Adam Adler was meant to play poker. His initials are A.A. ’Nuff said. But his poker achievements should come as no surprise since he’s accustomed to succeeding at everything he attempts, including tennis (an All-American at South Carolina who played professionally for two years) and business (started and sold a very successful social-networking Internet company that went public in 2007). Recently he won an undercard event at the Borgata Poker Open for $59K and finished second in a USPC event. Now he’s jumping into the world of online poker room ownership. Here’s a little peek into Adler’s life.
Hometown: Ft. Lauderdale.
Schooling: Davie Academy, then University of South Carolina.
Nickname: In college, everybody called me “Double A” because of my initials. I guess my dad could tell I might need two aces to win some tournaments. (laughs)
How, and when, did you get started in poker? I started in college, and then our coach used to take us on spring-break trips to Las Vegas, so that was the first time I ever played live, during the spring-break trips. And I really liked the game. Then I came back home and bought poker books, and I studied online, like on PokerTube. I’d research all the old clips of the pros playing and I’d really try to understand why they’re playing these hands and in what spots, and I’d try to get better. Then in ’07 I went out the World Series just for a week and I chopped a Venetian event out there (for $144K). … At the end of ’08 I sold most of my shares (in my online business) and I ended up playing full time.
Where do you play locally? I play most of the multitable tournaments at the Hard Rock (in Hollywood). And recently I’ve been playing cash. My dad bought a house in Aventura, so I’ve been going out to the Gulfstream a lot and playing $5-$10 with my dad out there.
Favorite hold’em hand: Definitely pocket aces, but if I can play in position any suited connectors 4-5 and above.
Do you play any mixed games? I love Chinese poker. But I played in a half Omaha-half hold’em cash game at the Rio. I can play mixed games, but mostly Omaha, hold’em and Chinese, and a little bit of razz.
How do you feel about online poker? I play only a little bit just to learn, just for practice honestly. I try to play live like 99 percent of the time; I don’t play much online. I feel like my advantage, my edge over players, really lies in my ability to read bet-sizing tells, physical tells, my read on the players. The psychology of the game is how I’m able to have consistent results. This year, my first year playing (full time), I’ve won a little over $500K in cashes, and it’s all based on my reads of the players. I really can’t do that online. I see my friends do it, and I admire how they do it, but I just don’t feel like it’s poker for me.
Tell me about your tennis career. I was playing in juniors and was in the top 10 in the country every year. And then in 2003 I got a full scholarship to play ball at the University of South Carolina and we were like top 10 in the country. We made the Sweet 16 in the NCAAs. And then when I graduated in ’07 I played on the tour until my (business took off) so much that I had to stop playing.
Greatest victory on the court: I clinched against the University of Tennessee at the SEC tournament. It was 3-3 in the match score and it came down to my match. We would only make it to the NCAA tournament (we hadn’t missed it in 13 years) if I won. So I ended up winning 7-6. As far as the best professional (match), I beat Juan Monaco in 2005 and he’s ranked in the top 20 in the world right now.
Who’s tougher, the tennis player or the poker player, and why? Mentally and physically, probably the tennis player. When I was playing tournament tennis, at the level I was playing at, all the guys were just phenomenal. In poker I still see a lot more weak spots than I did see in tennis.
What’s worse, getting knocked out of a tennis tournament or a poker tournament? For me right now it’s definitely the poker. I take the game so seriously. I’m traveling all over now. For me, when I get knocked out it is so devastating.
You recently won an event at the Borgata Poker Open. How was that? I actually wasn’t running good in my first two events. I got it all-in with aces preflop in the first tournament and lost, and got it all-in with kings to aces in the second one and lost that hand. I went up there and only played three events. I didn’t even play the main. So I was pretty happy. I ran well. The final table was pretty tough, so I was happy to beat those guys. I played David Baker heads-up and he has (just) over a million in earnings; he’s really good.
Greatest poker accomplishment: I made the final table at a 2009 World Series event out of 2,000 players. (He finished fourth for $162K.) All of my family got to watch. I had like 50-60 guys watching me there, and it was filmed live on ESPN 360 so my mom, my dad and my sister got to watch me play live.
What do you think of Florida players? The game is just coming out here. I think players are at a real disadvantage when they’re playing the $100 buy-in ($5-$10) cash games because they’re playing only like 10 big blinds each. So when you’re playing so short-stacked the actual skill of the game comes into play a lot less. There’s a lot of shoving going on, there’s not a lot of post-flop play; it’s a lot more preflop. So I think the players in Florida have a lot more to learn in comparison to the players in Las Vegas or California or up north. The guys in Jersey are at a different level, but I think the Florida players are definitely coming up. We have some good talent here, but overall I think they’re at a disadvantage.
What would true no-limit poker in Florida mean to you? If they actually get no-cap buy-in cash games down here I’m probably not going to travel very much. I’ll just stay down here and play the cash because the action will just be amazing.
If you could say one thing to the Florida legislators regarding poker, what would it be? If they do research on the better players and they check out the results, the consistent results of the top guys, they’ll see that poker is more skill than luck.
And I feel if they can understand the game that it’s a phenomenal challenging game, and I don’t really see any negatives of anybody playing poker, that they should really give everybody the opportunity to play at the highest level. And by keeping it at the smaller buy-ins that actually involves more luck than skill.