By Sean Chaffin
He just had a feeling. Despite being almost exclusively a cash game player, despite never playing in a tournament close to a $5,000 buy-in, despite a stacked field of tour regulars and pros – Josh Adkins knew it was his time. Even in the days before leaving home and heading to Jacksonville, he texted friends that he was going to win the WPT bestbet Bounty Scramble.
On Tuesday evening he made that prediction a reality, turning his first-ever entry in a WPT event into a title. After five days of bounty-busting action, Adkins added his name to the Champions Cup and takes home $331,480.
“Playing my first WPT and to win it, I don’t have words,” he said. “This means a lot to me, obviously, not because of the money, but just for me. I’ve worked really hard at this game for the last seven years, and to just have this win and how tough this field was – it’s just incredible.
“It’s a funny story, I kind of called my shot in this. I have text messages of me saying, ‘I’m going to go win the $5K in Jax.’ And now it just happened. It’s indescribable.”
Along with the cash Adkins earns 1,000 in Hublot Player of the Year points and a $15,000 entry into the season-ending WPT Tournament of Champions.
This final table featured several local players who make bestbet their regular casino. The event began with 30 bounty players, each with $2,500 on his or her head. Adkins collected an extra $5,000 after eliminating Jake Schwartz and Nabil Hirezi.
Not long after getting heads up with Tan Nguyen, they got all the chips in with Adkins’ against Nguyen’s . A queen hit on the flop and Nguyen received no help on the turn and river. Adkins’ rail erupted in cheers after he’d secured the title. The champ became emotional and shed some tears after taking post-victory photos with his parents, Jonathan and Barbara Adkins (pictured).
“I felt so much pressure in the sense that [bestbet] is only two hours away from home for me,” he said. “I primarily play cash, so my parents really haven’t gotten to see me play poker in my element. I wanted to be on this stage for them to be able to come. When I quit my job when I was 18 to play poker professionally, they were upset but they were always supportive. So I’m really glad that they were able to make it. And my friend group – the amount of love I’ve received from them is incredible.”
Adkins entered the day second in chips. A crafty play with pocket Aces allowed him to pick off an all-in bluff by Josh Kay that handed Adkins a massive pot. The hand left Kay with crumbs and he was sent to the rail soon after. Adkins said a couple hands with Kay earlier in the tournament gave him a feeling he might be able to make a move in this situation.
“There were a couple spots on Day 2 where he really put me to the test,” he says. “I bagged the Day 2 chip lead and there was a spot early on Day 3 where I folded two Queens on a 6-6-7-9 board with two hearts and two diamonds. I had the Queen of hearts and Queen of diamonds, so I blocked both flush draws. He ripped it in on the turn and I ended up folding, mainly because I didn’t want to bust a Day 3 when I had bagged the chip lead the night before.”
“I had so many chips there was just no need to put it in there and he ends up showing the five of hearts. So I knew he was capable of spazzing. He’s a really great player … but I knew on certain flops I could probably get him to spazz.”
The 26-year-old from Tallahassee had only $23,000 in live tournament winnings entering the mix this week in Jacksonville. The biggest of that came in 2016 when he won in a $200 event at bestbet for $12,114. While he didn’t have major tournament winnings, Adkins was confident in his skills and felt he brought an unknown quality to the tables for many of the tournament regulars.
For his part, runner-up Tan Nguyen takes home $210,988. The new champion plays regularly with Nguyen and said he was a difficult opponent in any matchup.
“Tan is an absolute sicko,” Adkins said. “I’ve known Tan for six or seven years and we play a decent bit of cash together. Not so much anymore, but a few years ago we were playing three or five times a week. Tan’s an animal. That’s not someone you want to go to war with. He will put you in bad spots.”
“The final hand I got lucky obviously. That’s just a cooler heads up, the money’s going in. Tan’s phenomenal – great dude, great person, great player, he’s incredible.”
A WPT championship may now be in the bag, but Adkins has no intention of drastically changing his poker lifestyle. He intends to continue playing cash games and an occasional tournament. Of course, the Tournament of Champions is already on his list as well as the WPT Seminole Rock ‘N’ Roll Poker Open in November.
For now, winning 100 percent of his WPT events feels really good. When not playing poker, Adkins plays golf or video games and hangs out with friends. But lately, poker has been his main priority.
“The last two months I’ve really been grinding poker super hard like back when I was 18 or 19,” he says, “when I’d play 60 hours a week and it didn’t really feel like a job so much.”
That work certainly paid off. Now he has much more than text messages to prove it.
Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Crandall, Texas, and his work appears in numerous websites and publications. Follow him on Twitter @PokerTraditions.
Photography by Joe Giron / PokerPhotoArchive
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