Nicknamed “The Poet” for his love of reading and writing verse, Peter Costa gained his fame in the world of poker in November 2002 when he won the Sixth Series of Channel 4’s popular “Late Night Poker” television series while living in the United Kingdom. He bested Austria’s Jin Cai Lin in an inspired heads-up encounter to take home the £60,000 first prize. Since then, he has gone on to even greater success, even though his career as a professional poker player almost never got started.
Making an Escape
Costa was born to Greek Cypriot parents in Kiti, Cyprus in 1956. At that time, the Mediterranean island was still under British post-war control, which afforded the Costas British citizenship. When independence was declared in 1960, tension between the Turkish and Greek populations mounted and conflicts began breaking out. By 1964, a United Nations Peacekeeping Force had to be sent to Cyprus to quell the unrest.
Sensing that an invasion from Turkey was imminent, the Costa family made a decision to use of their British passports and immigrated to Liverpool, England. There, they started a fish and chips business that eventually grew into a chain.
By 1975, Turkey had occupied Cyprus and many more Greek Cypriots fled to England. At the age of 19, Peter Costa was compelled by his parents to take part in an arranged marriage with a girl from Cyprus. Although it was never a blissful relationship, the couple had a daughter and they stayed together to see to her upbringing and education. Meanwhile, Costa took up playing poker as an escape and distraction, soon discovering that he was quite good at the game.
When his daughter graduated from university in 2000, Costa knew it was time to make changes in his life. He would later recall, “I had a business and a home that had been paid off within three years from my poker earnings. I was so desperate to get out; I just told my wife she could have everything.”
Taking only enough money to rent a room for a month, Costa went off on his own to Leicester. With the aid of a female friend who was finishing an advanced degree in Psychotherapy, he worked out a new goal in life. “I saw poker as my savior really,” he has said. “It gave me a reason to go on. I always had a desire for challenges, and I saw this as something to go for.”
Living a Dream
Costa’s first tournament success came in August of 2000, when he placed third in the No Limit Hold’em Event of the Grosvenor U.K. Open Poker Festival. Over the course of the next year, he cashed in nine more tournaments before gaining his first major victory, winning the No Limit Hold’em crown at the Midlands Mini-Fest in August 2001. It was followed in October by a runner-up finish in the European Poker Classic in London.
By 2002, Costa was confident enough in his abilities to begin playing outside England, first in Scotland and then the United States and Slovenia. He finished 9th out of 610 entries in the $2,000 Limit Hold’em event of the 33rd Annual World Series of Poker, and then took top prize of just over $100,000 in Binion’s Hall Of Fame Poker Classic in September.
On the heels of his widely televised victory at the end of 2002, Costa traveled in January to Melbourne, Australia to participate in the 2003 Crown Australasian Poker Championship. He cashed in four events there before capturing his biggest score ever and winning the Main Event worth $415,259. Costa subsequently became the only player nominated for both the 2002 and 2003 European Player of the year award.
Today, Peter Costa lives in Las Vegas. His career winnings total $1,919,605, based upon a dozen first place finishes and 98 cashes to date. In terms of lifetime earnings, he currently ranks 27th among all U.K. players. And he still holds the world record for winning against the biggest group of players in a Limit Hold’em event, beating out a field of 1,166 at the Orleans Casino in July 2003.