By Jimmy Robertson
In the summer of 2017, Adam Hendrix found himself facing a high-stakes decision regarding a possible career change.
He worked a well-paying, albeit mundane, position for a government contractor in Northern Virginia. The job offered steady income and nice benefits, but the drudgery of working 8 to 5 and dealing with traffic gridlock every day dulled Hendrix’s enthusiasm.
Ultimately, he decided to ante up, pushing all his chips to the center of the table and going all in on a new venture.
“It was a combination of me proving myself in online poker that I was good enough to play against these guys,” Hendrix said. “And winning at a rate that made sense to switch over, a rate that was outperforming my government contracting job.”
Hendrix bet on himself, joined the world of professional poker, and has been adding to an ever-expanding bankroll ever since. A 2015 Virginia Tech graduate with a degree in economics and a minor in statistics from the university’s College of Science, he finished 2021 ranked No. 10 in the Global Poker Index rankings and No. 6 among American players.
His earnings nearly reached seven figures, which more than justified his decision and certainly assuaged the concerns of his parents.
“They were always supportive,” Hendrix said. “The conversation was data driven. I tried to explain to them the differentiation between poker and blackjack. People always think they’re similar, but they’re very, very different. In one, you’re in control of your cards, and you have to beat your opponent, whereas in blackjack, you’re strictly playing against the house.
“I had to show them my online play, and over 1,000 individual tournaments, how I was doing,” Hendrix said. “I think they saw that I was very passionate about it, and they always told me to be responsible about it. If it’s not working out, or if you’re not taking it seriously as a job, then come back to your degree and do something in that. I always took that to heart and treated this as a business.”
Hendrix first picked up the game as a child when he and relatives played for small change at his grandmother’s home in Homer, Alaska – Hendrix’s birthplace. But he somewhat lost touch with it while bouncing around the world. His father worked in the oil and gas industry, and his job took the family to places such as Aberdeen, Scotland, and Cairo, Egypt.
Hendrix attended an international school in Cairo starting in the ninth grade and ultimately graduated from that school. He thought about going to college and playing soccer at the Colorado School of Mines, but the death of a good friend led to him realizing that he wanted to be near family. The combination of being near relatives in eastern Tennessee – his parents went to the University of Tennessee – and Blacksburg’s small-town vibe made the university a perfect fit.
While at Tech, he came across some friends playing poker in a community room at now-demolished Thomas Hall, where he lived. He tried his luck and ultimately won big that night. That rekindled his interest in the game, and he later joined a poker club started by one of the guys, playing once a week.
He gradually played more frequently, particularly at nights throughout his college days while remaining on top of his studies. In 2015, he graduated and found a position working for the government contractor in Northern Virginia, but poker was never far from his thoughts.
Hendrix quit his job in July of 2017 and joined the world of professional poker. He headed to the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, and at his first tournament, he joined a tournament playing Pot Limit Omaha 8 or Better. Out of 850 players, he finished second for $137,992.
“That really propelled my career and made my parents somewhat see or feel more comfortable about the profession I was going into,” he said.
Today, Hendrix plays in tournaments all over the country, everywhere from Las Vegas, where he and another player rent a home on “The Strip,” to California to Cherokee, N.C. (home of the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort). His schedule varies, but he has played seven days a week in tournaments that last 10- to 12-hour days.