TORONTO - An Ontario man who captured the million-dollar first prize at a poker tournament in Barcelona on the weekend says his only goal was to win enough cash to put his granddaughter through university.
Jack Hinchey of Oshawa says his 10-year-old granddaughter Victoria was on his mind throughout the competition, where he faced off against some of the best poker players in the world.
After winning the World Poker Crown, Hinchey came home Sunday night and was greeted by friends and family.
Hinchey, who has been playing poker for about 30 years, says the tournament started with an Internet competition, where he bested more that 2,000 players. Last week, he says the online tournament's top 10 were flown to Barcelona for a marathon game held at a centuries-old Spanish castle.
The 49-year-old plumbing repair man says winning the cash was a "surreal experience" and that he had "the week of a lifetime."
Three other Canadians also made the final 10 and travelled to Spain. Michael Lawson of Orangeville, Ont., and Mark Castonguay of Montreal finished second and eighth, winning $397,000 and $30,000 respectively. Michael Leah of Toronto was among the players eliminated in the early going.
"What's the secret of my success? I play for my granddaughter Victoria," Hinchey told The Canadian Press Sunday night.
At one point in the game, things weren't going so well, and Hinchey turned to his good luck charm: a photo of Victoria.
"I put my picture back out and things went gangbusters after that," said Hinchey.
The winning hand in the televised game was a full house, which Hinchey delivered at around 3:30 a.m. Barcelona time Friday.
But it wasn't all good luck that helped him clinch the prize.
"It's like a giant chess match," he said.
"With that kind of money at stake, you try and play the good hands and find out what cards your opponents are playing."
Having a killer instinct helps, too.
"You have to get aggressive and start bluffing along the way," said Hinchey.
Hinchey spends several hours a week playing hold 'em online at www.888.com and won $38,000 in April at a tournament near Port Perry, Ont.
While Hinchey said he plans to retire, he won't make poker his new career. He said he might only play a few tournaments each year from now on.
"My only goal was to make enough money to put my granddaughter through university, and I've accomplished that," he said.
The other players were from the Netherlands, Poland, Germany and Italy.
Hinchey said he's going to give his boss two-months notice before he quits his job. For now, all he wants to do is sleep.
"This one week in Barcelona just exhausted me," he said, adding he was the oldest player in the tournament.
"Right now, I'm just looking forward to lying in my own bed for two days."