SOURCE: PokerStars



December 21, 2009 09:00 ET

9/11 Hero Wins $1,000,000 on Million Dollar Challenge

Season Finale of Most-Watched Poker TV Show in U.S. History Airs on Sunday Dec. 27 on FOX -- Last Chance for Viewers to Enter $100,000 Giveaway

LOS ANGELES, CA--(Marketwire - December 21, 2009) - The Million Dollar Challenge, already the most-watched poker program in U.S. television history, concludes its groundbreaking first season with an edge-of-your seat, uplifting episode that must be seen to be believed.

In a decade defined by the tragedies of September 11, 2001, ends the year -- and the decade -- with a story that will leave viewers not sure if they should cry or cheer or do both at the same time, as Mike Kosowski, a 21-year NYPD veteran, 9/11 first responder and American hero, overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to defeat poker star Daniel Negreanu heads up and win $1,000,000. (See Mike's story at: Million Dollar Challenge airs on Sunday, December 27 after NFL on FOX coverage (check local listings).*

Detective Sergeant Mike Kosowski, whose story is chronicled in the book "Never Forget: The Oral History of September 11," was one of the first NYPD officers on the scene that terrible morning, rushing into the World Trade Center to help evacuate people.

From there, getting pelted with glass and debris, he hustled to World Financial Center, in hopes of helping make sure that building was clear. Inside, he found eight people trapped. Determined to bring them to safety, Kosowski was leading the group through a back exit when an explosion rippled through the area, launching Kosowski 10 feet through the air. He slammed into a wall. Though adrenaline kept him from feeling the full force of the pain, that impact herniated three discs in his neck, two in his back and left him with pain in his legs. Kosowski spent the rest of the day, and the better part of the next few months, searching the debris at Ground Zero and on the Staten Island landfills for human remains. He was given the Medal of Valor for his actions that day.

These searches induced serious asthma and the combination of the herniated discs and the asthma led Kosowski to retire in 2004, after 21 years on the force. Retired, in pain and bored back home in Staten Island, Kosowski started playing poker and quickly found a new passion. While watching the 2007 World Series of Poker on TV, Mike and his wife Fran first saw Negreanu play.

Mike turned to his wife and said: "I'm going to play him some day and I'm going to beat him." Fran laughed. Two weeks later, Mike had a dream that he beat Negreanu one-on-one. When he told his wife the next morning, Fran laughed again, dismissing his nonsense.

But the dream would become a reality. This fall, Kosowski saw a commercial announcing that and FOX Sports teamed up to create a show that will give one player a chance to play Daniel Negreanu heads up for $1,000,000. Kosowski logged on to, played in a specially designated free tournament and overcame huge odds to finish in the top 10 of 10,000 entrants. He finished fourth.

Then another obstacle: the taping dates for the show are the weekend the Kosowskis were set to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. Fran, who was laid off from her job in November, insisted he go to Los Angeles, even though producers told Mike he'd be an alternate and likely wouldn't appear on the show.

Through a run of tremendous luck -- none of the three contestants who played on the show before him that day were able to advance past the first round, giving Kosowski a shot to play on air -- and great skill, Kosowski thoroughly outplayed both the contestants from his show and then the top winners from the series earlier episodes at two sit-n-go tables, the retired officer now had the chance of a lifetime. Kosowski took full advantage of the opportunity, earning his way into the one-on-one final and outplaying Negreanu, the four-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner.

But Mike Kosowski won't be the only big winner on Dec. 27. All season long, has given viewers at home a chance to get in on the action with a $100,000 giveaway. $80,000 has already been paid out to show viewers with another $20,000 still up for grabs. Tune into the show on Sunday, Dec. 27 to get the password and enter to win $20,000.

*Check local listings. Million Dollar Challenge will air before NFL action in some markets.

**Go to for a full list of contest rules and qualifications.

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