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Daniel - Poker Journal

Toronto to London

03 Apr 2006


Evelyn and I landed in Toronto at 9:00pm EST and went our separate ways. She got a ride from an old friend Talya and my brother was there to pick me up and take him back to his place.

When I got there his wife Ornella started with the old, "Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? What can I make you," routine.

"That's ok Ornella, I'm really not hungry," I replied. Then she took a page out of my mother's book by asking, "Ok, I'll make you some stir fry? How about some orange juice? Do you want a water? How about some almonds? You want a salad? How about a bagel? You want peanut butter and jelly? How about a beer."

If you ever saw the movie by Big Fat Greek Wedding you'd have a glimpse into what it is like to be raised in a European household. There was a funny line in that move that might as well have been my mother saying it, "You want something to eat?" The mother asks the husband to be.

"Oh, no thank you, I'm not hungry thanks."

"OK, I make you something." If you haven't seen the movie, go get it... right now. C'mon, go already!

Anyway, I truly appreciate the hospitality. As annoying as it may seem to those that don't understand the culture, it's generally the way people show love. There is love in the food. Whether it's my mother or Ornella, you can feel it, taste it, and appreciate it.

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The next morning I headed down to the Elephant & Castle to help get things kick started for the Red Hot Poker Tour's Tournament of Champions. There were 140 entrants from anywhere from Toronto, Hamilton, or even Ottawa. The Red Hot Poker Tour has been spreading pretty quickly and they are picking up steam.

After we kicked things off I did a quick interview and then headed back to my brother's house to sleep before the evening's final table.

I recognized only one face at the final table: Jimmy Herrera. I think the last time I was in town Jimmy attended a party that the Red Hot Poker was throwing for some of it's valued customers.

Jimmy works in Toronto as a Security guard but was born and raised in El Salvador. Not long after the party, Jimmy's wife had a baby!

Anyway, he seemed like a genuinely nice guy. Soft spoken, kinda like a teddy bear. I didn't want to be impartial when watching the final table, but I couldn't help but root for Jimmy a little bit.

Let me tell you, this final table was insane! I am now thoroughly convinced that live poker is rigged. I've never seen so many action flops and brutal beats in my life.

On one hand, Jimmy was all in with QQ vs. 99. The flop came 10-5-2. The turn was a 9! Jimmy used his patented ploy and stood up to put on his jacket. He'd done that all night and it worked every time. Bingo, Queen ball!

There were tons of other sick hands like that, that I won't bore you with. Jimmy finally got heads up with a young player from Ottawa named James. James was probably the only player at that final table that didn't make a crucial error.

I watched the entire final table and these two were the most deserving of being heads up. On the final hand, James got tricky and limped in from the button with As Ac. Jimmy checked his option and the flop came Qd 9d 5d.

Jimmy checked, and James, worried about the flush draw moved all in. Jimmy quickly called and turned up pocket fives for a set. A diamond came on the turn, but a blank hit the river and Jimmy won the Tournament of Champions along with seat #10 in the Daniel Negreanu Protégé final on April 29th, 2006.
I was happy for Jimmy, but felt bad for James at the same time. In hindsight, he could have played his aces differently and avoided going broke, but it was still a tough hand to lose.

Jimmy, on the other hand is a player with excellent poker instincts. His fundamentals need a lot of work, but frankly, that's the easy part to teach. Both players had close to 300,000 in chips heads up with 6000-12,000 blinds and Jimmy's only move in the end became the all in push. The blinds were still small enough for some post flop play, but Jimmy was pushing way too hard with his strong hands.

After the tournament was over some of us headed over to Suite 106, a club that my cousin promotes at. In the bathroom, I ran into Josh Towers, a pitcher for the Blue Jays.

As we were doing our business, he told me to come over to his table as he's with some of the other guys. Russ Adams, a guy I'd met before at the Conn Smythe dinner was there as was their new relief pitcher, B.J. Ryan.

The Blue Jays made some awesome moves in the off season and I'm starting to get the baseball bug again.

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The next day I met Evelyn at the airport for our flight to London. It's been a really long time since I've had a chance to hang out with Ev and it's been good. Ev really gets my sometimes goofy sense of humor which makes me feel comfortable being my goofy self around her. You know, messing with the flight attendants, hotel people, cashiers, etc.

I'm not mean to them. In fact, I'm never mean to them. I'm sure, though, that they'll often think to themselves after I leave, "What the... that guy was a real weirdo, lol."

It can be boring working a mundane job all day, so if I can be the dummy who puts a smile on their face I relish that role. If you want to make people smile and laugh, you really have to be able to laugh at yourself and be comfortable being the butt of a joke.

When we got to London our car wasn't there to pick us up at the airport. Since I've seen Amazing Race I knew just what to do- call a cab. We hopped in the cab and went to our hotel.

We got to the hotel at about 7:30am and the receptionist let us know that Evelyn's room was ready, but that mine was occupied. What did that mean? Well, that I'd have to sit in the lobby or hang in Evelyn's room till noon.

I wasn't going to get angry at her, it wasn't her fault, but I let her know that I'd like to yell at the event organizer because, well, because it's kinda fun.

She laughed, and her supervisor came over at which time I said, "Hey dude, it's all good man. I just need to yell at the dude who set this up, she's cool.

My room wasn't going to be available so I asked if there were any suites available. She found one, and I just decided to pay for it myself. The organizers were paying for a junior suite, but I wasn't going to "hang out" for four hours waiting for it. Besides, this room is cooler anyway.

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When I got to my room I was flipping through the channels when I happened upon a Cricket match between England and India. Now, I don't even know the rules to cricket other than it's a little like baseball and it takes a gazillion hours to finish a game, but something kept me from switching the channel.

Well, as I continued to watch and started to understand what was going on I was quickly addicted. In fact, part of the fun was just trying to figure out what was going on and what the stats meant.

By the end I understood that Pattan's economy of 4.44 was excellent and that with just 23 overs left needing 146 runs at a rate of 9.34 runs per over while England was only averaging close to 5 runs per over, that India was kicking butt!

Colllingwood made a good go of it with a 93 and a good partnership with Jones but India was so far ahead they left the spinners in as to not allow any 4's or 6's.

LOL, LOL, LOL.... you didn't understand any of that did you? Well, when I first started I had no clue either, but now I am like a Cricket Guru. Pathan ended the game with 4 wickets on 56 runs and India smoked England by 49 runs.

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After watching the cricket, I thought I'd take a walk down the streets of London to get a feel for the unique and different culture. So as I walked down Montague passing a McDonalds, Burger King, and a Pizza Hut I noticed a Starbucks up ahead and decided to drop in.

Starbucks is everywhere! Seriously, if we ever have people moving to the moon how do I just know that Starbucks will have something to do with it?

I planned on getting a coffee, something I rarely ever do, but thought, "Why not." I ordered a Grande decaf Cappuccino with soy milk. I was then pleasantly surprised to see a wide selection of Vegan options. I got a falafel wrap and a pesto asparagus deal also. Yum-yum.

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On a messed up sleep schedule now as it's about 5:00am, today Evelyn, soccer player Jason de Vos, and myself will be representing team Canada against Australia at noon today. We'll be fresh and ready for our first match, but if we win that one we may be a little fatigued for our next mach which could pit us against the U.S. team.

So, from now until start time I plan on catching up on some serious writing. No blog writing, real writing. I'm going to hammer out six Card Player columns I have prepared as well as try to write about five newspaper columns for my syndicated column. That should catch me up on those writing assignments and allow me to start focusing 3-4 hours a day on my book that is due out later this year.

So on that note, see ya, I have to get some work done.

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