Two years ago, then-22-year-old Cole Ferraro arrived in Las Vegas with almost nobody in poker knowing his name. He quickly went to work changing that.
At the 2021 WSOP, Ferraro picked up an early score in the Millionaire Maker and then got heads-up in a $1,000 buy-in No Limit Hold’em event. Unfortunately for Ferraro, Dalibor Dula emerged victorious and ended up being the one leaving with the bracelet. Ferraro worked his way through a couple more cashes before getting heads-up in the $600 Deepstack Championship event with another shot at a bracelet. This time it was Ferraro in the winner’s photo. He put a bow on his first WSOP by posting a 109th-place finish in the WSOP Main Event and ultimately finished 20th in the WSOP Player of the Year race.
“I was shocked to say the least and obviously very lucky and very grateful,” Ferraro recalled about his WSOP debut. “I definitely had an interesting perspective of what tournament poker was like. It was definitely a warped perspective with very positive variance.”
While most observers and players were asking ‘who is this guy’ as the run was going on, there was one person from the poker world who knew Ferraro: Jason Somerville. The pair go back more than 20 years.
You read that right.
“When I was young, he was my karate instructor actually. When I was three and he was in high school,” Ferraro said. “Then he visited me once in North Carolina, after I left New York which is where we’re both from.”
Ferraro first learned martial arts from a pre-poker Somerville. When COVID hit in 2020, and Ferraro’s college classes went digital he reached out to his old sensei for some guidance.
“We hadn’t talked in a while, just life had separated
us, but I reached back out to him and said that I wanted to learn to play,” Ferraro said. “I had some extra time. He recommended that I start watching streams, see if I liked it. He recommended a few books, and then it kind of just went from there.”
Ferraro remained focused on his studies but did follow Somerville’s guidance. As graduation approached, Ferraro was hoping to become a Fulbright scholar and teach English to kids in Spain. He made it through the initial stages of the application process only to get waitlisted. Had a spot opened up, Ferraro would have headed to Spain. Instead, he reached out to Somerville again.
“I just remember that I always wanted to learn to play poker, but I never had access to anything. It’s North Carolina, nothing’s really legal and I wasn’t 21,” Ferraro said. “So I’m not really sure what was the spark to reach back out, but I guess something – intuition – it worked out.”
Somerville offered Ferraro a part-time job with Run It Up making content and agreed to stake him in some tournaments. So Ferraro moved out to Las Vegas in August 2021. The part-time job, which gave Ferraro some spending money while living in Vegas, became unnecessary as Ferraro put on that sparkling WSOP rookie year.
The 2022 WSOP didn’t produce a second bracelet, but he did cash eight times including the Main Event. He added five more WSOP cashes during the online series in the fall. So far in 2023, he’s added seven more cashes and is onto Day 2 of the Main Event. At just 24 years old, Ferraro has amassed 27 WSOP cashes including two runner-up results.
“This year has been pretty dry. I final tabled my first event, it was also the smallest event, and I got ninth,” Ferraro said. “So besides that, a few small cashes, I made Day 3 of the Milly Maker but in the higher buy-ins, no cashes at all. So I’m looking forward to the next two weeks to see what can turn out of this.”