David Ko on Fire with WPT Win


Dongwoo “David” Ko is on fire lately with a string of wins and deep runs that have just culminated (for now) in the WPT Montreal Main Event title. Ko has wracked up three Circuit ring wins in his short poker career and has now added a World Poker Tour title to his resume.

And when I say “short career” it’s not an exaggeration — Ko’s first recorded cash in live poker was less than 18 months before he was holding the WPT Main trophy aloft in Montreal. While the $434,900 (CAD) first-place prize is about triple his lifetime earnings before coming to Montreal, the $140k (USD) he had amassed in the previous ~18 months was already impressive.

With this latest score pushing his Hendon over $500k once the exchange is factored in, it’s clear that Ko is an upcoming force to be reckoned with by the poker world. He took down this latest WPT title just a week after winning his third ring at WSOP-C Calgary in May 2024.

Two Calgary Rings

While Ko hails from Vancouver, British Columbia, the Korean-born player spends a lot of time in Western Canada’s poker mecca of Calgary. With four series per year at Deerfoot Inn & Casino, including two WSOP Circuit events annually since 2022, plus another six series spread between Calgary and Edmonton on the Pure Poker Tour run by Pure Canadian Gaming, Alberta is very much a hotspot for MTT poker in Canada right now, with Calgary in the eye of the poker storm.

Ko, who credits his mother as his biggest supporter and biggest inspiration, is among a few BC players who make the pilgrimage east to Alberta for poker and is among the most successful. “My mother has been the biggest supporter of this whole thing, and you know that’s not easy for a parent.”

Since he first started coming to Calgary in early 2023, Ko has consistently found ways to go deep in tournaments across poker disciplines. While he bagged his first WSOP Circuit cash in Los Angeles in December 2022 (also his first-ever recorded cash) and his first ring in London in July 2023, WSOP-C Calgary has been good to him.

He picked up his first Calgary ring and second one overall in Jan 2024 in his first cash at WSOP-C Calgary. That was in the opening Big 30 Stack event, and he went on to book three more cashes in that series for more than $35k Cdn in wins by the end. He came back to Calgary for the May Circuit event and booked his third ring (second in Calgary this year) and a total of six more cashes.

Those six cashes included two other final table performances. In addition to winning the Go stage of the Flip & Go tournament (after firing an astonishing 13 bullets in the flip stages before finally bagging his Day 2 stack), he took fifth place in both the Two-Day $1k and the final Big 30 Stack to close the series.

And he knows how to play with more than two cards. While most of his success has come in the Texas Hold’em variant, most commonly seen in televised and streamed poker, one of his cashes in the Jan 2024 WSOP-C Calgary series was in a PLO event, and the next month, he went to three hours north to Alberta’s capital city of Edmonton and crushed the $450 PLO event in the opening tilt of the 2024 Pure Poker Tour season.

UBC Poker Club and KK Poker

While Ko is dedicated on the felt, as evidenced by his willingness to fire 13 Flip bullets to win the Go Stage the following day, his dedication goes deeper than just playing the game for fun and profit. When he first came to Calgary he was sporting a UBC Poker Club, which he was happy to explain was a learning and social group he founded at the University of British Columbia.

Ko has always strived for the best. After his recent WPT win, I caught up with him, and he said, “I don’t want to be a player who is mediocrely successful. I want to be the best of the world and leave my name on the history of poker.” He mentioned a Triton event he won a ticket to last year as a major step forward in his career, both in terms of being the biggest buy-in of his lifebut also being able to compete against the best in the world.

That drive fueled the idea to create a think tank of sorts where like-minded poker grinders could get together to relax, play home games, and pool & refine strategy ideas. The idea seems to be working, as Ko is just the most prominent member to cash in Calgary WSOP events, with several other UBC Poker Club patched players running deep this year.

For the May series this year, he was sporting an additional patch for KK Poker, an online poker upstart making unlikely inroads into Canadian live poker. With Ko just one of many patched players at this most recent WSOP-C Calgary, the biggest reason for the poker site’s extended presence is that multiple players won tickets to events in the May series through the site.

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That is a bit unprecedented in the Alberta market for a variety of reasons, not least because brick-and-mortar casinos are prevented from partnering with unlicensed online operators. While KK Poker is a fully licensed online platform for global play, without direct certification and licensing from the Alberta government gaming arm, local casinos can’t partner with it.

KK gets around this by running the satellites of its own accord and paying players the ticket value either into their online account for withdrawal, or in person at the events. For this past series, the site sent players to several $400 events, including the Ladies game, as well as the $1k events and the Main Event. In addition to Ko, players like Dylan Ellis (winner of the Jan 2024 4-Flight in Calgary the day after he was runner-up in the Mystery Bounty) and May 2024 Monster Stack winner Christopher “Pokin StaR” Alcindor were in Calgary on tickets from KK Poker.

Growing Accessory Collection

David Ko with his trusty fire extinguisher

Ko’s collection of poker fashion accessories is certainly growing. While he began as a Ring collector, he’s expanded that collection into belts now with the WPT Montreal title traditionally coming with a wrestling-style championship belt.

There is, of course, one more piece of poker fashion he’d love to add to his collection. No doubt, he’ll be firing bullets in Las Vegas in a week or so, looking to start a bracelet collection. Watch out for Ko this summer at the WSOP — this kid is on fire in 2024, but don’t worry, he’ll have his handy fire extinguisher with him.

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