Derby poker player comes to grips with big World Series winnings

As Maxx Coleman took a moment to consider his 21st-place finish in the World Series of Poker’s main event — and $285,408 in prize money — he couldn’t look at it as a windfall but as a what-if.

“I feel disappointed I didn’t get farther,” said Coleman, 23, who is a 2012 Wichita State graduate from Derby. “Everyone who finishes 19 to 27, it all pays the same. I know if you make the final nine, you’re guaranteed $800,000. The winner gets $8.3 million.

“I was 20 people away from $8.3 million.”

Coleman was playing this past week in his first World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. While there are qualifiers to get into the Main Event, he paid the $10,000 entry fee.

In his last hand, he had gone all-in with a suited queen and jack to David Benefield’s off-suit ace and three. The flop — 2, 4, 10 — didn’t help Coleman, and the fourth card was a 5 and gave Benefield a straight, ending Coleman’s tournament.

A frustrating end, but it was an experience Coleman won’t soon forget.

“It’s the only tournament where, still early in the tournament, they’re filming everything for TV,” he said. “It’s a way different experience. It’s so big and so publicized.

“I hope I look good on TV.”

Coleman laughed.

There’s no doubt that Coleman is having fun in his young career.

“I really enjoy it,” he said. “I like the freedom that it gives me to create my own hours. I have lots of freedom.”

But this is a career, so does it ever feel like a job?

“Sometimes it can, but really, not most of the time,” he said. “I’m just playing and constantly trying to get better, play your best and talk with other players who are also good. I want to see how they would play a certain hand and play better and just play your best.”

Coleman started playing poker with friends and family, sitting around the kitchen table. When he was 18, he started planning on a career as a poker player.

“I still went to (WSU),” said Coleman, who majored in business. “But (poker) was how I paid for everything.… I thought (a poker career) was definitely a possibility, but I still wanted to get my degree.”

It’s a responsible decision, but then, Coleman has worked to be that responsible guy.

“My parents saw how I handled myself, knew I was really responsible,” he said. “They’ve been supportive of me, as long as I got my degree.”

Coleman won $128,000 in an online tournament about three years ago, he said.

And just like then, he plans to be smart with his earnings.

“I put most of it in the bank, and help my family for sure,” he said. “I just want to try to be responsible with the money. I don’t want to just go blow it.”

Reach Joanna Chadwick at 316-268-6270 or Follow her on Twitter: @joannachadwick.