How many times have you dreamed of winning big in a poker tournament, or at a casino table? You sit there hoping that low buy-in satellite is going to be your ticket to fame and glory – taking you all the way to the Big One! For 58 year-old British-expat Tommy Yates, that dream came true this year. After taking a summer break from poker, at his wife's urging, he decided to try his luck in one of 888poker's WSOP Las Vegas Dream Package events.

The WSOP Main Event promotion is part of 888poker's step satellite tournament series, which allows players to “step” their way up into a variety of higher buy-in, live and online events. Along the way, players can use the step tickets they've won for other online satellites – not just the WSOP. But Tommy chose to keep going...and it was worth it.

Vegas, Here I Come!

The 1 cent buy-in tourney was a long shot. Tommy had been enjoying a break from playing online, whilst running his bar in Rhodes - the sort of life a Yorkshireman dreams of.

“After winning the 1c Step 1 I continued playing and winning all the Steps up to the $1,050 buy-in Step 7” said Tommy. “When it got down to four-handed, I realized that 4th place paid $6,000 in cash and I thought about going for the instant money instead. Considering the uncertainty around the Greek economy, who needed another holiday, anyway?” But at the final hour, his son intervened and encouraged him to go for the gold. This was a chance in a lifetime after all!

“It was 2am and I believe that entire town could hear our celebration”

Yates won the tournament and snagged himself one of the three all-inclusive packages up for grabs – worth a cool $14,000 and included: flights to Vegas, 7 nights at luxury hotel, $1,400 for travel & expenses, VIP Party and of course an entry ticket to the main event. It was surreal! He was going to Vegas! A couple of weeks later, Tommy, with his wife and son in tow, landed in poker players' paradise.

Playing the Main Event

Playing in the Main Event was a “very special experience”, according to Tommy. He wanted to turn this opportunity into something special and so aimed to cash in– at the very least.

“I don’t think there were any tighter players than me in the whole Main Event,” Tommy said. “I threw away, pre-flop, cards like AK and QQ. It might look stupid to you, but I was so motivated to pass the bubble, that when that moment came, I felt like I'd won the bracelet and 8,000,000 million dollars. It was one of the happiest moments of my life.”

Once he made it in the money, everything else was icing on the cake. He played as tight as possible to make it as deep as possible – finally getting dealt pocket Kings.

Going up against Ace-Jack wasn't exactly his dream poker hand, but he had the edge. Bang – Ace on the flop. It was a climatic end to a fairy-tale run for the Brit living in Rhodes. With a 486 place finish and a $19,500 pay-out, his 1 cent investment sure paid off.

Going Pro, Goals & Beyond...

In Tommy's own inimitable words, “I'm not going to become a pro, if that's what you're asking, but my next goal will surely be winning a ticket to the WSOPE Berlin. As you probably know, I didn't win my [WSOP Vegas] ticket on my first attempt. It took me over 200 attempts, 2.25$ and several times I got to Steps 4 and 5 – then failed to pass them. For the WSOPE, the mission is going to be much more easy, as 888poker is going to send players to the Oktoberfest Tournament (500 buy-in) too, which means less steps to go through.”

So what about Vegas? Will he be back next year? “It's just fantastic. I've got to do all this again next time round. I might spend two pence next year. But I have to do it again. I just love it.”

Tommy, like a lot of amateur (and professional) players before him, is now hooked...

Itai Pazner, Vice President of B2C at 888 Holdings, said: “888poker players who make it to our live events are able to enjoy an once-in-a-lifetime experience and thrill like no other. This year we sent to the WSOP, over 120 players who were qualified from satellites tournaments. After this kind of adventure, winning is just a bonus and we’re always happy when our players make it in the money. Although Tommy’s story was unique, there were another 11 great players who cashed out on the main event."

Chad Holloway is a 2013 WSOP Bracelet winner who has previously worked for PokerNews as a managing editor and live reporter