Check any Sunday Majors results over the last five years and there’s a good chance you’re familiar with the online screen name “ch0ppy.”
Canadian Matt “ch0ppy” Kay has flown under the radar in the live tournament world but is consistently ranked as one of the best online players in the world.
Very early in his career, Matt Kay won the biggest online tournament there is – the PokerStars Sunday Million – for $200,000.
The win served as a catalyst for one of the most successful online MTT careers in history with over $5 million in lifetime earnings according to PocketFives.
The 24 year old was also one of the many successful poker players who attended Waterloo University. That was where he met fellow online crusher Mike "Timex" McDonald.
PokerListings spoke with Kay for the first time while he was on a break at the 2013 WSOP APAC.
PokerListings: How did you get started in poker?
Matt Kay: I just wanted to beat my friends in home games so I started playing for free online. I started beating my friends and I wanted to beat everyone and went from there.
When I went to university I met Timex and he’d had even more success than me so that motivated me to get better. I learned more about tournaments from him as well.
Then the first week of my second term I won the Sunday Million outright for $200,000.
I only had like $10,000 prior to the tournament so I just kept on playing for all of 2007 and I kept on winning.
PL: Was it always tournaments for you?
I was playing a few more cash games before I won the Sunday Million. I was getting more into tournaments around that time though.
PL: You’ve racked up a ton of online success. Is there a reason for that consistency over the years?
Well it hasn’t really been over the years. I was very good in 2007 and 2008 but then I started to not enjoy it as much and not really try as hard.
People kept getting better but I just kind of stalled out and my same strategy wasn’t working anymore.
I didn’t have the motivation or the drive anymore. In 2010 I was probably break even.
At the end of 2010 I started to take it more seriously and work hard to improve my game.
In 2011 I kept getting better and made a deep run in the Main Event and finished 10th at WPT Legends. Then in 2012 I really picked it up. I started finding leaks that no one else was seeing.
That allowed me to really crush. A lot of those leaks still aren’t plugged and I’m still exploiting them to a degree.
PL: It seems that your game has certainly evolved over the years...
Yeah definitely. The game keeps changing, if you don’t adapt, you’re going to fall behind. You can do what everyone else says is standard but then you’ll only get standard results.
PL: Do you feel the games are a lot tougher these days?
When I play online right now I don’t find it tough. I see other players playing badly… but at some point that’s going to change again and I’ll have to adapt.
PL: Do you still enjoy playing poker professionally?
As my win-rate goes up, I certainly enjoy it a lot more. It’s not that fun when you are grinding it out and not seeing much results for months. I was pretty miserable in 2010.
I’m starting to travel a lot more. I didn’t leave Australia after Aussie Millions. I traveled down the coast, learned to scuba dive. I’m trying to do more things for myself and just enjoy life.
I’ve only played Sunday [tournaments] since I’ve been here. I’m actually looking forward to getting back and playing more but it’s important to have balance in your life. You can’t just go at it 24/7 every day.
PL: You seem to have great results on some of the lesser-known Euro sites and tournaments like the iPoker $200k. Do you feel you have more of an edge on those sites?
Yes. For sure. I mean only Sundays have the really big tournaments on those sites so can’t play them all the time.
I find the play different on each site. There are subtleties on each site. A bad PartyPoker player will play different than a bad 888poker player or a bad PokerStars player.
It used to be really extreme back in the day. I used to be very good at iPoker. It was just awesome. It’s tough to explain but there are definitely differences.
I’d much rather play a Euro site tournament than a PokerStars tournament.
PL: Do you feel you’re due for a big live score soon?
Yes! [laughs] I really think I’m due for a big live score. It’s been forever and I’m not seeing the results.
The variance in live is just so high. It’s tough to find consistency live and just because I haven’t had a big live win I get more frustrated as a result.
PL: Who do you think are some of the best online MTT players in the world right now?
I like Calvin Anderson’s game and Legenden seems to be doing pretty well. Legenden is relatively new but he does a lot of things right and knows how to put pressure on people in the right situations.
PL: How did Black Friday affect you?
I was just getting back into online poker at that point so it was kind of tough because I didn’t know what the future would have.
The game changed but it would have changed anyways. We lost a lot of the bad US players but it’s tough to say what makes a bad player these days.
PL: Do you still see yourself playing 5-6 years from now?
I have no idea. [laughs] Probably. I’ll keep going until things turn I guess. For now I see no end in sight.
PL: Are you going to play the WSOP?
Probably not. Online is really good around that time because all the good players are gone. Plus the U.S. government taxes me 30% when I’m down there.
I’ll definitely play the Main Event though.