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A Poker Life With Garrett Greer

by Julio Rodriguez |  Published: May 13, 2015


Garrett Greer

Garrett Greer is one of the rising stars of the tournament poker circuit, having won more than $2 million since he began to seriously play in 2012. The Newport Beach, California resident has become a recent staple on the World Poker Tour, racking up four final-table appearances in the last two years.

But Greer’s success in poker wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for a tragic accident in 2010 where he broke his neck. The 29-year-old could have wallowed in misery after learning he was a quadriplegic, but Greer made the absolute best of a bad situation and used poker to turn his life around for the better.

This is his story.

Poker Beginnings

Greer was raised in Hemet, a small city in Riverside County in California. He was an only child and lived with his grandparents while his father resided in Las Vegas working in construction after a stint as a Chippendale’s dancer in the late ‘80s.

“There wasn’t really a whole lot to do in Hemet,” Greer explained. “I basically played a lot of sports growing up. When I was in high school, I worked at a local grocery store. As teenagers we’d light off fireworks and throw parties in the orange groves. We didn’t really have anywhere else to go and we could get away with a lot of stuff in those groves.”

After graduating from high school, Greer enrolled at UCLA and majored in sociology, with the original goal of eventually going to law school. But during a trip to visit an old high school buddy of his, he got bit by the poker bug.

“Even though I was playing right around the time of the poker boom, I was completely oblivious to it,” he recalled. “I didn’t know who Chris Moneymaker was, and I hadn’t really watched poker on TV. I got into it because I spent two weeks out in North Carolina visiting my friend James Lafferty, who is an actor. He was there filming a show called One Tree Hill. The two of us went to his buddy’s house and they were playing a poker tournament. I played in it and got really intrigued by the game.”

Greer had grown up playing five-card draw with his grandmother, so he was already a little familiar with poker, but hold’em captivated him like nothing before. He was determined to become a great player.

“When I got home, I started putting in the time and reading up on hold’em. I learned the basic strategy and then, at one point, I pulled out a deck of cards and just dealt myself hand after hand, running out boards for hours to figure out the math behind it. I’d put out flops, turns, and rivers and constantly quiz myself on what was the nuts, second nuts, third nuts, and so on.”

Poker was a very beneficial hobby for Greer, who used his winnings to pay his college tuition.

“I would often go down to the Morongo Casino to play cards,” he said. “The games were so soft back then that I didn’t really have to grind. I’d go to the casino, and after a week I’d have $7,000 to pay for school or party with. It was a means to an end for me. I had other plans with how I wanted to spend my working life.”

Greer got his undergraduate degree and then took the LSAT (Law School Admission Test), scoring a 163 ,which was in the 88th percentile. Deep down, however, he knew that law wasn’t for him.

“I wanted the test to tell me that law was what I was supposed to do. But I just didn’t feel that way. The last thing I wanted to do was go through three more years of school to do something that I could potentially hate.”

Ups and Downs

So instead of law school, Greer became a professional poker player… at least for a little while. He put some money online and grinded his way over the course of a year to a $75,000 bankroll. Being young and flush with cash led to some bad decisions and soon he was broke and completely out of poker.

“I would party all the time, get drunk and play poker, which was obviously a horrible idea. I didn’t treat poker like a job, and I took it for granted.”

Greer found himself sleeping on the floor of a buddy’s house in northern California with just $100 to his name. He used it to drive home, where a buddy was kind enough to stake him online. On the first day, he won $2,000. After taking his cut of the profits, he ran that up to $10,000. Knowing just how volatile the poker life can be, Greer took that money and moved to Los Angeles to pursue his second love, which was film and television production.

The Accident

It wasn’t long before Greer began to make a splash in Hollywood, producing a short film called Hours Before. The project, which was directed by actor Joel David Moore of Avatar and Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story fame, won the Audience Choice Award at the Hollywood Film Festival.

After that project, Greer landed an unpaid internship with a talent management company, working on the production side.

“I was living my dream,” he said. “This was exactly what I wanted to do and I was doing everything I could to break into the industry the right way. On March 26, 2010, I had my first paid day at the company. Then on March. 27, 2010, I broke my neck.”

Greer has zero recollection of how it happened. The last thing he can remember before the accident was the night before. None of his friends even saw it happen. From what he can piece together after waking up from a three-day coma, it happened in the swimming pool. The doctors told him he had broken his C-6 vertebrae, becoming almost completely paralyzed from the neck down.

“I don’t know why, but I never felt down,” he explained. “I never asked ‘why me?’ I never got depressed. I even woke up with a smile on my face. I had a really strong support group. I never spent one moment alone in that hospital.”

The injury killed any chance at continuing his new job, so Greer turned back to poker, which gave him the freedom to earn an income at his own pace while adjusting to the daunting reality of his new life.

“Not to be punny, but I honestly couldn’t do the standard leg work that everyone else can do on set. The accident completely put a halt to anything I had going at the old job and propelled me right back into poker. I spent years trying to get away from poker, but something kept pulling me back. It was like the universe was telling me that this was what I was supposed to do.”

Rebuilding His Bankroll

It was January 2011, and Greer had 99 cents in his online poker account. But he had also racked up 10,000 frequent player points (FPPs) from his earlier stint as an online pro. So he started playing six-max FPP satellites that paid out $11 in tournament money. After exhausting his FPPs, he had $160 in tournament money. By Black Friday, just three months later, he had turned that into $50,000 of real money.

Greer found his own apartment and did his best to keep earning on those sites that still allowed U.S. players, but knew that he’d have to branch out to live poker eventually. At the end of 2011, he chopped a tournament at the Hustler Casino for $18,000, which proved to himself that he could do it.

He had a few more cashes in 2012, but nothing major until the next year, where he finished seventh at the $10,000 buy-in World Poker Tour L.A. Poker Classic main event for $161,300. Later that year, he took eighth in the WPT Legends of Poker main event for another $48,615.

“There were a lot of close calls, but they were huge for my confidence,” Greer explained. “I didn’t feel like I was at any disadvantage. I knew something big was coming.”
In 2014, Greer made his third WPT final table, finishing sixth at the Bay 101 Shooting Star for $174,080. Then at the World Series of Poker main event, Greer made a deep run, earning $230,487 for 32nd place.

In December, he bought into the $10,000 WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic main event at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. A week later, he found himself heads-up for the title with Mohsin Charania. The two players struck a deal that guaranteed Greer a $1,169,000 payday while they played it out for the title, but after some bad luck, he was left with the runner-up finish on his resume.

“I do wish I had won the title, but I have to look on the bright side. Not only did I pocket life-changing money, but I also now have something more to strive for. You’ve got to have goals in this game.”

Moving Forward

Greer loves traveling the tournament circuit, looking for his next score. In January, he went to the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas for the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure and finished 17th in his first-ever $25,000 buy-in event, banking $79,400. Then he went to Niagara Falls in Canada and cashed in the WPT Fallsview Poker Classic.

He can also still play online poker whenever he wants. Greer purchased a van that accommodates his wheelchair and allows him to drive without pedals. It’s just an hour and 45-minutes door-to-door drive to Mexico so he can play online poker.

“Everyone asks me what I do outside of poker and, to be honest, just living my life is super time consuming because even the simplest of tasks takes me much longer. Every day I get smarter about my injury and things get a little easier, but I’m still relearning how to do everything.”

The cherry on top of Greer’s success story is that he recently started his own production company with partner Jarod Einsohn called Greater Good Productions, allowing him to continue his passion for film and television in the entertainment industry.

Poker has not only given Greer financial independence, but it also gave him a perfect way to even the playing field.

“I’m so fortunate to have poker, not only to give me a sense of success and fill my time, but also because it brings everyone down to my level,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how big, fast, and strong you are because poker is all about using your brain. When I’m playing poker, my injury doesn’t matter. It’s like I’m a whole new person.” ♠



almost 6 years ago

Was TV final table bubble boy at bay 101 and got to play with Garrett and got to know him somewhat. Being in advertising I told him he should do modeling as good looking kid. He told me he actually took some head shots at one time n his buddies made fun of him in joking fashion. At time I was also curious about his situation but didn't inquire. But learned later and felt horrible for him. After reading this article have even more admiration for his incredible attitude. Great kid I will be pulling for in future.