The Pro’s Pro appears in each issue of Bluff Magazine and is also a regular feature on Bluff.com. In it, we look at the lives and careers of some of the most successful tournament pros traveling the circuit today. In this edition, BLUFF spoke to Garrett Greer, who finished seventh at the 2013 LA Poker Classic and followed it up with a deep run at Bay 101.
Greer started as a mid-stakes grinder online as “gdub2003″ on PokerStars, with over $420,000 in lifetime tournament earnings before Black Friday. In March of 2010 Greer suffered a catastrophic spinal injury after diving into the shallow end of a pool, which left him a quadriplegic. In the months that followed Greer returned to the game of poker, first crushing the online tables and then transitioning into live tournaments. BLUFF talked to Greer about his journey in poker, the accident that changed his life and his recent success on the WPT.
BLUFF: How did you initially get into the game of poker?
Garrett Greer: I went to UCLA, and I can remember the first time I played poker. I have a friend, James Lafferty from “One Tree Hill”, I went out and visited him and while I was out there I played in a home game, and I’d never played Hold’em before. I remember the first pot I won I had J 4, I limped in and called a raise out of position. The flop was J-4-2 and I got it in on the flop against the guy and he had ace-jack. This was December of 2003. I remember him just giving me a bunch of shit about it, and I was thinking, ‘well this isn’t a bad hand, right?”
After he talked about it for a while, I kind of got a sense that that there was strategy and statistics to the game, that there was more to it. I started researching and looking up stuff online, and then I just sat down with a deck of cards and running out hundreds of hands, dealing nine hands out and seeing what came out. I never read a lot of books, I just played a lot, my hometown room was Casino Morongo and I started playing $3/$6 Limit Hold’em. I moved up to $4/$8, thinking I was crushing and that I was the best player ever, so I took a stab at $2/$5 No Limit.
I lost for a little bit at first, but then I started winning as I put a lot of effort and attention into my game. I remember the first time that I called somebody’s hand exactly, it was kings with the K, and he flipped it over. I called a couple more hands later that day, and I started to think I really had something in this game.
A few years later I heard about PartyPoker, around 2005 or 2006, so I started playing online. I edged out a small profit over nine months or so there, and then I moved on to PokerStars. I also played a little on Full Tilt.
What were you doing before the accident? How much were you playing?
GG: It was March of 2010, and at that time I was not really playing poker all that much. I was pursuing a career in film and television production in LA, I was living in Studio City and [just] playing here and there. I was interning at Kritzer Levine Wilkins Griffin Entertainment, and we went out on a Friday night with all of the employees and some actors. The next night, March 27, we all got back together and hung out at a friend’s condo and went into the swimming pool.
That’s when I broke my neck, I guess, diving in the pool. I had been drinking, and I don’t really remember any of it. I woke up three days later completely unable to move. I stayed in the hospital for three months, and then I moved in with my aunt in Orange County. I stayed with her for about nine months, but she was getting divorced and the living situation wasn’t going to work, so I had to move out.
I guess it was a necessary progression for things, to get back into an ordinary life. I moved out and got myself an apartment, but I only had $400 in the bank. This was in January of 2011. I needed to make money, so that’s when I got back into poker. When I logged into my PokerStars account I had 99 cents and 10,000 FPPs. I started playing the 230 FPP satellites and turned 10,000 FPPs into $160 in tournament dollars. From that time through Black Friday I was able to turn that into $50,000.
Once Black Friday happened I was looking for somewhere else to play. I only put $100 on Merge and I was playing $1 and $3 buy-ins, just grinding it up, and I had some rakeback too. I got it up to about $1,000 and then started to play MTT’s on there. In August of 2011 I had a $20,000 month and I ended up profiting about $100,000 from tournaments, which is pretty good for that network.
In December of 2011 I had my first live score, I chopped a tournament at the Hustler Liz Flint series for about $18,000. From there I started playing live a little bit more and then I decided to go to the WSOP, but I didn’t have a very good series. I played the Main Event for the first time, and before that I had never played [a tournament with a buy-in above $1,600]. I only lasted 5 hours, it was absolutely terrible. I felt like I got punched in the face repeatedly until I was out.
You continued to play live tournaments and then you put together an incredible run at the LAPC. What was that experience like?
GG: I started off Day 1 just amazingly, I ran it up to 82,000 by the end of the day. I was pretty fortunate to find a spot against an aggressive player named Michael Rocco. It was a three-way pot, I raised with A J, got three-bet to 900, Rocco flatted out of the big blind so I flat called too. I flopped the nut flush, it came out 8 6 5 and it went check, check, 1200 from the three-better, Rocco flats and I overcall, bringing the 7 on the turn.
That put a four-card straight on the board and Rocco leads out for 4,200, I call and the guy behind overcalls. The river is the 4 putting a straight on board and Rocco just open ships 19,000, which I call, and the other guy folds. He ends up having A 8, and I just got kind of lucky to have such an aggressive player at my table. From there I was able to use those chips to propel me through that day and then I had a super mellow Day 2, I went from 82,000 to 91,000 going into Day 3.
I had the worst Day 3 ever, it was terrible. No hands, no hands held, just nothing. Every single spot I tried to take didn’t work, and I ended the day with 10 big blinds. Somehow I rode 10 big blinds all the way through the second half of that day. I started Day 4 with nine big blinds, 56,000 at the 6,000 [big blind] level. On the third hand I was fortunate and won a race with pocket eights versus ace-king, and the very next hand I had pocket jacks. I flatted a three-bet preflop and check-shoved the seven-high flop and he folded, which was a nice pot.
I four-bet shoved kings and then I won another race a couple orbits later after losing some chips back. I won with pocket sevens to Tuthill’s ace-queen, and then I won the coolest hand of the day. I mean, it really sucked for [Joe] Hachem, but beating Hachem’s A K with A K, for me, it feels legendary, it was fun. I feel the sting as its happened to me many times, but that was really cool. from there I had a stack that I could work with and I could play.
[After correctly calling Ana Marquez down in a massive pot] I was able to pretty much ride it out to the final table. I won a flip with two tables left, hitting a pretty nice card on the river in the ace when I had A K. I actually turned a flush draw, but I didn’t think I was going to get there. Paul Volpe said the same thing, the classic “too many outs syndrome.”
Then I had the A K against 9 9 [again] to go out [on the TV bubble]. It was just one of those super-standard MTT spots that you really can’t do anything about. He’s on the button, I’m in the small blind and I had maybe 21 big blinds after winning a small pot from Toby Lewis. Volpe made it 100,000 on the button at 25,000/50,000 and I look down at what I thought was the nuts. If I had more chips, honestly, I would have three-bet to induce, but I just didn’t think I had the room to do that. Any way it plays out, it all ends the same way. It’s just not a hand I’m folding with 21 big blinds and seven players left.
After winning $161,300 at LAPC, you went to Bay 101 and finished in the money again. You entered Day 3 as the shortest stack and couldn’t make a run, how did you get into that spot after Day 2?
GG: “I just couldn’t catch a hand, no spots really. The people at my table were pretty good, I had Maria Ho, Jeff Madsen and Kyle Julius, some good players. It wasn’t an easy table. Today I only had 13.5 big blinds when I got it in with ace-queen. There was a raise in early position, and yesterday, I had already three-bet shoved on the same guy, to his open, and he had folded to me. This time, it was nearly the same spot but he woke up with queens. With 13 big blinds, ace-queen, looks like the nuts.
What’s next? Are you going to try to ride this wave of momentum?
GG: “I’m thinking I might go play the $5,000 Main Event at the Wynn Classic, and then everybody here is telling me I need to parlay it into a trip to WPT Venice. I don’t know, I’ve never been out of the country and I haven’t been on a plane since my injury. I’ve been in a wheelchair for three years now. That’s going to be an experience, but I think it could just be, other than going to play there, which I think it would be an awesome tournament and an awesome experience, its just added life value.”
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