August 2016

Top Five Canadians on the Global Poker Index

Top Five Canadians on the Global Poker Index

By: Paul Hewson
 
Who's the best Canadian poker player in the world? You're probably thinking Daniel Negreanu; if not, maybe Mike “Timex” McDonald, or Jonathan Duhamel. But those gentlemen rank seventh, eighth, and ninth respectively on the current Global Poker Index (GPI). Not that it's easy to sort out who's the best in poker once you get to a certain level. And the GPI is all about tournaments. Playing the “Big Game” at the Aria will not earn you any points.

It's still good to know which Canadians have been bossing the tournament tables. Here are the Top Five Canucks on the GPI at press time:
 
1. Mike Leah
The Toronto native and hard-core Maple Leafs fan is No. 43 overall on the GPI, but he's coming off mixed results at the World Series of Poker: 10 cashes, zero final tables. Leah should feel a bit better after winning his fourth career WSOP circuit ring, taking down a Pot Limit Omaha event two weeks ago at Harrah's Cherokee.
 
2. Sam Greenwood
Greenwood didn't have much success at the WSOP, either, cashing in three times for a total of just over $20,000. This has still been a great 2016 campaign for Sam, yet another of Toronto's finest – he won a UKIPT event in February, and earned a pair of six-figure paydays playing high-roller events in Australia and Monte Carlo.
 
3. Samuel Chartier
Montreal is always well-represented on the Canadian poker scene. Chartier placed as high as No. 16 on the GPI back in 2012. Like Greenwood, he only cashed in three times at this year's WSOP, but he nearly made the final table at the $2,000 No Limit Hold'em event, crashing out in 10th place.
 
4. Ari Engel
Engel's tournament stock has been on the rise for a few years now, but he's probably more known for his online play, where he was once ranked the best in the world. Born in Toronto, Engel ended up moving all over the world throughout his childhood, so the tournament scene is right up his alley. Six WSOP cashes this summer will help further his career.
 
5. Mike Watson
“Sir Watts” might be the best thing to come out of Newfoundland since Natasha Henstridge. You may have seen Watson representing The Rock when he won the 2016 PCA Main Event at Paradise Island. He added eight cashes at this year's WSOP, including a second-place finish at the $10,000 2-7 Draw Lowball Championship – one of two bracelets won by Jason Mercier. Sir Watts will get you next time.

Top Canadian Cities for Live Poker

Top Canadian Cities for Live Poker

By: Paul Hewson
 
Canada has become famous in the live poker world for churning out world-class players. It's amazing when you consider there are about as many poker tables operating in all of Canada as there are at the Commerce Casino near Los Angeles. According to World Casino Directory, there are 243 tables in Canada, run by 38 poker rooms. Game selection isn't optimal here.

So where should you play poker in Canada to get the most out of your loonie? That's always going to depend on the local economy. When the money is flowing, people head to the nearest poker room and gamble. When times are tough, they don't. But in general, your best chance of success is in a region with multiple options. Here are three to consider for 2016 and beyond.
 
Vancouver
It's fitting that Hollywood North is the place to be for live poker in Canada. There are seven poker rooms in the greater community, although only one of them is downtown: Edgewater Casino. And their gaming license is about to transfer to the new Parq Vancouver when it opens in August 2017. Will the remaining tables (six at last count) be moved to the new facility? Stay tuned.

In the meantime, if you're willing to live out in the 'burbs, you'll be relatively close to four poker rooms: the Hard Rock, the Grand Villa, Elements and Cascades. There's also the River Rock Casino in Richmond, certainly the nicest poker room in town, but not nearly as busy as it used to be.
 
Calgary
Alas, the oil boom has come and gone, and Calgary's economic woes were recently compared to Detroit's in The Globe and Mail. Consider it an opportunity to buy in cheaply. There are five poker rooms in Calgary with a total of 59 tables: Cash Casino, Cowboys, Elbow River, Grey Eagles and Stoney Nakoda. The games in Calgary are pretty soft, too.
 
Montreal
If you're a very good player, and you like a bumping nightlife, Montreal is your destination. The quality of poker is reasonably high, especially at the Playground Poker Club – easily Canada's biggest right now with 78 tables running and the World Cup of Cards starting this week. The cost of living is low, and there are four other poker rooms nearby: Casino Montreal, Casino de Mont-Tremblant, El Jumelgi, and Snake's Poker Club. 

Poker Odds Made Easy: The Rule of 4 and 2

Poker Odds Made Easy: The Rule of 4 and 2

By: Paul Hewson
 
One of the great things about poker is how bad most people are at math. But you don't need to be a University of Waterloo alumnus (like Mike McDonald, and Mike Watson, and Xuan Liu, and Will Ma) to figure out how to play a decent game of poker. Once you understand pot odds, and how to count your outs, there's a handy shortcut you can use to calculate whether you should continue with a draw on the flop or turn. Some call it the Rule of 4 and 2. Others call it the Rule of 2 and 4. Either way, it's an easy way to improve your game.
 
Odds and Ends
First, give credit where credit is due: This rule can be traced back to Phil Gordon's Little Green Book (2005). You may remember Gordon from the final table at the 2001 World Series of Poker Main Event, where he finished fourth, or as the co-host of Celebrity Poker Showdown with Dave Foley from Kids in the Hall.

Let's say you're in position with the King and Jack of Hearts in a single-raised pot. The flop comes Eight of Hearts, Five of Hearts, and Three of Clubs. The pot is $10, and your opponent leads with a half-pot bet of $5. What should you do? Start with the pot odds: You have to call $5 to win $15, so that's 33.3%. Then count your outs: You have a flush draw, so that's nine outs. Easy enough so far.
 
Two Hearts Beat As One
If you happen to have a computer for a brain, you can do the exact math in your head to see what your chances are of making your flush by the river. There are 52 cards in the deck, five known – two in your hand, three on the flop – and 47 unknown. Of those 47 cards, nine are hearts and 38 are not. That means there are 9x38 ways of getting one more heart on the board, and another (9x8/2) ways of getting two more hearts. Add it up, and you get 380 combos out of a possible 1081 outcomes, or 35.19%. Looks like a good call with your flush draw.

For those of us who aren't savants, just use the Rule of 4 and 2: On the flop, multiply your outs by four, and on the turn, multiply your outs by two. You've got nine outs with your flush draw on the flop, and nine times four is 36, so you have an estimated 36% chance of completing your flush by the river. The more outs you have, the further away your estimate will get from the actual answer, but you'll be close enough – and your brain won't melt down in the process.

How LA Became Poker Capital of the World

How LA Became Poker Capital of the World

Now that the 2016 World Series of Poker has wrapped up (November Nine notwithstanding), things are starting to quiet down in Las Vegas. All those recreational players who showed up for the WSOP have gone back home, leaving behind the usual assortment of pros, would-be pros, and railbirds. It won't be easy, but you can still go to Vegas this summer and maybe make a little money, if you're good at poker.

Or you could go to Los Angeles and make a lot of money, and have more fun while you're at it. Las Vegas may get all the attention during the WSOP, but the biggest poker room in the world is at the Commerce Casino, which has over 240 tables. The second-biggest room is just a stone's throw away at the Bicycle Casino. How did poker in LA get so ridiculously huge?
 
Equine Equity
In 1892, William James Florence told the story of the first stud game in The Gentlemen's Handbook on Poker. A riverboat gambler, who went by the name of Poker McCool for his success at draw poker, was in a high-stakes 5-card draw game in New Orleans (some versions of the story say Ohio). He and his opponent ended up betting huge sums of money after the first card had been dealt, with the second, third and fourth cards coming one at a time, face-up, and the fifth card buried. In the end, McCool had all his earthly possessions in the pot – including his prize black stallion. And he lost. McCool was history, but the game he played lived on as “studhorse” poker.

Fast-forward about 20 years, and we arrive in Sacramento, where the state legislature decided in 1885 to add “stud-horse” poker (now hyphenated) to the list of disallowed forms of gambling, under Section 330 of the Penal Code. But the lawmakers didn't bother to define what stud-horse poker was. The state simply banned all forms of poker, along with any other banked card game.
 
Stud Club
Then the tide started turning. In 1911, California's attorney general, Harold Webb, ruled that draw poker was not stud poker. Instantly, cardrooms began popping up across the state, offering draw and lowball games. The cardrooms got around the banking restrictions by charging a flat fee to play, instead of raking a percentage of the pot. Stud games would eventually be allowed in 1987, after a court ruled that nobody knew what “stud horse” poker (two words, no hyphen) actually meant.

While all this was going on, Los Angeles was booming. The past 100 years have brought a lot of loose money into town, thanks in part to this “Hollywoodland” thing. If you want to grab a piece of that money while it's still summertime, consider sitting down at a $2/$4 game at the Commerce, or a $2/$3 game at the Bike. You'll meet some interesting characters who don't mind punting away some of their cash, as long as they're having fun. Just don't try to use your horse as collateral.