About five years ago, Mike McDonald decided to retire from poker. The man they call “Timex” was only 20 years old, but he had already won the 2008 EPT Main Event in Dortmund for a cool $1.3 million, along with several six-figure paydays. McDonald was thinking about going back to school at the University of Waterloo, and maybe pursuing some business interests.
His retirement didn't last very long. McDonald was right back on the circuit in no time, and it's hard to argue with that decision. Timex passed the $10-million mark in live earnings last year, and after a successful showing at this year's EPT opener in Barcelona, McDonald is up to $11.9 million lifetime, third among Canadians behind Daniel Negreanu ($30.7 million) and Jonathan Duhamel ($16.8 million).
Even if McDonald hadn't come back to play poker, he probably would have been successful at something else. He was clearly an intelligent student growing up in Ontario, with a gift for both games and numbers. After teaching chess, Timex went on to catch the poker bug as a 14-year-old, and soon after, he was teaching poker as an online prodigy.
Then came the live tournaments. McDonald's first-ever cash on record was a third place finish at a £500 no-limit hold 'em event at the Big Slick Club in Croydon, England back in 2007; Timex earned £4,000 for his efforts. He followed that up with a very respectable 14th-place finish at the 2007 EPT Main Event in Prague, taking home another 30 grand. It was off to the races after that. McDonald final-tabled events at the EPT, WPT and WSOP over the following years, and then he had a magical run at the 2014 Aussie Millions, finishing Top 3 in back-to-back high-roller tourneys for over $3 million in prize money.
So what makes Timex tick? Like many top pros, McDonald takes fitness and nutrition very seriously – rock climbing is a big hit these days. McDonald also likes his video games. In late December 2014, Timex professed his love for a hybrid strategy game called Prismata – another favourite among poker players. He even claimed that he was playing Prismata 40 hours a week. Interestingly enough, McDonald was on the high school chess team with some of the Prismata developers.
As for that famous Timex stare, he wasn't always the type to look directly at his opponents. When he first took to the live felt, McDonald used the “conceal, don't reveal” tactic, as recommended to him by Haralabos Voulgaris. Later on, as McDonald became more comfortable, he changed course and started paying very close attention to everyone at the table during every hand.
It's worked out quite well for Timex so far. Will he play poker long enough to catch Negreanu on the leaderboard? Maybe not, but McDonald has other things on his mind besides money. There's always another mountain to climb.