After winning $388,054 at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas early Monday morning, Don Maas was back at his job at the Cedar Rapids Fire Department Monday afternoon for a shift scheduled until 7 a.m. Tuesday.
Maas, the 58-year-old captain at the CRFD’s Central Station, didn’t strut into the station Monday proclaiming he didn’t need to work anymore.
“A lot of people have already asked me ‘You going to retire now?’ No, it’s not life-changing to me,” Maas said shortly after his return to work.
“Yeah, I’m going to pay a lot of bills. But first, I’ve got to find out how much they’re going to take out (for taxes) so I know where I’m at.”
Maas spent 40 hours at poker tables between Friday morning and just after midnight (Pacific time) Monday at the Rio Casino playing in the WSOP’s Seniors No Limit Hold ‘Em Championship.
He finished second to poker professional Dan Heimiller of Los Angeles in the event. Heimiller won $627,462.
The tourney began with 4,425 players aged 50 and over who paid a $1,000 entry fee. The top 468 players made money in the tourney, including Dennis Schneider of Oxford ($8,482), and Gregory Gates of Iowa City and former University of Iowa NCAA-champion wrestler Bruce Kinseth of Coralville (both $2,986).
Sunday’s play started at 11 a.m., Pacific time, with 32 players remaining. It ended just after midnight when short-stacked Maas went all-in on the final table’s 128th hand and lost.
Maas had been scheduled to fly home Sunday, but his last option of the day was an 11:30 p.m. flight. So he needed a stand-in for part of his Monday shift.
The biggest challenge Maas had was just getting into the tourney once he reached Las Vegas.
He inadvertently left his Iowa driver’s license in a tray as he went through the TSA line at Eastern Iowa Airport, and didn’t realize it until he checked in at his hotel.
The WSOP balked at letting him participate without a state ID, but finally relented after telling him he wouldn’t be paid if he cashed in the tournament unless he produced that ID. His wife, Jeri, retrieved the license from TSA and overnighted it to Las Vegas.
Maas presented it at the WSOP cage early Monday morning when he collected his whopping check, which dwarfed his previous-best poker payout by, oh, about $381,000.
“I won $7,000 at a special event at Tama,” he said.
Maas has been on the CRFD for 24 years. He is a poker amateur.
“It’s for the challenge of it,” he said. “I can’t play sports anymore. I can’t golf because my shoulders are shot.”
Maybe the 24-hour shifts of a firefighter helped gear him for those three long and fruitful days and nights in Vegas.
“I’m used to being up for long stretches,” said Maas. “I was never tired the whole time.
“I just felt so calm. I just never really got excited. Everybody came up to me and said ‘Holy Cow!’ I just said ‘That’s just the way it is.’ I’m not an excitable type of guy.”
Maas’ two sons are firefighters. Clint is in Breckinridge, Colo., and Luke is with the CRFD.
“To see him do what he did in a big tournament is pretty impressive,” Luke Maas said. “The whole family is so proud.”
“It couldn’t happen to a harder-worker and better guy,” said Central Station battalion chief Brian Gibson. “He’s not a gambler who’s willing to bet his house. He kind of does it as a hobby and has fun with it.”
Maas lives between Cedar Rapids and Norway. His mailing address is Norway. For part of WSOP’s Internet streaming of the tourney’s final table, the announcer told the viewers that he was from Norway, the nation. A few Iowans tweeted him, and that got corrected. But he was still referred to as the “Norwegian Iowan.”
Some of Maas’ co-workers at Central Station watched the live-streaming of the tourney together on a small laptop computer late Sunday night and into early Monday morning. They followed the updates at the WSOP’s site from Sunday afternoon forward.
Late Sunday, Nick Miller of the CRFD tweeted that Maas owes his co-workers “sooo much ice cream!”
Maas’ daughter, Josi Teneyck of Cedar Rapids, said her father “is the type of person who puts everyone’s needs in front of his own, so the fact that he took a few days to enjoy himself and ended up on top is just amazing. Poker is just a fun hobby for him. The fact that it came with such a huge prize doesn’t hurt.
“Now I just have to remind him who his favorite child is.”