Interview: Mike McDonald
Hometown: Waterloo, Ontario
Biggest Cash: €933,000
Best Known For: Winning the EPT German Open in 2008 and placing 5th in 2009.
Mike McDonald, also known by his online screenname "timex", is a 19 year old Canadian poker sensation. He's found more success as a teenager in the poker world than most can hope to attain in a lifetime. After having won last year's EPT German Open, McDonald nearly repeated as champion a week ago, but came up just short in 5th place.
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PokerTips.org: How old were you when you started playing poker? What got you introduced to the game at such a young age?
McDonald: I was 15 when I started playing. I used to play chess competitively and my coach was learning poker and taught me the absolute basics since we were bored of chess one day.
PokerTips.org: What do you attribute as the biggest factors in helping you progress from beginner to EPT champion?
McDonald: My mathematical approach, hardwork, consistency and a lot of luck.
PokerTips.org: In 2008, you won the EPT German Open for €933,000. Just last week, you captured the poker world's attention by nearly defending your championship before busting out in 5th place (€197,000). What was going through your mind the second time around? At what point did you begin to think, "wow... is this really happening again?"
McDonald: Early on in Day 2 I got up to being chipleader with like 2.5% of the chips in play with 150 or so left and thought "wow, I might make a run at this again."
PokerTips.org: Is there anything in particular about Germany that you feel brings out the best in you? Or is your repeat success at that venue something you attribute to coincidence?
McDonald: I would say largely coincidence, but I also felt I played my best and people reacted poorly to me (too many people didn't play back at me at all presumably because they saw me on TV and thought I was loco).
PokerTips.org: How did the competition at this year's EPT German Open compare to last year?
McDonald: A little tougher throughout, but comparable. The final table it was significantly tougher, though.
PokerTips.org: What was your impression of this year's champion Sandra Naujoks, besides that she's attractive, of course.
McDonald: She played much better than I expected. I assumed she would just be tight and bad, but she was aggressive, and picked her spots well. She definitely lacked the fundamentals of most top players (once she three-bet from the small blind for 40% of her stack and folded when I shoved back on her from the button with Ace-Ten suited) but she was definitely above average in the field.
PokerTips.org: What can you tell our readers about your venture of staking other poker players? Do you back them singlehandedly? What are some scores you've enjoyed through a wise backing investment?
McDonald: I used to back people online by myself and for live tournaments with my friend Steve Paul-Ambrose. We realized that the big live tournaments were extremely soft a couple years ago and that most good online players would be able to beat them despite not having the bankroll to play them. We start backing a lot of the better online players in these tournaments, some of the best scores include having pieces of two Sunday Million wins, 2nd place in the FTOPS Main Event, a large piece of my friend's Grand Prix de Paris win, pieces of one WSOP bracelet and two Bellagio cup wins, pieces of who got 3rd place in EPT Barcelona, and 2nd place in Aussie Millions.
PokerTips.org: Is tournament poker reaching a critical mass where most people are strong and competent and edges are hard to come by, or is there still plenty of juice left to be squeezed from the fruit?
McDonald: I think it could reach the critical mass in the near future but at the moment they are still beatable, just not for as much as a year or two ago.
PokerTips.org: Who are some peers who have your most respect and why?
McDonald: I respect a lot of my Waterloo friends, Steve Paul-Ambrose, Mike Watson, Will Ma to name a few as well as a lot of the guys I've met on the circuit.
PokerTips.org: You're also very well known through you're online screenname "timex". What led to deciding on that nickname?
McDonald: When I was underage I played online under a different name, but when I made an account on the 2+2 forum I wanted to pick something that could in no way be associated with it. I picked the first thing that came to mind, looked down at my Timex watch, and went with Timex.
PokerTips.org: What are some things you enjoy doing away from the poker tables?
McDonald: I enjoy running, volleyball, going to concerts/listening to music, watching movies and procrastinating.
PokerTips.org: If you could change one thing about the game of poker, what would it be, and why?
McDonald: I would try to change it so it was more difficult to do the right thing for the wrong reasons (ie: lots of bad players end up playing reasonably well in certain spots not because they are good at those spots, but because by pure fluke the way they play happens to be reasonable in those spots).
PokerTips.org: You're one of several highly successful players to come out of the apparent poker breeding ground of Waterloo, Ontario. Steve-Paul Ambrose, Mike Watson, and Glen Chorny are a couple other such players. How do you explain the correlation of success in poker with being from the relatively small area of Waterloo?
McDonald: Part of it is fluke, part of it is we are a big college town with lots of Math/Engineering/Computer Science students, part of it is that a few people here approached the game reasonably well 3-4 years ago and taught others.
PokerTips.org: Finally, what bit of advice would you have for our readers hoping to become the next Mike McDonald?
McDonald: Eat your Wheaties.