EPT11 Malta: Matt Adams, part of the Malta family
If you bump into someone in Malta and the subject turns to poker chances are they either play poker for a living or work for a company who are in the poker industry. Matt Adams is someone who'd be in the centre of that Venn diagram. "I've lived in Malta for a year, have been playing poker for 10 years and for a living for nine of those ten years," he tells the PokerStars Blog during a break in play. "Last year I stopped playing professionally and started working for a staking company doing coaching, strategy and video content."
When that company moved out to Malta, Adams jumped at the chance to relocate from Harrogate as it was already a move he'd already considered making once. "I was going to move to Malta when I was playing poker but I decided not to in the end. I had some friends out here so it seemed like a good idea at the time. But I stayed in England for another year, but ended up here anyway."
It all means his commute to this tournament is a lot shorter than it might have been. "I live two minutes from here, but I don't think there's such a thing as home advantage. The only advantage you get is if you recognise some of the people. That happens with any tournament wherever you're in the world. A lot of people I know here are people I've met in tournaments away from Malta."
But in terms of the size of poker tournaments in Malta the EPT is the biggest this island has seen and as a professional player or semi-professional player Adams was not going to miss it. "As soon as it got announced a lot of people were very excited about it. We've been waiting about six months for the EPT to get here and it's finally here and it's lived up to our expectations. It's been really good so far. I played the IPT Main Event and the High Roller but if I bust the Main Event I may just end up going out socialising for the week. The good thing about these is I get to see people I don't see that often."
And when those friends have gone back to the corners of the globe and everyone who's invaded Malta for the EPT goes home, what will the local poker scene be like then? "It's kind of slow to be honest," he admits. "Unless there's a big event on there's not much going on. Cash game action is regular but it not especially juicy or especially good. We don't have any particularly decent live tournaments. There'll be the standard casino schedule of a €20 re-buy, €100 freezeout stuff like that but there's nothing bigger than €100 unless a festival is on."
So if you come to play poker in Malta it's usually to play online then. "If you want to play poker in Malta for a living you have to play online," states Adam unequivocally. "If you really wanted to you could grind it out live at the cash table. With the hours you'd have to put in it wouldn't be worth it though."
So if your choice of career involves a lot of time spent inside starring at a screen what advantage is there to living in Malta as opposed to elsewhere? "To me there's the weather and I like the fact that everything is very close. It takes me two minutes to get to the casino, two minutes to get to a night out, two minutes to a restaurant, two minutes to the gym. In England it may take 30 minutes to do most of those things. Maybe that's the mind-set of a lazy poker player but it's also convenient. I don't need a car here, I can walk everywhere."
So if there's no live poker community to speak of because most players are online grinders is there at least a tight knit online poker community? "I don't think so, because it's quite multi-cultural. There's a lot of small groups. There's a lot of Dutch guys, a bunch of Swedish guys, some of them live together. There's not really many grind houses the same way there is in England though. I lived in a grind house in England for a couple of years and know lots of people who do, perhaps because the cost of living is so high. But out here you can a really nice place for not a lot of money, so there's not that much need to share. There's a community in other areas of life though, most of my friends play football Monday and Wednesday night but I'm too lazy to do that so I just go to the gym."
But as Adams alludes to the proximity of most everything on Malta makes this a place where, like in a popular 80s Boston sitcom, everybody knows your name. "Everyone knows everyone because it's such a small place anyway. The poker community here is a small part of a small island. All the poker players know each other and you'll be with a friend of a friend and then talk to someone else. All of my friends are from all over the place, not just from England."
So Adams likes the place but what of his new duel roll as part poker player, part poker coach and writer? "I like it a lot more, there's less swings because I get a regular income as well as being able to concentrate on playing my best without worrying where my rent money is coming from or if I can afford to eat," he says although he also admits there is the odd downside. "The hours are a bit all over the place, having to get up to go to work after a night's grinding is a hassle. But I'm very lucky, my boss is really good. If he's knows I've been up late he'll just say come in later or do a half day."
Has the transition been tough? "I think if I was still living in the UK I'd miss playing the circuit a lot but because I'm here it's almost like being on the circuit full time if that makes sense. All I do is hang out with poker players all the time, go out for drinks, talk strategy."
This is the 29-year-old's first EPT Main Event it was going well until a certain high roller sat down. "I've got Connor Drinan on my direct left. I actually had quite a good table, but he late registered after two hours. I was sitting there quite comfortably picking up pots but since then it's been quite tough. I knew it was him but you can always tell if someone's good by the way they handle their chips and the cards. The way they place chips in the pot, their bet sizing."
With that Adams goes back to the tables but if his first shot at an EPT Main Event title should falter, at least the walk home won't take too long.