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Two-Time Super High Roller Bowl Champion Timothy Adams Has Already Cashed for $5.9 Million This Year

How The Canadian Pro With $24.4 Million In Career Earnings Rose To The Pinnacle of Tournament Poker

by Erik Fast |  Published: Jun 03, 2020

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Timothy Adams has cashed for more money than any other live poker tournament player so far in 2020. In fact, his $5,904,777 in scores since the new year dawned was more than double the amount that any other player had earned before the casinos were closed worldwide.

The 33-year-old Canadian poker pro kicked off the year with a spree of big scores in Australia, making four final tables down under, cashing for nearly $2.2 million and winning two titles along the way. He took down a $25,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em event at the Australian Poker Open and followed that up by winning the inaugural $250,000 AUD buy-in Super High Roller Bowl Australia for $1.5 million less than a week later.

In March Adams made his way to Russia for the MILLIONS Super High Roller Sochi series. He got his feet wet with a final-table finish in one of the early high-stakes events, earning $116,000 for a fifth-place showing in a $25,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em event. Just 41 days after winning the Super High Roller Bowl Australia, Adams outlasted a field of 40 entries in the $250,000 buy-in Super High Roller Bowl Russia to earn the title and the top prize of $3.6 million. Adams became just the second player to ever win two SHRB titles, after Justin Bonomo won both the Las Vegas and Macau events held in 2018.

His incredible run didn’t just get going in 2020. He made a total of 13 final tables in 2019, winning four titles and cashing for nearly $6.3 million along the way. Adams now has more than $24.4 million in lifetime live tournament earnings, which puts him in 20th place on poker’s all-time money list. He is currently the second-highest earning Canadian player of all-time, behind only Daniel Negreanu, who has $40.9 million in career cashes.

While many of Adams’ biggest victories have come in high roller events, he is also a World Series of Poker bracelet winner. He defeated a field of 750 entries in the $2,500 buy-in four-max no-limit hold’em event at the 2012 WSOP to earn the gold hardware and the top prize of $392,476.

Card Player recently spoke to Adams during the live tournament shutdown that resulted from the global coronavirus outbreak. In the conversation, he discussed how he first got into the game, his rise to the highest stakes in the world, his back-to-back SHRB titles, and more.

Card Player: When did you first start to play poker, and how did you find the game?

Timothy Adams: First year of university when I was 18. Didn’t know what poker even was and my roommate played, had a set of chips and everything. There were quite a lot of other people that played poker around campus and we started a nightly game in our residence rec room, usually $5 MTT (multi-table tournament) style or even $0.25-$0.50. I think people were buying in for $5-$20 and playing shallow-stacked cash games. After that, I eventually got someone in the residence game who was playing on Full Tilt Poker to send me some money on there. I kept losing but I was very interested.

Adams at the WSOPCP: What about the game piqued your interest?

TA: I just felt right away that the game was very complex and that made me very intrigued. It felt like there were endless situations and possibilities to figure out, and I guess that’s what has kept me interested for all these years.

CP: Do you think you have any particular skills or personality traits that helped you excel at poker?

TA: I think what has helped me a lot throughout the years, especially in the early years, is that I have a good memory. I tend to remember very random things and could recall a lot of poker hands in detail. Nowadays, a good memory still helps a lot, but I think the most important trait is having a good work ethic.

CP: Do you have a background playing other strategy games or sports? Did any of your immediate family, parents, or siblings play?

TA: I had no background in strategy games growing up. I played a lot of sports growing up and was lucky enough to have a great childhood with a lot of active friends. My main sports I played were ice-hockey and soccer. I’ve always been driven by competition and I’ve always loved tournament formats in sports.

CP: When you made the decision to go pro, was the move supported by your family?

TA: I think it was a gradual thing regarding poker being a part of my life. My parents didn’t have much of a clue what poker was and at first were worried that it would take over my studies. I made sure to complete my degree in commerce at McMaster University, mainly for my parents, even though I was playing so much poker throughout my university days.

CP: You won a WSOP bracelet nearly eight years ago. What did that victory mean for you at that point? Did it change the trajectory of your career at all, from your point of view?

TA: It was essentially a stepping stone for me to start playing more live poker. I was mainly playing online at that point. Once you have a bit of success playing live, it definitely gives you the itch to keep going.

CP: How did the transition to playing high roller and super high roller events happen?

TA: I was basically having success playing both online and live and had the opportunity to play bigger stakes. That’s generally the progression for most people jumping into the high roller tournaments.

CP: Do you remember the first high roller $25,000 or above you played? Was it any more stressful, or were you able to take the changes in stride?

TA: I played the $50,000 buy-in event at European Poker Tour Barcelona in 2012. That was quite new to me as it was my first time playing poker in Europe. I was also playing the biggest buy-in of my life. I don’t think I was overly nervous, but I did punt off my stack on day 2 in terrible fashion, so there were likely some nerves that I was oblivious to.

CP: Did you find success in super high rollers right away, or was there a bit of getting accustomed to their differences compared with other events?

TA: I played a few super high rollers between 2012 to 2014 or so. There were only a few of them per year compared to nowadays where there are a few at each stop. I had a couple decent runs in my first few of them, in Monaco and London, which probably got me hooked. (Author’s note: Adams finished fourth in a €100,000 buy-in at the EPT Grand Final in Monaco in 2013 for $627,525 and sixth in the €50,000 buy-in at EPT London later that year for another $280,793). I just loved the atmosphere. They were intense but at the same time, very casual. The banter at the table was always friendly and pleasant.

CP: What is your favorite part of playing primarily high rollers? What’s the best aspect of this niche part of the live tournament circuit, for you? Conversely, what’s your least favorite part?

TA: Nowadays, most of my opponents have become close friends of mine. So it’s just nice to meet up with people you consider friends at these poker stops, play poker against them, hang out off the felt, etc. It’s just really fun. Also, I love playing and competing so for me, it’s the most fun thing I can do. I guess the least favorite part is when you fall into issues with bad sleep patterns. It’s always a challenge to fight fatigue and exhaustion. But over the years, I’ve found certain ways to deal with that. I minimize things like drinking alcohol, try to always get eight hours of sleep, even if it means sacrificing going for breakfast or going to the gym. If there is a spa at the hotel, I’ll usually start my day in the sauna or steam room. That always re-energizes me.

CP: Your four largest career scores have all come with the past year and a few months. You’ve had by far the two largest years of your career in 2019 and already in 2020. What do you attribute your recent success to? Have you made any changes in training, lifestyle, approach to the game?

TA: I think the biggest thing is just putting in work away from the tables. Trying to improve and get better takes a lot of effort behind the scenes. Playing is the fun part and that’s what I try to tell myself. To enjoy the game once you’re playing because the tedious and strenuous parts are sitting for many hours by yourself trying to improve your understanding of the game.

CP: So you were in Sochi and playing the last few events of the partypoker MILLIONS Super High Roller series there while the poker world started to shut down due to the pandemic. Can you talk about the atmosphere there? Was it hard to know the best course of action, in regards to continuing to play or not?

TA: To be honest, in Sochi, we were in a bit of a bubble. The tournament venue was in a pretty isolated area. There was definitely lots of talk about COVID at the tables, people were being careful with how much they’d touch the chips and also people were sanitizing and washing hands like crazy.

CP: You recently took to social media to offer some complimentary poker coaching to Twitter followers who were self-isolating during the pandemic. How did you come up with that idea?

TA: I just thought it’d be a nice way to give back a little back to the poker community. Even just a small gesture like giving up some of my time. The idea actually was a bit inspired through my friend Sam Greenwood who posted on Twitter that he was willing to answer any poker questions people had. I thought that was kind of cool so that’s what gave me the idea.

CP: Would you say that you are a better player today than ever before?

TA: I mean, you should always be improving, in theory. I am sure I will look back at how I play now in a year from now and see a bunch of holes in my game. That’s the great thing about poker, there is always so much to learn. So to answer the question, yes I think I am the best I’ve ever been at this given moment, but I feel obligated that that is the norm.

CP: Can you share your thoughts on winning back-to-back Super High Roller Bowl events? Where would that accomplishment rank, for you, in your list of poker achievements?

TA: Yeah, for me that was probably the pinnacle of my poker accomplishments. It is always amazing to win a poker tournament, but clearly winning back to back SHRB events was something special. I am sure I will appreciate it even more in the future when I look back. Right now, I am just kind of riding the wave.

CP: You are now sitting inside the top 10 in the 2020 Card Player Player of the Year race. Would winning an award like a POY, that seeks to compare players based on their performance throughout a year as opposed to any single event, be meaningful to you? Where do you fall on the spectrum between players who care very much about accolades, and those who are just in it to win money?

TA: Winning money is the most important thing. Craving external validation can be a slippery slope if that is what you’re focused on. Of course, winning things like POY is nice and I would be pleased to win. I do take a look at the rankings systems from time to time.

CP: Do you envision poker being your only career? If it weren’t, what else would you be interested in pursuing?

TA: Definitely something in sports. Something like sports psychology has always been interesting to me, it clearly has many overlaps with poker.

CP: Do you have any other goals, perhaps outside of poker, that you are shooting for in the next few years?

TA: Just to remain consistent. Staying healthy physically and mentally are always top priorities.

CP: What are your goals as a player in the next few years?

TA: It sounds boring but it’s just to keep showing up and getting better. It’s all about the journey. ♠