Adams was born in Sutton, London and started his darts career in pubs. He still plays pub darts, currently playing for Deeping Rugby Club in Market Deeping, Lincolnshire. After being made redundant by Lloyds Bank, he turned professional in 1992.
Following the formation of the World Darts Council in 1993, all the players that left the British Darts Organisation were banned from playing county darts, leaving England searching for a new team and a new captain. Adams took over the role in 1993 and remained captain until March 2013, becoming the longest reigning England captain ever.
Adams has won many BDO Open events and twice won the WDF World Cup singles, but often missed-out on winning the biggest tournaments. He was sometimes the victim of great comebacks and also great collapses himself when he found himself in winning positions. In particular, his 5–4 defeat to Chris Mason in the 1999 World Championship quarter-finals, having led 4–1 and seen nine match-darts pass him by in the match, is always mentioned among the greatest matches in the history of the event.
In the Grand Slam BDO events, other than the World Championship, Adams was runner-up on three occasions. He was beaten 6–4 in the 2004 Bavaria World Darts Trophy final by Raymond van Barneveld and lost the 2006 Bavaria World Darts Trophy final to Phil Taylor 7–2. He also lost to 17-year-old Dutch youngster Michael van Gerwen 7–5 in the 2006 Winmau World Masters final, having led 5–2 and despite averaging 107 for the first nine darts of each leg.
Having made his Lakeside debut in 1994 at the age of 37, Adams failed to progress beyond the semi finals of the World Championship until 2005 when he reached the final at the 12th attempt. He beat Davy Richardson 3–2, John Henderson 3–2, Ted Hankey 5–3 and Simon Whitlock 5–0 before losing 6–2 against van Barneveld in the final.
Adams reached his second world final in 2007. He was number one seed for the second time in his career and put out Tony O'Shea, Co Stompé, Ted Hankey and Mervyn King in his run to the final where he faced qualifier Phill Nixon. The two oldest players in the tournament (they were both 50 years old) reached the final. Adams stormed into a 6–0 lead, before Nixon produced an incredible comeback to level the match. Just when it looked like Adams may be heading for another dramatic defeat, having already missed four match darts, he went on to win all three legs in the final set to take the match 7–6 and finally claim the world title that he said he had been chasing for 14 years.
In the draw for the 2008 BDO World Championships, Adams was again paired with Nixon in the first round. In the match, Adams beat Nixon 3–0. After the game, Adams was clearly emotional in an interview following his victory, citing the memories of the 2007 final as the reason (the first time he had won comfortably). In the second round he came up against Martin Phillips. It was easy pickings for Adams, who cruised to a 4–0 victory with Phillips paying the price for many missed doubles. In the quarter-finals he played a fiercely fought match against Masters champion Robert Thornton, whom he led at one time 4–2. Thornton fought back to make it 4–4 but Adams eventually took control of his visible nerves to win 5–4. Adams went on to lose in the semi-finals to number-one seed Mark Webster, who eventually won the tournament.
Adams defeated Scott Waites in the World Masters final of 2008 to record his first Masters victory and his second major (after the 2007 Worlds), in another epic 7–6 encounter.
At the 2009 World Championship, he reached the semifinal for the fifth successive year, where he was narrowly defeated by eventual champion Ted Hankey. Later that year, he won his second successive Masters title, once again by a 7–6 scoreline in the final, over Robbie Green after Green led by 6–3 and had a dart for the title. This win made Adams the first man to retain the Masters title since Bob Anderson in 1988. Adams joined Eric Bristow, Richie Burnett, Bob Anderson and John Walton as the fifth player to win them in the same season.
In the 2010 World Championship he beat a visibly nervous Anthony Fleet in the first round without losing a leg, followed by further comfortable victories over Daryl Gurney and Garry Thompson. In the semi-final he let a 5–1 lead slip over Welshman Martin Phillips before finally winning 6–4. He then defeated unseeded Dave Chisnall 7–5 in the final to win a second World Championship in a rematch of their first round match a year earlier.
In February 2010 he won the Dutch Open title for the first time in his long career. The England captain triumphed 3–1 over international team-mate Scott Waites in the men's singles final in Veldhoven.
Adams won his third successive World Masters title in 2010 by defeating Stuart Kellett 7–3 in the final, becoming only the second player in history to win three consecutive World Masters titles, the other being Bob Anderson.
Adams reached his fourth World Championship final in the 2011 tournament, defeating Tony West, John Walton, Ross Smith and Martin Phillips to get there. The match against Walton was especially memorable as it went to a sudden death leg, which Adams won despite Walton having the advantage of throw. Adams played Dean Winstanley in the final, the 3rd seed - marking the only time Adams played a seed in either the 2010 or 2011 World Championship - and won 7–5 to become the first player since Raymond van Barneveld to successfully defend the BDO World Championship.
Later in January, Adams successfully defended his Dutch Open crown, once again defeating Winstanley in a close final (3–2 in sets). Adams then reached the singles final at the WDF World Cup where he was defeated by Scott Waites, and also won the doubles event with Waites. At the 2011 World Masters, the three-time defending champion was beaten by eventual champion Waites 5–3 in the semi-finals.
Adams was the top seed at the 2012 World Championship. He beat Scott Mitchell and Gary Stone without dropping a set, but was defeated 5–2 in the quarter-final by former runner-up Tony O'Shea, who went on to reach the final.
Adams had a difficult season in 2012-13, losing in his first match at the Masters 3–1 to Rune David before being eliminated in the group stage of Zuiderduin Masters without winning either of his matches. At the 2013 World Championship, Adams was beaten 3–2 by teenage débutante Jimmy Hendriks.
During this period of losing to Rune David and Jimmy Hendricks at the later end of 2012 and the earlier seasons of 2013, Adams had been very much focused on his personal life. He lost weight and gave up smoking. Adams eventually refound his form and, entering the newly formed preliminary stage at the 2014 BDO World Championship, Adams reached the quarter-finals with comfortable wins over David Cameron, Tony O'Shea (in which O'Shea failed to win a leg) and Ross Montgomery before losing 5–2 to Jan Dekker. Adams got back to world number two and won a number of key tournaments. At the 2014 Winmau World Masters, Adams narrowly missed out on reaching the final for the first time since 2010 as he let a 5–2 semi-final lead slip against Jamie Hughes, also missing 10 match darts in the ninth set.
He opened his 2015 World Championship with a 3–1 victory over Jan Dekker, setting up a tie against Jim Widmayer in the second round. He whitewashed Widmayer 4–0 to advance to the quarter-final stage, where he would face Ross Montgomery. He comfortably beat Montgomery 5–1 to go through to the semi-finals, to play Glen Durrant, who he edged out 6–5 to reach the final. Adams had a near nine darter hitting the treble 20 7 times and hitting the treble 19 but missed the double 12, if he had hit it, he would have been the first person to hit a 9 darter at the BDO World Championship in 25 years since Paul Lim in 1990. In the final, he was narrowly defeated by Scott Mitchell 7–6 in a deciding set.
In November 2015, at the 2015 Grand Slam of Darts, Adams topped his group with three wins of out of three, with victories against Ian White and two former BDO World Champions in Jelle Klaasen and Steve Beaton. In the last 16, Adams faced Kim Huybrechts where he narrowly lost 10-9. Adams rallied from 6-3 and 9-7 deficits to force a decisive leg which Huybrechts won on a 13 darter. In his post-match interview, Adams praised the crowds and said he would likely return to the tournament next year if invited.
He yet again qualified for the World Championships and although the number 2 seed he lost in the first round to Canadian Jeff Smith in the first round.
He was not picked for the 4 man England squad for the Europe Cup, which consisted of Jamie Hughes, Mark McGeeny, Glen Durrant and former World champion Scott Mitchell
At the 2016 Grand Slam of Darts, Adams finished bottom of the group.
Adams played in three major PDC television events in 2000–2001, which were the 2000 World Matchplay (losing to Shayne Burgess in the first round), the 2001 World Matchplay (losing to Phil Taylor in the semi finals), and the 2001 World Grand Prix (losing to John Lowe in the quarter finals). Adams also won a non-televised Players Championship tournament, the 1999 Scania Open, where he beat Phil Taylor in the final.
When eligibility rules for entry into PDC television tournaments changed at the start of 2002, Adams was unable to compete in them as he decided to remain a BDO player. After the 2001 World Matchplay, it would be over five years before Adams faced Taylor in a match again, in the final of the 2006 World Darts Trophy (a BDO major), where Adams lost 2-7 in the final of the Dutch competition which invited five PDC players that year.
Since the 2001 World Grand Prix and the subsequent change in the eligibility rules for entry into PDC television tournaments from 2002 onwards, Adams did not compete in a PDC event again until 14 years later. When the Grand Slam of Darts began in 2007, Adams turned down the invitation to compete in the PDC event and continued to decline the offer to compete in subsequent years. The PDC's Board of Directors ruled that Adams will no longer be eligible for invitations into the tournament in future. Adams brushed off their decision, saying that it would simply save him the time in having to refuse them. Commentators at the 2009 Grand Slam confirmed that they had once again unsuccessfully invited him to that year's event.
Rumours of a possible appearance at the 2011 Grand Slam began following an interview with BBC commentator David Croft just before the 2011 BDO World Championship. Adams said that "he had held discussions with the BDO and certain political issues had been sorted regarding the other side of the game" when asked by Croft about whether in theory a match could take place with the winner of the respective PDC World Championship. Despite the rumour, Adams never competed at the 2011 Grand Slam.
However, Adams was invited to the 2015 Grand Slam. In Adams' debut at the Grand Slam, he went undefeated in the three group matches of the first round but lost 9-10 (best of 19) in his second round match with Kim Huybrechts.
Adams lives in Deeping St James, near Market Deeping, Lincolnshire. He divorced his longtime partner and wife Sharon in 2013, who was a swimming instructor. They met at her 18th birthday party when Adams was helping his brother John, who was the disc jockey, and got married the following year in 1979. They have two sons – Warren, (born 1982) and Darren (born 1984), as well as a granddaughter, Lauren (born 2011).1994: Quarter Final (lost to Magnus Caris 2–4)
1995: Semi Final (lost to Raymond van Barneveld 4–5)
1996: Quarter Final (lost to Steve Beaton 1–4)
1997: 1st Round (lost to Roger Carter 1–3)
1998: 1st Round (lost to Robbie Widdows 2–3)
1999: Quarter Final (lost to Chris Mason 4–5)
2000: 1st Round (lost to Steve Coote 2–3)
2001: 2nd Round (lost to Ronnie Baxter 1–3)
2002: Semi Final (lost to Tony David 4–5)
2003: 2nd Round (lost to Bob Taylor 1–3)
2004: 1st Round (lost to Richie Davies 2–3)
2005: Runner-up (lost to Raymond van Barneveld 2–6)
2006: Semi Final (lost to Raymond van Barneveld 2–6)
2007: Winner (defeated Phill Nixon 7–6)
2008: Semi Final (lost to Mark Webster 4–6)
2009: Semi Final (lost to Ted Hankey 4–6)
2010: Winner (defeated Dave Chisnall 7–5)
2011: Winner (defeated Dean Winstanley 7–5)
2012: Quarter Final (lost to Tony O'Shea 2–5)
2013: 1st Round (lost to Jimmy Hendriks 2–3)
2014: Quarter Final (lost to Jan Dekker 2–5)
2015: Runner-up (lost to Scott Mitchell 6–7)
2016: 1st Round (lost to Jeff Smith 0–3)
2017: Quarter Final (lost to Jamie Hughes 4–5)