Garrett Adelstein: Ring rust and sleepless nights at the WPT World Championship

Dave Woods
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Posted on: December 14, 2023 8:15 pm EST

The Garrett Adelstein Return Tour is go. After almost 15 months out, he made a winning return on the Bally Live Poker stream on Wednesday night. In his own words, he played “a bit sloppy” before finding his groove, but there’s been little time for reflection.

Today marks the second leg of the tour, playing in the $10k WPT World Championship, which is where we caught up with him shortly after the first break. Leg 3 of the tour will see him plunging straight back into another live stream on Friday, the WPT’s Million Dollar Cash Game.

It’s a whirlwind of poker and a million miles away from what he’s been doing for the past 15 months, where it’s a baby that’s keeping him up rather than costly decisions on the river.

But that first game back… 440 days out and straight into booking a $132k win. Easy game, huh?

“The game was good but it didn’t stop me from being nervous getting in there,” Adelstein says. “I was sloppy, especially in the first couple of hours, but after a while I found my groove and played better in the second half of the session.”

Garrett Adelstein made his return on Wednesday night on the Bally Live Poker stream

Who needs sleep?

Cash games are Adelstein’s bread and butter, and it feels odd to see him playing a tournament. Before midday. Is it tough to reset and refocus after playing high-stakes cash and then hopping straight into a deep-stack tournament?

“That’s a great question,” Adelstein says. “The reality is, Day 1 of a $10k you’re playing much lower stakes than the other games I’m playing. In the endless sea of really beautiful things about poker that’s yet another one for me. The mental challenge of… okay I’m playing smaller today, do I have what it takes to be focused and play my best? So we’re going to find out.”

And an 11am start is another thing that’s not the norm for Adelstein, where playing into the night is where the action really lies on the live streams. Did he get much sleep?

“Not really”, Adelstein says, smiling. “I’ve got an eight-month-old at home so by the time I wound down at like two or three, I was up again at six, as I am every day. So, I’m just trying to power through this and hopefully start collecting some chips. I’ve lost about half of them here so far.”

Garret Adelstein at the 2023 WPT World Championship
He hasn’t cashed in a tournament since 2016 – this would be a great time to start

Poker world better for Adelstein’s return

Powering through is something fellow high-stakes cash game player Alan Keating did on Day 1A of the World Championship. Keating arrived halfway through the day and still managed to 10x his stack by the end. It puts him right near the very top of the overall leaderboard.

Is Adelstein going to take the same ‘no fold’em Hold’embuild a big stack or bust approach?

“Maybe a little,” he says. “But honestly, I just want to play well. I’ll admit I’m not totally sure what that looks like in a tournament, but as best as I know how, that’s what I’m going to do.”

And with that, Adelstein sits back down with a plate of fresh fruit, contemplating the challenges ahead.

There aren’t going to be many more tournaments in the future for Adelstein. For him, the WPT World Championship and the WSOP Main Event are the only ones that mean anything. But we’re expecting to see him back in more regular action in his more familiar environment, the live high-stakes cash streams, especially with the news that we broke about Bally Live Poker heading back to his home turf in LA.

And the game is definitely better for having him back. It’s not been the same without his million-dollar smile.