When Jonathan Duhamel won the 2010 WSOP Main Event, I was besieged with phone calls from Mainstream Media television, radio, and newspaper outlets looking for my take on the young Montreal native’s massive payday.
One of the questions that I faced ad nauseum was ‘do you think that Duhamel’s win will create a poker boom in Canada?’ And for some reason, they couldn’t seem to wrap their heads around my answer: Duhamel winning the ME won’t create a poker boom in Canada: there already IS a poker boom in Canada. His win just makes it bigger.
Let’s face it…if you follow poker, you probably know who Daniel Negreanu is. And you may even know that he’s a Canadian. You may also know that Gavin Smith is Canadian. PERHAPS you may have heard of Greg ‘FBT’ Mueller. Canadian. And Yukon Brad Booth. Or Erik Cajelais. Mike ‘Timex’ McDonald. Nenad Medic. Steve-Paul Ambrose. Shawn Buchanan.Glen Chorny, Sorel Mizzi, Isabelle Mercier, Evelyn Ng, Scott Montgomery, Mike Watson, Pascal LeFrancois… oh, and let’s not forget my favourite bunny and the only woman to go uber deep in back to back Main Events, Party Poker’s own Kara Scott.
More than Eskimos, igloos, and hockey players
Beginning to get the picture? Canada is more than Eskimos, igloos, and hockey players (well, we DO have a lot of hockey players….very VERY good hockey players!). No, the Great White North is home to some of the finest talent in the poker world, and only now is the rest of the world starting to clue in.
The 2010 World Series of Poker was a kind of coming out party for the talent that flies the Maple Leaf as their home colours. The Main Event, of course, was won by Jonathan Duhamel, an affable youngster from Montreal who honed his skills both in the cash games online and the live play in and around Montreal, a hot bed of poker in Canada. But another Canadian, this one hailing from Canada’s West Coast named Matt Jarvis also made that final table.
And, aside from Duhamel, a whole bunch of Canadians got some fancy new wrist bling by capturing bracelets this past year, including Gavin Smith, Pascal LeFrancois, Aadam Daya, and Scott Montgomery. That’s a pretty good haul for Canucks.
This abundance of Canadian talent was a surprise to most. But not to residents of the country. In fact, it’s been no secret for quite some time that Canada is a hotbed of poker activity. In fact, one Canadian university, the University of Waterloo, has become somewhat of a poker factory, turning out more than a few players who have won 500K plus paydays: Steve-Paul Ambrose (1.3 million WPT win), William Ma (600K Grand Prix de Paris win), Mike McDonald (1.4 million EPT win), and Nenad Medic (WSOP and WPT wins in the millions). There probably aren’t a lot of universities that can claim their students have over five million in career poker winnings.
Long cold winters with nothing to do
But great poker players aren’t isolated to Ontario, which by the way, also gave birth to Gavin Smith and Daniel Negreanu. In fact, from coast to coast, there are booming poker scenes. Vancouver boasts lots of action and a couple of large poker rooms. Calgary and Edmonton as well. Montreal has a world champion and a bunch of bracelet winners in the fold.
So what makes Canadian poker tick? I interviewed Negreanu a little while back, and asked him that question. His response? Long cold winters with nothing to do. Could it be that simple? Apparently, it is. Perhaps the same theory works in Sweden, Denmark, Russia, etc. Hmm…. wait a second… Viktor Blom? Peter Eastgate? Demidov and Kravechenko? Maybe there IS something to this cold theory.
There’s only one way to find out: open your freezer, strip down to your underwear, and once you’re properly frozen, start playing poker. And don’t forget to say ‘eh’ a lot….