The Hinkle brothers make history at the WSOP

Blair and Grant Hinkle didn’t come to the 2008 World Series of Poker looking to make history. But that’s exactly what the brother combination from Kansas has done, and it took less than two weeks.

Eleven days after his older brother shocked the poker world and captured a bracelet in the USD 1,500 No-Limit Hold’em event , Blair Hinkle made sure the family bragging rights didn’t last very long. He beat a field of 1,344 players in the USD 2,000 No Limit Hold ‚em to claim a bracelet of his own and held the Hinkle brothers become the first siblings in the history of the WSOP to win gold bracelets within a single year. The Hinkles also joined the Puggy and J.C. Pearson as the only brother combinations to win bracelets.

„It’s really incredible,“ said Blair, 22, who cashed in for USD 507,563. „For us to both win bracelets in the span of 11 days is just amazing. I was real happy for him when he won, but then I knew I couldn’t let him be the only one in the family to have a bracelet for too long. I knew what I had to go out and do.“

Of the two wins, Blair’s was much more conceivable considering that he turned pro this year after cashing at last year’s WSOP Main Event. He has had success in the early going of his new career, earning more than USD 160,000 in his rookie season.

„He’s a great player so I’m really not surprised to see him win a bracelet and I won’t be surprised if he wins another one,“ said Grant, who is just one of four amateurs to win a bracelet this year after winning USD 831,462 when he beat out a record field of 3,929 players.

Grant and Blair’s mother, Lynn, was in Las Vegas and on the rail for both of her sons‘ victories and told them that she wants a replica bracelet made for her. If the Hinkle brothers do come through with the imitation trinket, they’ll surely be sending one south to Arizona as well, where „Grandma Sue“ can take much of the credit for the two boys‘ interest in the game.

„She’s the one who taught us how to play cards,“ said Blair of Sue Johnson, his maternal grandmother. „She would dump all of her pennies out on the table and we’d play Gin Rummy and Spades for hours. We didn’t know what we were doing, so she would look at our cards and tell us what to do. I think she made sure she would always win because she was always the one with all the pennies when the game ended.

„I called her after I won and she was in tears. It was a real special moment. It’s something I don’t think any of us will ever forget.“

While Blair was making history in Las Vegas, Grant, 27, was back home in Kansas continuously hitting the refresh button on his computer for updates on the tournament. He was hardly surprised when his brother prevailed.

„Once he got to the final table I knew he’d win,“ Grant said. „He’s just such an aggressive player. He’s tough to handle in that situation.“

While Blair wasn’t quite as confident as his brother, he did have a good feeling once he saw his position at the final table. He had position on the two players he feared the most (Andrew Jeffreys and Dustin Dirksen) heading into the finale, which is more than he can say for what happened to him when he made the final two tables at the World Poker Tour’s LA Poker Classic earlier this year.

„I was screwed right from the start because I had Phil Ivey to my left and Phil Helmuth to my right,“ he said with a laugh as he recalled the tournament in which he cashed for USD 61,610 while watching Ivey go on to win the title. „I’m aggressive, just like Phil, but he had position on me and I was really up against it from the start so I didn’t last long.“

He ran into similar misfortune at the WSOP Circuit Main Event in May where he ended up cashing for more than USD 80,000, but feels he would have done much better if he wasn’t seated to the right of the likes of Justin Bonomo and Allen Cunningham at the final table.

„I didn’t have much of a chance there either,“ he lamented.

Things were different on Saturday at the WSOP, however. Blair came in tied for the chip lead with Jeffreys with 1 million each and his assertive style of play helped him battle his way to heads-up rather briskly, where Canadian Mark Brockington was waiting for him. He went on to win the first seven pots of the heads-up match before finally clinching the victory when his pocket sixes prevailed over Brockington’s A-K, which is ironically the same hand that Grant had to beat in his final bracelet-winning hand. Overall, Blair won 66 out the 134 hands dealt at the final table.

„It was a tough field to beat and I had to dodge a lot of all-ins,“ he said. „I’m just happy that I was able to survive.“

Blair first started playing poker seriously about two years ago when a friend of his at the University of Missouri sent him USD 30 to begin playing online. Since then, Blair has turned that USD 30 into more than USD 100,000. And that friend just so happened to be James Mackey, now a fellow poker pro who won a WSOP bracelet last year. Blair, Mackey and one of Blair’s friends from high school, Blake Cahail, are now roommates – sharing houses in Missouri and Las Vegas — and have all turned pro.

„James has taught me so much, I owe a lot to him,“ said Blair, who was studying chemical engineering in college before taking the plunge and become a poker pro. „He’s by far the best player out of the three of us, but now maybe I can make a little run at him.“

Blair has been active at this year’s WSOP, playing in as many Hold’em events as possible. He is very much looking forward to joining his brother in the Main Event field.

„It’s going to be fun and I’m really confident that I can do some damage,“ said Blair, who placed 520th out of 6,358 entrants last year. „I did OK last year and I’m a much better player right now than I was last year. The Main Event is a great because it’s got the biggest buy-in and has the worst players.“

And what are the prospects of both he and his brother making the final table?

„Not likely, but not impossible,“ he laughed. „After what’s happened to us in the last two weeks I would say that anything is possible.“