Corey Peeples
Corey Peeples won over $41,000 after being convinced to play the MSPT Main Event last weekend with a buy-in from Johnnie 'VIBES' Moreno.

Some poker tournaments are meant to be. Players who enter them hoping that they’ll become the narrative for that particular event have no idea what they’re walking into. Go back to 1989 and the WSOP Main Event now and you wouldn’t bother registering knowing that a certain P. Hellmuth was standing in front of you in the line, listening to his Walkman. Take a trip in a time machine back to 2018 and you wouldn’t enter a single event that saw J. Bonomo on the table draw.


Just this past weekend, players taking on the $1,110-entry Mid Stakes Poker Tour Main Event at the Sycuan Resort would never have known who they were up against. Corey Peeples might not be a name steeped in former glory, but Peeples has a friend in Johnnie Moreno who everyone knows in poker.


Under his ‘Johnnie VIBES’ channel, the popular poker player and content creator is known across the whole world. He picks up the story for us.


The Best Tip Ever 


Walking into a Japanese restaurant for ramen before the weekend, Moreno started speaking to Corey, who is a bartender at the restaurant.


“I’ve been seeing these guys for four years at the bar,” he says. “They’ve always been the best. I had no intention in buying an $1,110 buy-in for the bartender but taking in what he was telling me and feeling this energy, with my brother having a newborn, paralleling those struggles, he was as a dad, I felt compelled to give without any expectations. I wasn’t looking at it as an investment.”


As Corey and Johnnie chatted, Moreno asked him ‘Can you get Saturday off?’. There isn’t a $1,100-entry major tournament in town every week, but the Mid-Stakes Poker Tour Main Event at the Sycuan Resort appealed to Johnnie, who would buy-in Corey for the full amount, offering 50% to Corey while taking 40% himself. That left 10% to one side for Corey’s fellow bartenders.


“He was like ‘Whoah, why are you doing this?’”, says Johnnie. “I said ‘You guys have always looked after us and I wanted to do something nice.”


Corey, however, wasn’t able to drop everything without checking with those closest to him, namely his dual role bartending the restaurant and managing a comedy bar downtown in San Diego.


“To play in this tournament I had to clear it with two jobs and a wife, so it wasn’t easy. I’m a stay-at-home dad during the day and work night, I have to spend my time wisely. I’m glad I was able to pull it off, because it was such an amazing experience.”
Corey’s tournament experience is ‘close to zero’, but Johnnie felt it was a worthwhile pursuit. He wanted to give Corey the chance to take a shot.


“I’m a cash player, I don’t play a ton of tournaments,” Corey tells us. “I’m a $2/$3 to $5/$5 cash player. I honestly haven’t played a tournament in about six years. The last one was an $80 tournament at Oceans Eleven where I lost in around 45 minutes. Johnnie used to live directly over from where I work now. He and his brother and their wives would be in; I’d chat poker with him and on those days, I’d typically get the bug and go play poker. Not to get too emotional but I couldn’t believe that he’d offer to spot me in the tournament.”


Taking on the Tournament


The difference between cash games and tournaments are many and varied, but one major challenge was the lack of time to take stock during the day.


“I was telling Johnnie I don’t know how he does it,” says Corey. “Those weekends of poker are gruelling – 12 hours of poker, four hours sleep and 12 hours at the table again. The first day, there was no dinner break; every three hours we got 10 minutes. It’s not really enough time to go get food or do anything. It’s all poker, and its draining.”


Corey’s perseverance got him deep into Day 2. When he made the final table, Johnnie – who had been supporting on the rail – felt compelled to grow Corey’s audience.


“It’s something no-one would have heard about, but when he started running deep, I thought this is too good not to share, we gotta tell people about this.” He says.


And so, the people were told. With Johnnie broadcasting the sweat from his Instagram account , Corey made the final table seventh in chips. At that point, Johnnie’s support, coaching and advice became pivotal.


“I felt like I got a crash course at the final table, in between hands getting coached up by Johnnie,” says Corey. “I felt super-alive and in the moment. It makes you feel alive when you feel that alert.”


Coaching Corey to Glory


Johnnie himself was more than comfortable in the role, having been on the rail for some of his brother Andrew’s biggest successes. In the past two years, Andrew Moreno has won millions with his wife, brother and extended family close by. Johnnie knows the value of having that support close at the final table and put it to great use.


“I didn’t even talk to Corey about poker leading up the final table; I wanted him to play his game and not mess with anything. When he got the final table, knowing how important pay-jumps were, I wanted to impart how important laddering was. He came into the final seventh in chips of the nine and was able to exceed expectations.”


In one example of Corey utilizing Johnnie’s advice, he was down to under 20 big blinds. Johnnie had spent some time coaching him on how playing some min-raises in position rather than shoving every time he was putting chips into the pot.


“His natural instinct was to jam those hands,” says Johnnie. “I talked him into playing some min-raises and as a result, he min-raised that ace-eight hand, found a jam from the blind and then he made the correct call. He was in a great position to make a ton of chips. Maybe if I hadn’t said that then the other guy folds and he never gets that shot. He was able to take my coaching and implement it in real-time which is not easy to do.”


In that instance, Corey was unfortunate, as the river counterfeited his ace-eight against his opponent’s ace-four. He would get fortunate at another stage, however, as his ace-jack beat ace-king when committed all-in.


Having played “around 15” casino tournaments in his lifetime, Corey finished fourth for over $41,000. Afterwards, there was only one man who would be interviewing him.



“It’s wild, because when I offered to do this, it wasn’t with any expectation to make money,” says Johnnie. Corey is quick to credit his good fortune.


“There’s definitely a lot of luck involved, and it was a lot deeper than I expected to go. I was very happy with the result, although not at the end! But a couple of hours later, I started to feel better about it. It’s more than I typically make in a weekend. The money hasn’t been the focus, it’s going to go into the bank. I have no crazy plans, it’s back to life as normal, back to the grind.”


Going Back to Work 


When he returned to work a couple of days later, he walked into the restaurant and got a standing ovation from his co-workers. The modest Corey describes it as ‘a little much’. From previously not getting a text for a couple of days, Corey can’t leave his cellphone 30 minutes now without it lighting up with hundreds of messages from well-wishers, old friends and family members.


Johnnie, meanwhile, is buoyed by Corey’s success and enjoyed being on the rail.


“It’s a role that I love because as an older brother, its innately inside of me to champion little brothers, friends and other players. It’s not an altruistic thing, it’s more that I feel at home in the role of an older brother. When he’s making a run like that, I’m insanely excited for him, like over the moon. Its not just the coaching, it’s the energy, the feeling of knowing that you have the support of people in your corner.”


Corey says that he would consider playing more in the future, when his young family is a little more grown-up. Before fatherhood, he was posting 20-30 hours per week as a winning player.


“I was willing to move up stakes, but with my son being born it felt like it would have been selfish. The money won’t last forever but I can relive this for the rest of my life.”
Johnnie is quick to point out that Corey did all the heavy lifting in making the fairytale come true.


“Nobody would have even heard this story if it wasn’t for Corey, if he hadn’t gone on this magical deep run. He’s the one that made it magic.”


One of the best poker wins of 2023 owes a nod to serendipity, a little thanks to ramen and a lot to friendship and the power of believing in yourself and those close to you. Corey Peeples is good people.


Johnnie Moreno? Well, he just brought the vibes.