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Archive for Sunday, June 15, 2008

Keegan: Life in poker’s fast lane

June 15, 2008

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Monster Kansas University fan that he is, Topeka native and Overland Park resident Grant Hinkle felt a huge charge out of the Orange Bowl victory. And then the Jayhawks won the national title in basketball, which triggered one of his favorite childhood memories.

He was seated at his third-grade desk when the voice on the intercom blared, "Grant Hinkle, report to the office."

His father greeted him there and informed him his school day was over because they were headed to Lawrence for the parade in honor of Danny and the Miracles.

"Went back for the 2008 parade 20 years later," Hinkle said. "Cool experience."

Backing winning teams, happily married and in a rewarding job as a marketing communications specialist for Archer Technology in Overland Park, life couldn't get much better for the 2002 KU graduate.

Except that it did. And not just by a little.

In three early June days, Hinkle turned a $1,500 investment into $831,462 and a World Series of Poker bracelet. Hinkle came out on top among 3,929 participants in the WSOP Event No. 2 at the Rio in Las Vegas, a prelim to the main event in which he'll play July 3.

The stack Hinkle, 28, took to the final table was ninth among 10.

"I thought about Bill Self's pregame Memphis speech, the one where he was saying you have nothing to lose and so much to gain," Hinkle said. "That was my mentality going into the final table. There was no risk to busting in ninth place. The reward for winning is so huge I felt like it was worth it to take chances."

So will Hinkle send part of his check to Self as thanks for the inspiration?

"I think he just got a pretty nice paycheck, didn't he?" Hinkle said, his smile easy to picture through the phone.

Hinkle, like Self, earned his big check. And man did he guard it closely once he had it in his possession.

"It was pretty scary flying back with it on the plane," said Hinkle, coached during breaks at the event by brother Blair, 22, a poker pro. "I think I was checking my wallet every five minutes, seeing if it was still there. I had to put my wallet in a bin and as soon as it went through the X-ray machine I checked to make sure it was still there."

Grant said he and wife Kim met in a chat room devoted to their favorite band, Smashing Pumpkins.

"We had been looking at buying a new house," Hinkle said. "The first thing Kim did the next morning was go on the real estate Web sites looking for houses. My only requirement is I get a man cave, something I can set up in the basement."

No flashy purchases are on the agenda, Hinkle said.

"My 1995 Honda Prelude has 206,000 miles on it," he said. "When I turn my air conditioner on it makes a really loud bass noise. On really hot days it's getting painful to ride to and from work with the windows open."

He could afford the Batmobile. So what's he going to buy?

"Probably a used Honda Accord with lower mileage," he said.

Sounds as if the very ability to keep his emotions in check that enabled him to earn $831,462 will prevent him from blowing it.

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