's a class act," said Dennis. "He was most gracious to everybody - he's just a fun guy to be around."
So much fun, said Dennis, that he'd do it all over again.
"I would love to do another event with Daniel. I enjoyed the two days immensely."