One of Twitch Poker’s brightest stars unveiled his return yesterday with the announcement that he’s the newest member of PokerStars Team Pro. We caught up with Tonkaaaa to find out what he’s been up to, how he’s changed, and why now is the right time for his comeback.
“I’m used to staying indoors,” says Parker Talbot, not surprising for an online high-stakes tournament player. “Most of my friends are regularly online anyway. But in the online poker lifestyle, you stay inside enough as it is.”
It’s safe to say that Talbot, like most of us, has missed the outside world during this year of COVID-19 captivity. He and his girlfriend broke up not long before the lockdowns began, so he’s been flying solo at his home in Toronto throughout the pandemic. “I’ve got to say, it’s not been great,” he tells me. “I’ve never lived alone in my whole life. It was probably the worst time to do it.”
One silver lining? Talbot absolutely crushed poker in 2020. He won two events in the PokerStars Stadium Series (a $2K for $261K and a $5K Progressive Knockout for $152K), claimed his first World Championship of Online Poker title in a $530 PKO for $51K, and frequently enjoyed big cashes in weekly High Roller events.
Perhaps none of that would have happened had Talbot–better known as “tonkaaaa”–not stepped away from his popular Twitch stream. For years he was one of Twitch Poker’s brightest stars, attracting audiences in their thousands every time he fired up a stream. Then he retired.
“When I first started I loved streaming,” he says. “I was addicted to it. I was building something from the ground up. But eventually, I plateaued on the amount of work I could put in. You really have to grind if you want to grow. I was just tired of it.”
Instead, Talbot decided to leave the stream behind and focus on work away from the cameras.
“When I quit streaming, I went back to just playing cards and working my way up,” he says. “Working with BBZ was the biggest thing for me. Jordan and I were doing up to four hours of studying a week, ripping through my database and reviewing a ton of hands.
“I know this is going on BBZPoker.com, but honestly, mine and BBZ’s partnership is very easy for me. Obviously, I’ve put in the work, but I credit Jordan and the BBZ Daily Seminars for my improvements.”
Poker has been a huge part of Talbot’s life since he was in his late teens. In fact, he played for the very first time on his 18th birthday. He remembers the days when all he ever wanted to do was play. “I played 18-man Sit and Gos on PokerStars for 14 hours a day, every day for a year. That’s all I did. Play, eat and sleep.”
Now 28, Talbot has a more balanced approach. “There’s no rhyme and reason to anything that goes on in my life,” he says. “I have no daily routine. If I wake up and I want to study, I’ll see if anyone wants to go through some hands. I do most of my review with Jargo (a.k.a. bungakat), Jon (a.k.a. LuckyFish) and Conor Beresford (a.k.a. “1_conor_b_1”).”
But Talbot hasn’t been playing much poker lately. He puts it down to boredom. That’s something he’s now going to rectify that with a return to Twitch.
“The last time I was feeling burned out from poker, I started streaming,” he says. “Twitch reinvigorated my passion for the game. I’m hoping it will be something similar when I come back. Every time I’ve fired up a stream I’ve had a great time. It’s always been a lot of fun.”
The world of Twitch Poker hasn’t changed too much in Talbot’s eyes. “There are lots of great people, but Fintan, Spraggy and Lex are still the big three in my eyes. They’re holding down the fort.”
— PokerStars (@PokerStars) April 5, 2021
Talbot will now be joining them all as a PokerStars Ambassador, turning the big three into a fab four. “They’re my buds. Spraggy is definitely up there with the humans I spend the most time conversing and doing things with. I’ve been watching Lex recently too, just to see what’s going on. He’s great.”
— PokerStars (@PokerStars) April 5, 2021
What will change is the way Talbot interacts with his audience.
“I’m going to be a dictator in my chat, I’ll say that much,” he says. “I used to run a real loose ship where people could pretty much say anything as long as they didn’t go over the line. But I think this time around I’ll try to cultivate a slightly less toxic community around myself.”
Soon you’ll get to meet Parker “tonkaaaap” Talbot 2.0. He’s a little bit older. A little bit wiser. And way better at poker.
“I’ve matured, not necessarily for the better,” he says. “I’ve grown up.”