Grant Hinkle spent the early portion of his poker career unaware that his brother Blair also was learning the game.
Once he found out, a sibling rivalry was only natural.
“I would say early on there was a competition, and I was a little bit mad that he was having more success than me,” Grant Hinkle said. “But I definitely switched. Once I came to the realization myself that he was better, then it was a lot easier.”
The Hinkles are one of the most successful brother tandems in tournament poker, with a combined $4.7 million in live earnings and two World Series of Poker bracelets to their credit.
They will look to add to their impressive resumes as part of the massive field in the five-day $1,500 buy-in “Millionaire Maker” No-limit Hold ’em tournament that begins at 10 a.m. Friday at the Rio Convention Center. The event features a guaranteed $1 million to the winner.
The Hinkles grew up in suburban Kansas City, Missouri, as part of a family that often played card games. Grant, who turned 36 on Tuesday, is the oldest of four brothers — Mason and Taylor are not regulars on the tournament poker circuit — and started playing online during the poker boom in the mid-2000s.
Unbeknownst to him, Blair, 30, took an interest in poker “a year or two later” as a freshman at Missouri after meeting James Mackey.
“Early on, both James and I would both email him hand histories because we were picking it up pretty quick,” Blair Hinkle said. “But Grant had been playing for a few years and making a lot of money online.”
In 2008, Grant Hinkle took down the $1,500 buy-in No-limit Hold ’em event, which featured the largest non-Main Event field in WSOP history up to that point with 3,929 entrants. The victory included a memorable final hand, as Hinkle put most of his chips at risk preflop with 10-4, flopped a full house and then made quad 10s.
Less than two weeks later, Blair Hinkle won the $2,000 buy-in No-limit event, making the Hinkles the first brothers to capture WSOP bracelets in the same year.
“I am very proud of our accomplishment and that we get to be a part of poker history in our own way,” Grant Hinkle said. “I was especially happy for Blair that it only took him 10 days to get his bracelet. It wouldn’t have felt right if I had won one and he didn’t.”
Grant Hinkle has more than $1 million in live tournament earnings, according to Global Poker Index’s Hendon Mob Poker Database. But aside from the occasional circuit stop in the Midwest, the IT consultant from Overland Park, Kansas, plays only recreationally these days, including his “Monday Night Poker” group of 20 to 25 regulars that features WSOP bracelet winners Mackey and Jeff Tebben, in addition to Blair Hinkle.
“We call it the toughest $40 home game in America,” Grant Hinkle said jokingly.
After dropping out of Missouri and turning professional in 2008, Blair Hinkle has become one of the top tournament players with nearly $3.7 million in career live earnings, not to mention almost $2 million more online.
Blair Hinkle won the 2013 Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open Championship for $1.75 million, and in 2014 he took down the WSOP circuit main event at Horseshoe Council Bluffs (Iowa), making him the only player to win three circuit main events at the same stop.
“I don’t know what it is, but something about Iowa works out for me,” Blair Hinkle said.
Blair Hinkle cashed in the $1,500 buy-in Six-Handed No-limit event on Thursday, his first in-the-money finish this summer. He is hoping to better his run in last year’s “Millionaire Maker” when he was 34th for more than $36,000.
“I feel like I’m starting to kind of warm up and get the rust off,” Blair Hinkle said. “I’m excited. I know there will be some tournament that I’ll make a run in, it’s just a matter of when it happens. The ‘Millionaire Maker’ would be a good one to do again, because that one was a lot of fun.”
Contact reporter David Schoen at email@example.com or 702-387-5203. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidSchoenLVRJ
WORLD SERIES OF POKER
WHAT: $1,500 buy-in “Millionaire Maker” No-limit Hold ’em tournament
WHEN: Friday through Tuesday
WHERE: Rio Convention Center
ONLINE: WSOP.com (final-table stream Tuesday)
ADMISSION: Free (21 or older)