Canada is rapidly being regarded as the poker capital of the world. Sure, the game originated in the States and the majority of pro poker players are American, but Canada’s more relaxed attitude to gambling has made it the venue of choice for casual poker players.
That has been even more the case in the years since 1995, when two brothers set up a company called Cryptologic that was to power Canada’s first online poker room a year later. Their popularity has grown exponentially in the subsequent 25 years, making poker and other casino pastimes like slots and table games accessible to a whole new audience. This has given rise to a corresponding growth in informational sites like for example Casinoblox.ca that keep players up to date with what is happening in Canada’s ever-changing gambling landscape.
All this support and infrastructure of poker at grassroots level inevitably means that Canada is becoming increasingly important on the pro scene. After all, everyone has to start somewhere, and Canada’s nurturing environment has given rise to prodigious talents like Daniel Negreanu and Kristen Bicknell. You might think that these stars would head to Vegas at the earliest opportunity to earn their millions. But on the contrary, Canada also provides the necessary big-money tournaments that not only attract Canadian poker stars, they also attract talent from south of the border and further afield.
WSOP Montreal and Vancouver
The World Series of Poker a little like the NBA. For sure, there are other basketball leagues and tournaments out there, but this is the one that everyone knows, even if they have no interest in the sport. It has a cachet that is about more than prize pots, and pros value a WSOP Main Event bracelet above all else.
The WSOP has evolved into an international phenomenon over recent years, and while 2020 has been an exception for obvious reasons, there’s usually something happening somewhere all year round.
The great thing about WSOP is that it is not exclusively aimed at the most elite players like Negreanu, Bicknell and the rest. The Vancouver and Montreal stops on the tour feature a range of tournaments and some have buy-ins of less than $500. If you’re a decent poker player, this is the perfect opportunity to find out just how good you are.
The WSOP was forced to go online due to wider world events this year, but at least this meant the show could go on, which was more than could be said in many sports. All being well, it will be back with a more conventional circuit schedule in 2021.
Back in the days when WSOP was something Canadians watched on TV, the “real” pro poker action was all about the World Poker Tour. That conception still endures among Canadian professionals, and Montreal has almost become the unofficial home of the WPT. Since 2012, the city has been hosting two WPT tournaments each year.
If you want to rub shoulders with Daniel Negreanu, Antonio Esfandiari, Evelyn Ng and the rest, this is the place to do so. WPT takes place at the Playground Poker Club Montreal tends to attract the big names, so just be aware that if you want to take a seat at their table, you’ll need to stump up accordingly. Typical buy-in is $3,500.
Setting to one side the unprecedented events of 2020 that have thrown everything off-kilter, the biggest pro poker events such as the WSOP and WPT still take place in traditional land-based venues. We all look forward to them returning to some sort of normal schedule over the coming months.
But for the casual players among us, those who would not be looking at spending thousands, hundreds or even tens of dollars on buy-in, cyberspace is the venue of choice. In Canada, there is, as we mentioned earlier, no shortage of choice when it comes to online poker platforms where you can play tournaments for nominals sums, just for the fun of playing. Of course, that means you can’t expect big cash rewards for winning, either!
Sunday Million is the exception that proves the rule. This weekly poker tournament attracts thousands of participants and while the buy-in for the main event is $200, there are satellite events that you can join for less than a dollar. It means there is something for everyone, and if you are a talented amateur, there’s a genuine possibility of working your way up and playing for a six figure win with minimal initial outlay.
Finally, we cannot talk about Canadian poker tournaments without giving a mention to the site that started it all for so many players. Partypoker remains the most accessible route into poker for absolute beginners. The platform is as user-friendly as Sunday Million, but it is a little less daunting as you are not up against 5,000 or so other players.
This is another one that gets underway every Sunday (at 1:30PM ET) and it tends to attract a high proportion of Canadian players. If you’ve played a little poker with friends or on a phone app just for fun, this is the ideal platform for taking your hobby to the next level in a safe environment. And as we have seen, once you get started in competitive poker in Canada, there is no telling where you might end up!