ZIONSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — To the surprise of himself and nearly everyone watching, Chris “Bass Master” Greaves spent the past week tearing through the World Series of Poker leaderboard.
A newcomer to the WSOP Main Event, the 39-year-old software developer from Zionsville was among the 6,683 players to enter the Texas Hold’em tournament at the Rio in Las Vegas. His run ended Monday night with a 12th-place finish, just a few places shy of reaching the final table of nine players and a shot at the $10 million top prize.
Hand after hand, Greaves kept his cool on the biggest stage of his card-playing career, gaining new fans and taking down competitors along the way.
But after a series of losing hands, he went all-in with his last 100,000 in chips holding a king-5 unsuited. His opponent paired his ace to win the hand.
“It’s hard to say I’ll never get another shot like that, but for all I know, it’s going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I was crushed when I walked out of there,” Greaves told The Indianapolis Star on Tuesday. “Then they took me to cash out and handed me a check for a half-million dollars.
“That made me feel a little better.”
Greaves, who earned the “Bass Master” nickname because of a fishing hat he used to wear to games, has been fine-tuning his poker skills for the past decade. He credits the online poker boom of the early 2000s and an amateur players’ 2003 Main Event win for igniting his passion.
“I remember playing in a friend’s home game while we listened to (an online audio) stream of Chris Moneymaker’s win in 2003,” Greaves said. “It’s always been a goal of mine to win this tournament.”
Greaves said he has been playing cards since he was old enough to talk, thanks in part to his father running a place where people played bridge in Indianapolis.
Greaves moved to Los Angeles when he was about 4 but returned to Indiana at 13. He graduated from high school in Zionsville before going to Purdue University, where he graduated in 1996.
As Greaves headed into the 45th annual WSOP this year, his only tournament winnings were $2,200 he took home in 2005 when he finished runner-up in a $230 no-limit tournament played on a cruise ship.
He said he spends most of his time at the table playing cash games at Indianapolis-area casinos. He also plays in private games.
At the end of his first day in the WSOP tournament, which has a buy-in of $10,000, Greaves finished among the advancing 2,571 players in 719th place with 55,025 in chips. By the end of the fourth day, Greaves’ stack grew to 1.205 million in chips, which put him 34th of 291 players.
After a rough day six, he managed to take 19th place in chips with 3.935 million.
As the tournament crept closer to the seventh day, WSOP officials began taking a closer look at the players who were vying for a spot in the top nine. They didn’t expect to see a player with Greaves’ lack of tournament history making such a strong push for the top.
“You don’t often see someone with zero WSOP earnings and no real history … someone you see that only has $2,200 in total career earnings on a cruise event, going this far,” said WSOP spokesman Seth Palansky. “That’s an incredible Cinderella story. We were really rooting for him to do well.”
Palansky said many times players who don’t have a lot of prior WSOP tournament experience can be thrown off by the bright lights, cameras and exposure. But Greaves remained calm and stuck to his game throughout.
“This is the biggest poker tournament, there is over $62 million up for grabs, it is the world championship ofpoker and it’s the hardest one to play in. It’s been described as trying to not get wet in a rainstorm,” Palansky said. “It really is like the last American gold rush. Anyone can enter, you just have to be over 18 … and Chris is the kind of story we like to see.”
Greaves’ final winning total was $565,193. Although he is still taking the experience all in, he already has a few plans for the money.
“My kids and their mom already ganged up on me and promised me to get them a hot tub,” he said. “And I was thinking before of getting a Tesla in the future. I think now I’ll be getting it a little sooner.”