Adam Hendrix of Anchorage changed careers this year — so long software engineering, hello full-time poker.
His switch in professions proved profitable late Sunday in Las Vegas, where Hendrix finished runner-up in his debut at the World Series of Poker, the game's most lucrative and prestigious event, and pocketed $137,992.
"It makes it feel like a good decision," Hendrix said by cellphone from Sin City.
Hendrix, 25, finished second among 830 players in a game called Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better, which required a $1,500 buy-in, or entry fee. He cashed in for his largest single-game earnings, topping the nearly $30,000 he won for finishing fourth in a No-Limit Hold 'em game at the World Poker Tour Borgata Winter Open in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in January.
Hendrix's haul is the largest by an Alaskan at the WSOP since Young Ji of Anchorage won the Pot-Limit Omaha High-Lo 8 or Better event in 2015 and earned $231,102.
Hendrix's "cash," as they call it in poker, brings to 21 the number of Alaskans who have won money at this year's WSOP. Kristopher Homerding of Anchorage owned the biggest previous single-event cash among Alaskans with his $9,304 for a 52nd-place finish in a No-Limit Hold 'em event.
The annual WSOP at The Rio features more than 70 tournaments over seven weeks, draws players from around the globe and culminates with the Main Event. The No-Limit Hold 'em Main Event, which requires a $10,000 buy-in, last year drew nearly 7,000 players, earned the winner $8 million and is considered the most prestigious title in poker.
By the time Hendrix made it to the final table of nine players Sunday in the three-day event, he was happily stunned. He considers Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better his third-best poker game, behind No-Limit Hold 'em and Pot-Limit Omaha.
"I was sort of in shock, like, 'Wow, first WSOP event,' " Hendrix said.
Hendrix lives in Washington, D.C., but still calls Anchorage home. His family lives here — he said he grew up playing card games for pennies at his grandmother's in Homer — and he plans to visit in July.
Hendrix intended to play tournaments earlier in this year's WSOP but said he came down with an illness in Las Vegas that sidelined him until recently. He's feeling better.
"Obviously, winning money helps," Hendrix said.
Poker players covet the bracelet each WSOP event champion is awarded, and Hendrix said he had that bounty in mind as he advanced through the field — "Bracelet, bracelet, bracelet," Hendrix said.
Hendrix and Nathan Gamble, a Texas transplant who lives in Honolulu, were the final two players remaining Sunday night when Hendrix pushed all his chips in on the first hand of "heads-up" play and lost. Gamble, 27, won $223,339.
The field Hendrix negotiated featured several bracelet winners, including Poker Hall of Famer and three-time bracelet winner Barry Greenstein. He's known as the Robin Hood of poker for his contributions to charities.
Hendrix was seated at the same table as Greenstein for much of Saturday and Sunday.
"It was awesome," Hendrix said. "I held my own."
Hendrix said he was born in Anchorage and went to high school in Cairo, Egypt — his father is in the oil business. Hendrix attended Virginia Tech — his dorm started a poker club at the school, he said — and graduated with a major in economics and minor in statistics.
He spent two years as a software engineer for a government contractor before deciding to go full time as a poker pro.
"It's really hard to leave a stable income, but I could make more money and be happier doing what I like every day," Hendrix said.
As Hendrix spoke Monday morning, he was on his way to play in another WSOP event.
Back to work.