10 Highlights of Canadian Poker in 2013

Happy New Years! As we look at an exciting, fresh, new page on the calendar and imagine what 2014 will bring, we're also thinking about everything that has happened in the past year. 2013 was truly a great year for poker in Canada and we've put together what we think are the 10 best highlights of the year.

10 – Playground Poker’s Spring Classic and Fall Classic

Playground Poker's tournament floor
Playground Poker's tournament floor

We're cheating a bit and combining two events for one entry. Playground Poker, just outside of Montreal and arguably the best poker room in the country, hosted these two series in April/May and November/December of 2013. With a wide range of buy-ins ($150 to $10,000) and formats, players of all variety came out to play. The combination of cheap buy-ins beside huge marquee events is great for fostering a healthy poker community among recreational players and professionals alike. Playground Poker’s Spring Classic and Fall Classic are wildly popular, and are events that have something for everyone. They should serve as a model for other event organizers in the country.

9 – WSOP Circuit Lac-Leamy

Sylvestre wins more gold with his WSOP Circuit Lac-Leamy victory
Sylvestre wins more gold with his WSOP Circuit Lac-Leamy victory

Casino Lac-Leamy in Gatineau, Quebec hosted this new addition to the WSOP Circuit schedule for the first time in November of 2013. Ideally situated on the Ontario-Quebec border just across the Ottawa River from our nation’s capital, Casino Lac-Leamy attracted large fields of participants for its events ranging from $365 to $1,675. This new stop on the Circuit is welcome reassurance that poker in Canada is thriving, and organizers like WSOP are paying attention and responding to the demand for more big events. Hometown hero Charles Sylvestre won the Main Event and $122,435 to accompany the gold ring after he won his first gold bracelet at WSOP earlier in the year.

8 – WSOP Circuit River Rock

Milne wins WSOP Circuit River Rock for over $250k
Milne wins WSOP Circuit River Rock for over $250k

Canada's other WSOP Circuit stop was hosted by River Rock Casino in the Vancouver area, and players flocked to the West Coast for this headlining event in October/November. This was the second year for the Circuit at this location and it continued to uphold the high standard for attendance set in 2012. The WSOP Circuit attracts professionals that travel the circuit as well as local players that play the events as their one large buy-in for the year. Each stop offers 12 tournaments and each one awards a gold ring to first place. The $1,675 Main Event was won by Lincoln Milne, a local BC player, for $253,015.

7 – partypoker Premier League VII

Mizzi comes out on top at Premier League, representing Canada proudly
Mizzi comes out on top at Premier League, representing Canada proudly

This was the first time the partypoker Premier League was played on Canadian soil. Playground Poker was chosen as the location honoured with hosting the event at the same time as their Fall Classic in November. The $125,000 buy-in, invite-only event is recognized as one of the most elite series of the year. Besides being played in Canada, local legend Sorel Mizzi also came out on top to win $400,000, and all while wearing his Canada sweater too. He defeated a field that included Daniel Cates, Dan Colman, Jonathan Duhamel, Antonio Esfandiari, Jeff Gross, Jason Koon, Phil Laak, Brian Rast, Scott Seiver, Vanessa Selbst, and Dan Shak.

6 – Full Tilt Poker Montreal Festival

Balcazar is last man standing at Full Tilt Poker Montreal Festival Main Event
Balcazar is last man standing at Full Tilt Poker Montreal Festival Main Event

The Montreal Festival was another great poker series aimed at providing plenty of tournaments for players of every type. The 17 events had buy-ins ranging from just $60 to $1,100 for the $1M Guaranteed Main Event. The Main Event set a new Canadian record for the number of entrants in a poker tournament: 1,625. Part of the attraction was likely the chance to play with many of the pros in attendance like Full Tilt's Gus Hansen or PokerStars' Jonathan Duhamel, Chris Moneymaker, Victor Ramdin, Vanessa Rousso, and David Williams. Full Tilt also sweetened the pot with bonuses available to players with online FTP accounts wearing a Full Tilt patch. They also offered a $25,000 freeroll after the series ended to give players who did not cash one last chance to do so.

5 – WPT Canadian Spring Championship

Babakhani wins over $440k at WPT Canadian Spring Championship
Babakhani wins over $440k at WPT Canadian Spring Championship

In May of 2013, Playground Poker hosted a WPT event near the end of the Season XI schedule. Some of the best players in the world travel to the WPT events, and when they are held in beautiful Montreal they are sure to attract even more participants. The WPT event was part of the Playground Poker Spring Classic already mentioned above. The $3,300 tournament brought in 735 entries across the three start days, building a total prize pool of over $2 million. Amir Babakhani eventually took home the top prize: $442,284, the trophy belt, and an entry to the WPT World Championship worth $25,000.

4 – WPT Montreal

Rosenbarger wins $500k at WPT Montreal
Rosenbarger wins $500k at WPT Montreal

Once again, Playground Poker opened its doors for the WPT later in the year for Season XII. WPT Montreal was scheduled as part of their Fall Classic. This time the buy-in was $3,850 but they bested the Canadian Spring Championship entries by registering 862 players this time. Many players left the earlier WPT event raving about the quality of the Playground Poker Club which likely brought in some of those extra entries this time around. Derrick Rosenbarger won the belt and the cash, a little over half a million dollars, in his second-ever live tournament cash.

3 – PokerNews Canada Launch

PokerNews Canada began offering great Canadian poker coverage in May of 2013
PokerNews Canada began offering great Canadian poker coverage in May of 2013

We launched PokerNews Canada earlier this year, with the first articles posted in May. A quality site focused on Canadian poker was long overdue. It’s somewhat remarkable that poker is so popular and played at such a high level in this country, yet there was almost no coverage of what was happening in our poker rooms. We’re still working on improving the site and will be providing the best coverage of Canadian poker in 2014 that this country has been able to find yet. Look for more local tournament reports, local poker pro interviews, and always the best-informed industry updates.

2 – Daniel Negreanu: Player of the Year

Negreanu secures the WSOP Player of the Year at WSOP Europe
Negreanu secures the WSOP Player of the Year at WSOP Europe

Many Canadian poker players have kept their eye on Negreanu over the years as one of the players we can be proud of representing Canada. When he reached the final table of WSOP Europe's Event #8 in October, he earned enough points to secure the 2013 WSOP Player of the Year award. He then went on to win the event for €725,000 and his sixth gold bracelet. He also won the WSOP POY back in 2004, and is now the only player who has ever won it twice. It is remarkable that Negreanu can continue to be relevant and on top of this game that evolves quickly and constantly, even a decade later.

1 – Canadians at WSOP

McNeil and his shiny new gold bracelet at WSOP, one of ten Canadians to win one
McNeil and his shiny new gold bracelet at WSOP, one of ten Canadians to win one

The WSOP is the biggest tournament series of the year, and Canadians dominated in 2013. The Americans always kill at this event (making up almost 72% of total entrants in 2013); they accumulated 40 bracelets, made 6,035 cashes, and won a total of $109,966,358. But of the remaining 106 countries represented at the event, Canada was far and away the most successful. Canada won ten bracelets, made 561 cashes, and earned $10,579,113. Charles Sylvestre, Benny Chen, Michael Malm, Levi Berger, Mark Radoja, Calen McNeil, Jason Duval, Justin Oliver, Daniel Idema, and Kristen Bicknell all brought home gold bracelets. Global coverage ran headlines like “The Year of Canada” and “Canada Crushes at WSOP.” A reputation is building that Canada is home to a lot of great poker talent.

2013 was a fantastic year for poker in Canada. Large marquee events were added to schedules, Playground Poker continued to offer some of the best series you can find anywhere, Canadians killed in international tournaments, and the poker community has grown in this country.

We enjoyed providing all of the coverage and thank you for reading. We're all very excited for 2014 because we have a feeling there are going to be a lot of exciting new developments to report this year.

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