Just because it’s a home game doesn’t mean it’s easy. Just ask 33-year-old Ohio-based poker pro Billy Kopp. Kopp’s kitchen table home game growing up not only had to deal with standard family dynamics, but it was also tough enough to produce two World Series of Poker gold bracelet winners.
“Back in the day, we used to play all the time, probably once or twice a week,” Kopp said. “Me and my sisters, and sometimes my mom and dad.”
Whether it was a desire to one-up their siblings, or just a chance to get a little extra pocket change that grew into something greater, the results speak for themselves. In 2022, Billy’s older sister, Katie, opened up the 2022 WSOP by winning the Casino Employees event. Billy made it back-to-back years for the Kopp family when he broke through for his first career WSOP bracelet in a $1,500 Pot Limit Omaha Hi-Lo event.
Despite setting the bar for the Kopp family, Katie allegedly wasn’t the shark in their home games. That honor, in Billy’s recollection, belonged to him and his twin sister Sara, who also plays poker to this day.
“Katie would be working at Wendy’s, and handing over her check to us,” Billy said. “I would say me and my twin were the biggest winners back then.”
The kind of competition and friendly sibling rivalry helped Billy forge an interest and skillset in poker that continues to grow to this day. Whatever drove Billy to go on the run he had between May and August of this year has certainly been effective.
Billy seemed determined to even the score with Katie coming into 2023, and he did it with room to spare. Billy already had two WSOP Circuit rings to his credit, and a WSOP final table in the summer of 2018 in a Pot Limit Omaha Hi-Lo event. By returning to familiar territory of his past successes, Kopp won two major titles in 2023 – the WSOP bracelet, and a WSOPC Main Event.
“It’s been an insane couple of months,” Kopp said in an Instagram post. “Obviously I’m just on the heater of a lifetime, and I’m really feeling grateful right now.”
His first stop was Harrah’s Cherokee, in May. The nine-hour drive each way lends plenty of time for preparation and thought, and as he looked to add to his success at a property that was the site of one of his previous Circuit ring wins, he got himself into a great headspace.
Billy made that trip worth it. He finished in third for $138,637 in the Main Event, which was his biggest live cash to date. It was the perfect launching pad for a summer that would ultimately change the trajectory of his poker career.
“I do believe in runs, like you’re going to get hot for a while,” said Kopp. “But another part of it is definitely confidence. I feel like if you have one good result, and you’re like, ‘Oh, I played pretty good,’ that’s just gonna give you confidence going forward in other tournaments in the short term. It’s just confidence that you’re doing the right things, you’re making the right decisions and you’re making the right reads.”
Kopp’s 2023 WSOP got off to a fairly slow start, as he racked up five small cashes by mid-June. But everything started to pick up in the $10,000 Pot Limit Omaha Championship. He managed his first cash in a $10,000 event since 2018, in a run that ended in 16th place. For some players, knocking on the door in a major $10,000 tournament for the second time only to fall short would be discouraging. But for Kopp, it was just more fuel for the fire.
“It’s just motivation, because I got that close, I can see the final table in sight and I was one of the biggest stacks in the room,” said Kopp. “It definitely kept me hungry to keep playing tournaments, get to a final table and maybe win one. And that’s what I did.”
A first-ever cash in a $25,000 buy-in event – the PLO High Roller – followed immediately after. And then, in the $1,500 Pot Limit Omaha Hi-Lo event – the same tournament Kopp finished fourth in back in 2018 – Kopp broke through to win the gold bracelet.
“I knew I could do it,” said Kopp. “I just needed cards to fall my way and the big spots, which they did in those couple of tournaments. In that tournament, I remember right before Day 3, I had a massive chip lead. I was winning every hand. I think there were maybe 14 people left, I remember looking at the chip counts and the huge pay jumps, and my thought was that I was going to do my best to play aggressively because I knew a lot of people were going to try and ladder.”
Kopp’s $259,459 first-place prize was his second career-high water mark in as many months. He ended the summer with 10 cashes and $366,445 in total results. After spending a few weeks at home in Ohio, Kopp hopped in the car and made another nine-hour drive into the mountains of North Carolina. For the second time in four months, Kopp final tabled the WSOPC Cherokee Main Event. And in a considerably larger field of 1,623, Kopp won his third career Circuit ring and $376,154 – eclipsing his entire summer in a single result.
“I love that place,” Kopp said of Cherokee. “I made an Instagram story how my heart belongs to Cherokee. I’ve had so much success there.”
After a whirlwind of a run, Kopp is back in Ohio, where he’s spending a lot of time in the gym and on the golf course as he plots his next move in poker. There aren’t many Kopp family home games anymore, but Billy looks forward to the one time a year he gets to return to the forge to test his mettle against his sisters, his mother Patty, who is a poker dealer and the rest of his family.
“During the holidays, we play with my cousins. We’ll have a $5 or $10 tournament,” said Billy. “And you know, it gets pretty intense.”
He’s obviously after more success for himself, but he’s also interested in making some more history at the WSOP. If Billy has his way, the Kopp family will enter the winner’s circle again in 2024 and continue to expand on their collective success – whether it’s a repeat for him or his sister, or a third Kopp sibling wearing gold.
“Poker is a big part of our family. My twin, she doesn’t have a bracelet, but she hasn’t really been playing tournaments a lot,” said Billy. “I’m going to try and get her to one next summer. That would be really special, if all three of us won a bracelet.”