(Editor's Note: This interview took place in February of 2022)
Adam Levy is well known to experienced regulars. During Black Friday, he was considered one of the strongest tournament players. However, Adam couldn’t keep up with his poker progress and switched to cryptocurrencies. Now his main hobby is NFTs.
– Hello, Adam. Are you in Los Angeles now?
– Yes, I like everything here, although it’s a little cool now. But New York, where I was born, is also a great city.
– Do you often go back there?
– I would like to do it more often. The last time I went was to an NFT conference in October.
-- I was sure you were into this. What should we pay attention to?
– I don’t give financial advice, but now I’m totally into CloneX. I've been in this project from the very beginning. I am also actively involved in the development of LionSharePoker, we are trying to combine NFTs and poker, holding tournaments with voice communication in Discord, and training beginners. The community is small, but very friendly and fun. I don’t consider myself an NFT expert, rather a fish, but this topic is very interesting to me, especially when it can be combined with poker or other areas.
– Now you’re only doing this, don’t you play poker seriously anymore?
– You won’t believe it, but I had an ordinary job. Resigned last week from my position as an analyst at Apruvd. I got a job with them in the midst of a pandemic and I really liked everything. I’ve been a poker player all my life, then I took a long break, and at the very beginning of the pandemic, I tried to return. I played for a couple of months for zero on various American sites but began to get tired quickly. I asked myself: “What are you doing? Are you sure you want this?” My love for the game did not go away, but I did not want it to become my main activity again. I will sometimes play major series online and the WSOP Main Event, nothing more. Now I’m at a crossroads again, wondering what to do next. I don’t even know what I want to become, probably an NFT consultant.
– In 2019, you were still quite active in playing poker, in 2020, of course, there was no game anywhere, and you also missed the last World Series?
– I played several tournaments but didn’t win any money. It was a shame that I was eliminated from the main on the last hand of the first day.
– A noteworthy hand?
– Nothing special, on the flop with a king I put in aces against AK. Not the most pleasant spot to bust out of the main.
– We couldn’t help but ask you about Phil Hellmuth and his famous “Idiot from Northern Europe.”
– I have nothing to do with this hand, although I was at that table.
– That’s right, there were two of Phil’s famous tirades at your table. You're the "honey, he called my raise with QT" guy.
– Yes, and all this happened in one day.
This hand gave the world several of Hellmuth’s catchphrases at once.
– Honey, he called my raise with QT.
– This idiot called with *** QT. I promise he will bust out in the next hour.
– How do such players get so far?
“He can’t even spell the word “poker” correctly.
“I made an aggressive call,” Adam responded to all these attacks with a smile, which infuriated Phil even more.
– Did the famous JRB bustout also happen before your eyes?
– Yes, at the same table. That hand is actually my favorite in history. It happened about an hour before our sweat session with Hellmuth. On day 4 of the 2008 Main Event, some Russian guy [Sarkis Akopyan] raised with T9o, JRB shoved in 20 blinds with AQ, and for some reason, this guy decided to call, haha. When the cards were revealed, JRB said that he liked the call, but usually, he doesn't have much luck in such spots. One of his best flops came up – A28. But on the turn the situation became tense. JRB even on the flop began to ask the dealer not to open some cards, it seemed a seven and a jack. Six came, and he already began to celebrate the victory. And I, like a true Internet nerd, pointed out that a seven is still suitable for the Russian. And of course, it was the one who came. Everyone at the table started laughing, but JRB took the elimination very well. It's better to see it all with your own eyes.
It’s incredible that so many years have passed and people still remember those hands very well. So they remembered me as “the guy with QT.”
– With QT you just protected BB? Phil wasn't playing for the camera, he was really shocked that someone called his raise with such a hand.
– I was on the button. He opened 100BB deep and I called, haha. And at that time this was not something unusual. Of course, there were players back then who would say it was a bad call, but in reality, it was a pretty standard play.
– In those years, you were considered one of the top online regs and were probably two levels better than the live stars. But you've never recorded training videos or collaborated with sites like CardRunners. How did you work on the game?
– In poker, I owe almost everything to Chad “lilholdem954” Batista. We met in 2005. By that time, I had been playing poker for a year and was thinking about quitting because nothing was working out at all. Back then there were no materials at all, like CardRunners, we figured everything out on our own. Lilholdem looked like a guy who had just left a children's colony, where he was sentenced for some serious crime. And I was a naive, timid Jewish boy, but for some reason, we became friends and grinded together all day long. It happens that with some people you immediately feel a special connection, in my life, Chad turned out to be such a person. I remember back in 2005, he and I came up with an innovative strategy – sometimes calling with aces preflop. They wrote about it on the forum, and then I received a personal message: “What are you doing? Don't tell anyone about this." Then everyone opened 3x, and we raised 2.2-2.5x. Now all this sounds very primitive, but in those years it seemed like something revolutionary. And we got to this point without programs, apparently thanks to some kind of talent. But the game became more and more difficult, I could not cope with my ego and gradually fell behind the field.
– Chad was a true legend online, his hyper-aggressive style was impressive even for his time. Probably, he can be called one of the most prominent representatives of street poker.
– Undoubtedly. And he had an absolutely incredible sense of sensitivity. He could have made an absolutely terrible call with A4o for 40BB, which turned out to be correct in that particular spot.
– Did you watch him play and learn from him?
– No, I was too tight for that. Before 2008, I was scared to 3-bet light. But then even calm solid poker brought in a lot of money. And Chad really was a real revolutionary, he became the first to play 4-bets preflop and so on. We had completely opposite styles, but we had a lot in common. In general, we had a good understanding of the basic concepts of poker.
– We received several questions on Twitter. Some are like some kind of inside jokes. Maybe you'll appreciate the humor. For example, they ask if you can name all the winners of the WSOP main events since 2005.
– Yes, these are my friends from LionSharepoker. I was once asked this question in our discord, and then it became a local meme. But I really can easily name all the champions before 2010. That year I took 12th place, and the future winner, Duhamel, knocked me out. It is difficult to describe the disappointment of such a result.
– This is not your only deep run in the Main, is it?
– In 2008, when those same hands with QT and JRB were played, I took 48th. And in 2018 I was in the top 200. The WSOP Main is by far the best tournament on the planet; there is nothing even close. As I already said, my interest in poker has faded, but I try not to miss that tournament.
– They ask you to tell me your most unpleasant memory related to poker.
– Of course, I was eliminated in 12th place in the main, although ironically this is the best live result in my entire career. I then received more than $600k, but stopped one step away from real success and experienced very conflicting feelings.
There's something else though. Many years ago I made it to the top 100 of the LAPC Main Event. At that time I had not yet fully understood the 4-bet strategy; they caused me terrible discomfort. There was such a strong regular at Full Tilt – Tim "begsclutch" Begley, in one hand he made a small 3-bet against me. We talked a bit, but I didn’t know that this was his first major tournament. I convinced myself that this is a very aggressive player, and against him, it would be a good idea to shove 50BB with T8o. 40 people before the money! He thought for a very long time, but still called with kings, haha. Not only did I feel terrible about playing like that, but I also had to drive home through Los Angeles during rush hour.
I also remember how I crashed out of the FTOPS Main Event in 15th place and curled up on the couch in the fetal position. It was 5 AM, no one was around... Poker does strange things to our brains.
-- I won a $2,500 FTOPS tournament, and the next session in another tournament I got run over with one out and was eliminated in 12th place [one of the podcast co-hosts is former online MTT regular Jake Thule]. I was so tilted that I didn't finish the Sunday session, even though I had several deep runs in expensive tournaments, and I gave the computer to a friend who barely knew the rules.
– Yes, quite a few monitors were broken before my eyes. I've never suffered from this myself, but for Chad, it was completely common.
– This is what makes poker unique. Where else can literally one card change a person’s life?
– Agree. Some people are lucky enough to be born resistant to psychological changes, but I had to work a lot on this aspect.
– Remember Mark Newhouse, who was eliminated from the main tournament in 9th place two years in a row? He earned $1.5 million in these tournaments, but first places were paid $10 million. He never recovered from such a blow, went bankrupt, and even went into debt. Now he seems to be fine. This can probably be compared to what happens to lottery winners.
– Immediately after Black Friday, I reached the final table, but I didn’t understand anything about poker [Ed. this story was told by another presenter, Adam Smith]. I didn’t even understand the positions, I only knew the general rules. I started the final as the chip leader and was eliminated in 7th place. For the first one, I would get $50k. I already dreamed that if I won, I would quit my job and move to Mexico to grind online. This would be the worst decision of my life. The only thing that’s probably worse is that I didn’t buy Bitcoin in 2013.
– Everyone has similar stories. I was leading two tables of the WSOP Circuit Main Event in 2014, but I was eliminated in eighth and received $30k [Ed. the third co-host of the podcast is Ben Mintz]. For first they paid more than $200k and I was definitely not ready for that amount at that time. But now I work for Dave Portnoy [multi-millionaire and founder of the website Barstool Sports].
-- I’m starting to think that I should treat my 12th place the same way. If I had won the main then, I probably would never have been interested in NFTs.
– What are your poker plans?
– I love the big series WCOOP and SCOOP. But I have to go to Mexico to play them, so I missed the last ones due to work. But I’ll probably get ready for the next ones. Sometimes I play in closed games. Remember the story with Paul Pierce?
– Were you in that game?
-- I wasn’t at the table that particular day, but Paul and I had played in the same house a couple of weeks before.
– Finally, give some poker advice to beginners.
– If you want to make money playing poker, learn to fold more often than you want to.