You might have heard — the first ever Pennsylvania Championship of Online Poker or PACOOP on PokerStars was kind of a big deal.

Not long after PokerStars launched in Pennsylvania in early November, the PACOOP series ran from November 30 through December 16. Just a few days into the series the big turnouts caused subsequent events’ guarantees to be increased, ultimately pushing the total up to $1,225,000. In the end those guarantees were eclipsed in most cases and the prize pools added up to $1,559,767, with the 50 events attracting a total of 13,456 entries (!).

Things climaxed with the $300 buy-in Main Event that drew 640 entries and featured a $179,200 prize pool. After two days Ryan Gerber emerged as the winner, earning a first prize of $31,335.64.

“It’s funny,” said the 32-year-old project manager from Alburtis afterwards. “I joked with some of my friends that I don’t know what’s cooler, the money or the title of first PACOOP Main Event Champion. I’ll take both.”

Gerber had played in a few PACOOP events and cashed in a couple, though had been picking his spots while trying to satellite his way into the Main.

“PokerStars was generous enough to give an entry into a PACOOP ticket tourney to those who failed to make the money in a prior event,” Gerber explained. From there he found his way into a satellite the morning of the Main and finished in the top three to earn a spot in the big one.

When he finally won it was after 1 a.m. That meant Gerber had to show a little restraint given that his fiancée and three-year-old daughter were both sound asleep.

“I couldn’t scream and go crazy like I normally would have,” he said. “Instead I just kind of paced around my house a bunch of times and gave my best friend a call who had been railing me throughout. I think I just kept repeating ‘Dude, I just won the Main’ over and over.”

Ryan Gerber, the first PACOOP Main Event Champion

Gerber has been playing poker for about 15 years — like many it was Chris Moneymaker‘s 2003 WSOP Main Event win that first got him interested in the game — and had been a PokerStars player back in the day before Black Friday. Prior to PokerStars’ return to Pennsylvania he says he spent a lot of time watching Fintan “EasyWithAces” Hand‘s Twitch stream.

“I actually messaged him on Twitter after my win to say thanks for filling in some holes in my game, which I believe helped me take down the Main,” says Gerber. Hand was glad to have lended a hand, and wrote him back a congrats.

PokerStars PA

As noted, Gerber was one of many who walked away from the first PACOOP as champions, among them Ian Kim who satellited his way into Event #9, a $50 no-limit hold’em progressive knockout event. Kim topped a 677-entry field to win the $2,649.40 first prize plus another $2,573.09 in bounties.

For Kim, the win meant being able to pay off some bills and give a little extra for birthday presents for his father and girlfriend, as well as to contribute a bit more to his company’s charitable work over the holidays.

“What I love about poker is definitely the community,” says Kim. “It’s played everywhere in the world, so the culture is thriving.” Indeed, while the 25-year-old from North Wales intends to keep playing mainly as a hobby, he does have aspirations perhaps to take his game abroad.

“I always see the qualifiers do well in the PokerStars Main Events in Europe,” he says. “I’d love to get a chance to win a package to travel and play in televised poker tournament like those.”

Congrats to Gerber, Kim, and all of the other PACOOP winners!

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