Poker didn’t start in the Great White North, not by a longshot, but the nation’s laidback attitude towards gambling in recent years have seen a lot of casual players making it their venue of choice. And where there are casual players, the pros will follow.
Canada is not exactly a new kid on the block when it comes to online poker, though. One might argue that its origins can be traced all the way back to 1995 when a small but vital company called Cryptologic was formed. A year later that company powered the first online poker room in Canada.
But the beloved pastime was already played live all over the country and thrived despite of the advent of its online version, birthing prominent talents like multiple bracelet winner Daniel Negreanu (aka Kid Poker), first ever Canadian player to win the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Las Vegas Main Event Jonathan Duhamel, and Gavin Smith with close to $900,000 in WSOP cashes.
Expansion of WSOP
With the exception of 2020, for obvious reasons, the WSOP has evolved and grown internationally over the years and now includes both Montreal and Vancouver. Sure, the prize money might not be a massive draw but winning a WSOP bracelet is.
The success of the WSOP is that it attracts lots and lots of players from all over world. Anyone has a shot at sitting at a table with Negreanu and Duhamel and find out if they have what it takes to steal pots from the pros. And with some of the side-tournaments at a buy-in of less than $500, casual players are turning up in droves.
Long gone are the days when WSOP was something to be watched on TV as players gathered south of the border to take on our neighbours. Since 2012, Montreal has hosted two World Poker Series (WPT) tournaments every year at the Playground Poker Club with a typical buy-in of $3,500.
There isn’t much to say about this unprecedented year that you haven’t already heard or read elsewhere. It suffices to say that the live poker scene has been severely affected. Events such as the WSOP and WPT are traditionally played in land-based venues but 2020 saw most of their tournaments confined to cyberspace.
This is not necessarily a bad thing as Canadians are spoilt for choice these days when it comes to online poker platforms. PokerStars Sunday Million tournament still attracts thousands of players every week. The buy-in may be $200 but there are plenty of satellite qualifiers starting from less than a dollar.
Talented amateurs battle their ways through growing fields all the time to reach the main event where there is a guaranteed million waiting for the winner. We are not all Chris Moneymakers but you’re not down and out as long as you have a chip and a chair.
Don’t forget about the granddaddy of all online poker sites, the place where so many players got started. Of course, it’s Party Poker. They are also running a weekly $1,000,000 guaranteed every Sunday with two smaller events of guaranteed payouts of $300,000 and $100,000.
Future of Canadian poker
The nation is already established on the WSOP and WPT scenes and it wouldn’t come as a surprise if we see Toronto and/or Ontario hosting big poker events in the future. Until that happens there are plenty of new online poker sites popping up regularly as iGaming companies from over seas are crossing the pond to try and get market shares.
Poker is doing fine in Canada. It’s been around for decades online and much, much longer out in the real world. There are plenty of talented players to keep the interest going for a long time. We believe the future of Canadian poker is very bright.
Photo – Daniel Negreanu/Twitter