For the Baranowskis, the Main Event is a shared experience
8 July 2014
By Dan Podheiser
LAS VEGAS -- Colleen Baranowski stands behind her husband, literally and figuratively.
Colleen's husband, Dean, made a deep run in the 2013 World Series of Poker Main Event, outlasting 5,825 players en route to a Day 4 knockout. His 527th-place finish was good for a $21,495 payout.
His wife -- right by his side every minute of the tournament -- earned every penny of it.
The couple hails from Dallas, where Dean is a chiropractor and Colleen is a stay-at-home mom for their four children. Last year, Dean won his local poker league -- a group of nine guys who play 12 tournaments throughout the year and use a points system to send the overall winner to the Main Event. For Dean, the trip to the World Series helped him cross an item off his bucket list.
Dean Baranowski, left, plays on Day 1C of the World Series of Poker Main Event as his wife Colleen, top, looks on. (photo by Vin Narayanan/Casino City)
Dean won the league again this year, and the Baranowskis returned to the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino
for Day 1C of the 2014 Main Event. Dean sat at a table in the far West corner of the Pavilion. And Colleen, assuming her position, stood right behind him.
"It's fun," Colleen said. "I thought that I wouldn't really want to be around too much; I thought I'd be bored. But it's not boring at all. I want to be here for him. I want to see the hands, and I feel like I don't want to miss anything too big."
While Dean plays for a shot at a $10 million first prize, Colleen serves as his manager, coach (even though she says she knows nothing about poker) and biggest fan. She gets him snacks throughout the day. And when it comes time for the dinner break, she makes sure to get to the restaurant ahead of time, reserve a table and order the food.
"We realized last year real quick that you better have something ready because the lines out here are crazy," Colleen said.
While most players scramble
to get a bite to eat at 7 p.m., Dean knows his plans are taken care of. That may not seem important, but it is.
"Colleen is a trooper," Dean said. "Not just for bringing me snacks, but for keeping the energy level up, too."
Last year, the Baranowskis were overwhelmed by the WSOP
experience, especially at the beginning. They arrived in Las Vegas at 2 a.m. on the morning of Day 1C. And when Dean sat down for the first time, he found Daniel Negreanu at his table.
"My goal last year was to make it to the dinner break on Day 1," Dean said. "But as it got going, I realized I could hold my own here."
On Day 3, Dean notched an important double-up with quads
over quads, vaulting him into contention to make the money.
Meanwhile, Colleen was chumming it up with another fan cheering on their spouse.
"I met Jackie Glazer's husband on the night of Day 3," Colleen said. "The next morning, Jackie and Dean were at the same table."
Glazer, who finished 31st in 2013 and was the last woman standing in the Main Event, knocked Dean out on Day 4. Afterwards, she gave a heartfelt apology to Colleen. They're now Facebook friends.
This year, Dean is back in the mix. He doubled up early when he took a flyer pre-flop with 2-3 of spades and flopped a straight on a 4-5-6 runout. He made it to Day 2 with 57,025 chips.
And the Baranowskis are taking a bit more serious approach to the Main Event this year, now that they're World Series veterans. Dean even decided to start taking notes at the table.
"We learned a lot last year," Colleen said. "We partied a bit too much, but this year we're not staying up all night. So it's my job to make sure we don't party too much."
Some guys are just born lucky; Dean would probably admit to being one of them. After he busted out of last year's tournament, he and Colleen went out on the town to celebrate. And according to Colleen, Dean made so much money playing Ultimate Texas Hold'em
that they decided to postpone their flight home to Dallas.
The next night, when they went to the airport, Dean won $13,000 on a penny slot machine.
"Last year was pretty great," Colleen said with a laugh. "It will be hard to top this time."
Of course, with a $10 million first-place prize, the possibility is certainly there.
But Dean's already won.
"The emotional roller coaster has been fun and to do it together has been a lot of fun," Dean said. "Without having my spouse here, it doesn't mean anything really. It would be nice to win $10 million, but the whole experience is what it's about."