PCA 2014: The Timex Family
Several years ago when Mike "Timex" McDonald was playing a poker tournament in Aruba, his parents stood in the hotel convention center and tried to pick their boy out of the crowd. They remembered that moment this afternoon as they stood in Atlantis' Imperial Ballroom, home to the 2014 Main Event.
"It was a huge room like this, and you couldn't see anything," said McDonald's dad, Rick. "Then he busted, so it was just a nice family vacation."
Finding Mike in the crowd today is much easier. There are cameras following him wherever he goes. There is a microphone on his collar. There are reporters tracking his every move. Mike is taking it all in stride as he sits down among the final eight players in the Main Event. It's easier for him, because he's won a European Poker Tour event before. He has the experience.
"We're feeling it more than he is," Rick said. "It's hard to watch."
Despite Mike's six million dollars worth of live poker winnings, his parents don't often travel from their home in Waterloo, Ontario to see their son play.
"We watch the live stream and the PokerStars Blog," said Rick, a software developer for Blackberry.
The parents arrived four days ago thanks to a room Mike had comped at the hotel. When this tourney started, there was barely an inclination that Mike would come this far. Now, fate has again smiled on the McDonald family as the vacationing parents get to watch their son play for $1.8 million and the distinction of becoming the first two-time EPT Main Event champion.
Mike's mom Patti, an accountant, said, "It's exciting, but it's a little nerve-wracking because it just puts more pressure on him, right?"
Maybe so, but to look at Mike, you wouldn't know it. As I chatted with his parents, Mike sat less the five feet away aiming his patented Timex Glare at his phone, seemingly unbothered by his parents giving interviews about their son's youth and transition into big time poker.
"He's much like he used to be," Rick said. "We've been really happy how he's grown with it."
Mike's mom nodded. "It's been awesome to see him keep a level head about him and not go crazy," she said.
Mike comes by his love for poker honestly. He's the firstborn of a family with a math background. In the years before Mike and his younger sister were born, Rick and Patti used to play a lot of Bridge. In later years, the parents started to play board games with their kids.
"Sometimes I sit there and think, 'Why am I playing games with a professional gamer?'" Patti said with a laugh.
Mike's parents are secure in their roles. They're here for moral support and to enjoy the unique experience of watching their son become a millionaire...again.
"I always give him some good advice," Rick said with a smile. "I always tell him to do what he thinks is best. That's my advice."
Good advice, Dad. Good advice.
Want to follow along? Here's how. The Main Event is on the Main Event page, where there's hand-by-hand coverage and latest chip counts in the panel at the top, and feature pieces below. We'll be reporting with a one-hour delay as the action is also being screened on PCA Live.
Brad Willis is the PokerStars Head of Blogging