The "PokerStars.net Million Dollar Challenge" became the most-watched poker program in history earlier this year when the first episode aired on FOX, but it looks like the conclusion of the show may shatter that record thanks to the storyline attached to the $1 million winner, Mike Kosowski.
In a show that will air on Dec. 27, viewers will see the retired NYPD sergeant become a millionaire by defeating Daniel Negreanu for the Challenge's top prize.
Kosowski's improbable run at the million got off to a rough start. Originally selected as an alternate to be on the show, he was forced to cancel his 25th wedding anniversary celebration to attend the show. Despite thinking he wasn't going to play, he went to Los Angeles anyway and ended-up getting his chance to be in front of the cameras.
Unfortunately, he was defeated by model and Wicked Chops Poker favorite Joanna Krupa in a preliminary round and it looked like his trip was all for not.
Kosowski, whose bravery during the September 11 bombing is documented in the book "Never Forget: The Oral History of September 11," got his moment in the spotlight when he got a chance to play in a consolation sit-n-go whose winner got a seat to the show's final sit'n'go which decided which contestant would face Negreanu heads-up for the million-dollar prize.
He ended-up destroying his opponents in the two sit-n-gos for the right to face Negreanu. "After I got knocked out by Joanna Krupa, I thought my shot was over. But with how I played in the sit-n-go, I said I gotta go for it. I knew I could win," he said.
Forced to retire from the NYPD after acquiring asthma and several herniated discs while searching for survivors at the World Trade Center, Kosowski picked up the game to help pass the time during retirement and to keep his mind off his painful injuries. He claims he had an inkling that he might be destined to win the million dollars because of how his unique storyline was shaping up in a way that was similar to several premonitions he had received several years prior to the show's taping.
"Two years ago, I showed my wife (Fran) the World Series Of Poker on TV and Daniel was playing in it. I told her that one day I would beat him. Later, I had a second dream that I beat him. It inspired me to play better on PokerStars.net and to make the show," Kosowski said.
A million dollars richer, Kosowski has plans to spend his newly found riches helping his family and those touched by 9/11. "I’ll be donating to the Families of Freedom 9/11 Scholarship fund and City Harvest New York , and I’ll pay off my mortgage, put some into a nest egg for my daughter’s wedding, fix up the house a little, and put the rest of the money away into retirement savings," he said.
The show's final episode airs on Dec. 27, 2009.