Former Sandy competitive swimmer now makes splash on poker tour
Dec 04, 2017 05:07PM
By Ron Bevan
Jared Griener ponders his next move while playing in a poker tournament. Griener, raised in Sandy but now living in California, has earned over $1 million in poker tournaments.
By Ron Bevan | [email protected]
Sometimes our life choices make us think we are heading in a certain direction. And sometimes that direction changes, but the decisions we made honed our skills for our new venture.
So it is with Jared Griener, a former Sandy resident who found the work ethic he put in as a swimmer and a door-to-door salesman has given him the skillset to compete at the highest level of poker tournaments. In just a few short years, Griener, 31, has already surpassed the $1 million mark in career winnings at poker tournaments across the nation. He has been featured in televised tournaments and even took home over $400,000 in just one tournament. Not bad for a young man who had never even played poker until 10 years ago.
“My first poker game was in the summer of 2007 when I was selling security systems door to door in New York,” Griener said. “All of the sales people were housed in an apartment complex. I was invited to play and I won the very first time I played.”
But even then, being a professional poker player was far from Griener’s mind. And it didn’t fit in with how a young boy going to Sunrise Elementary in Sandy pictured his life would become.
“I grew up LDS with strong convictions toward the gospel,” Griener said. “There isn’t a lot of poker in Utah and I wasn’t around the game at all. I had other outlets that interested me.”
“I remember the first game I competed in as a soccer player,” Griener said. “I really liked it. I liked being a part of something that had an outcome and was competitive. I thrive on the competitive side of things.”
But then his family made a choice to leave Sandy and move to Lindon, a move that at first was hard on Griener.
“I have a lot of fun memories about Sandy,” Griener said. “It was a great community to grow up in, and I remember being really mad about leaving Sandy. I had a lot of friends that I was leaving.”
But Griener made new friends in Lindon, and he kept up his competitive swimming. By age 12 he was training with the high school team. He won several state titles for club swimming and soon found himself competing in the high school ranks. He finished second twice at the state swimming meets and won an Academic All-State award for combining swimming with a 3.97 GPA.
“Swimming taught me how to work hard,” Griener said. “People don’t realize it, but there are not a lot of things as hard as training for swimming. It’s just you staring at the bottom of the swimming pool for three hours every day. It toughens you physically, but also mentally.”
Griener’s life was on track for what he thought he would become. He was at BYU and on the swimming team and it was almost time to make a decision for a mission. But although he knew that’s where his life was taking him, he also knew it wasn’t the right choice for him.
“I needed to figure out what I wanted to do,” Griener said. “So I took a summer sales position for a security company and went door to door.”
He also checked out of BYU and landed another swimming scholarship for a small school in California. For him, this was the right choice.
“I did one more year of swimming in college but felt it was time to move on from it as well,” Griener said. “I had trained so hard all my life in swimming and I had pushed my body as far as I could. I had put in as much effort and dedication as I could. My skills had taken me as far as they could. Mentally, I was as tough as any swimmer out there, but my body is what it is. I don’t have the best frame for a swimmer.”
Griener then spent a year knocking on doors in Cleveland and found he was very good at sales. He was already making good money, so he went into sales full time and left school for good.
Griener was now living in California and had become a sales manager for a solar sales company. He was still taking part as a hobby in his new interest of poker. There are some large poker rooms in the Los Angeles area, and Griener was playing in small tournaments. At the same time he was putting in 50 to 60 hours each week for the solar company. He wanted to see if poker might be a way to go when, in 2014, it happened.
“I won $85,000 in one tournament that year,” Griener said. “I had never gotten even close to that before and I was ecstatic about it.”
Two months later, Griener won $19,000 and added another large jackpot one month after.
“I was burnt out on the sales job and this gave me the push I needed to seek a competitive side of me and make money at it,” Griener said.
So, in 2015, Griener stepped away from the solar company, working only as a consultant when it was necessary. He focused on his poker game and entered as many tournaments as he could.
“The thing with poker is, you can’t always expect to make money in each tournament,” Griener said. “It is the long game you have to focus on, just like in golf. For every time you make money in a tournament, there are 10 tournaments you don’t. It is a game of skill, but it also has its down swings.”
Griener’s biggest win came this year, in a tournament called the LA Poker Classic. Griener entered the tournament by doing well in a smaller tournament. From there he was able to finish in third place at the classic and bring home $430,000.
“I was focused and I played one of my best tournament runs ever,” Griener said.
Griener credits his swimming and his summer sales positions for getting him into the elite ranks of poker.
“Swimming taught me the mental toughness I need in a long tournament,” Griener said. “But going door to door sharpened my ability to read people’s emotions and get to know what they are feeling in a short amount of time. It helps me when I am at the table. I need to know my opponent better than they know me.”