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A Week with No Sleep in Toronto

14 Feb 2006

Feb 7th: I got to Toronto at about 10:30pm and my brother came to pick me up at the airport. He actually got to Toronto just three hours earlier after being out in Vegas for the FCP weekend.

He took me downtown to the Inter Continental Hotel on Front St. I had a pretty full day scheduled for the 8th, so I watched a couple episodes of Amazing Race season 1 before hitting the sack. Yes, I just started watching it, and yes I think it is a quality reality show.

Feb 8th: When I got up that morning my publicist in Toronto had a full slate of interviews set up. The first stop was Sun TV to do a show called Inside Jam.

In the same building, I hit my next appointment which was on a new show called The Grill Room which is similar to Off the Record. Basically, it's a sports talk show where the guests talk about the issues facing sports, etc.

The hot topic of discussion was of course, Rick Tocchet, Las Vegas, and gambling in general. They ended up with a decent panel consisting of UFC president Dana Smith and UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin. Both guys had recently come back from Vegas, and one of the promoters actually lives like 5 minutes from my house. Small world!

So anyway, my position on the whole Rick Tocchet situation was that things were being blown way out of proportion. For those of you that haven't been following the news, there is a new scandal brewing in the NHL where Rick Tocchet was allegedly working with a police officer in New Jersey running a bookmaking operation that also allegedly was associated with some NJ mobsters.

Now if that's true, Rick Tocchet is going to jail for a very long time. That in itself isn't what I have an issue with. The media is reporting that some NHL players were actually betting on sports with the gambling ring. Of course, there is no evidence or no reason to believe that any of them ever bet on a hockey game, “a la Pete Rose“.

Big deal. Some hockey player bets $500 on the Super Bowl and this makes headlines? That is silly.

There is more. Canadian poster boy and hockey icon Wayne Gretzky could be in serious trouble as well. Apparently his wife, actress Janet Gretzky, has bet a substantial amount of money with this illegal gambling ring.

So anyway, me being the "Vegas guy" who also likes hockey, a lot of questions were pointed in my direction. It's a big mess for the NHL, but frankly, I just don't think it's that big a deal aside from all the mob ties. There are probably 1500 or so online sites where you can bet sports these days and society doesn't seem to have much of a "moral issue" with it.

Anyway, enough about that or I could easily turn this blog into a book! After the show, Dean McNeil of the Red Hot Poker Tour picked me and my publicist Mark up and took us to Hamilton. Normally a 1.5 hour drive, it ended up taking a little over two hours due to traffic and... well, Dean getting a little lost!

We finally got there around 7:00pm and the bar was packed as usual. The Red Hot Poker Tour is an extremely successful tour in the Toronto and Ottawa area that goes from bar to bar and holds totally free tournaments for the patrons.

There is no entry fee and no cash prizes. People literally just play for the love of the game and it's great to see. Also, the touring players on the tour really do try very hard and the level of competition gets increasingly more skilled.

I said a few hellos and then was escorted to the back of the bar to do another interview with Discovery Canada. The show was dealing with the Science of Sports. I did one more interview after that, and then made the call to, "shuffle up and deal."

The plan was for me to play a round or so at each table so I could get a chance to play with almost all of the players. Along the way I ran into some potential "Protégé’s" who seemed to just have that eye that I'd look for in a student.

I managed to get to all of the tables and was eliminated when we were down to the last two tables. They, of course, put me back into the tournament at the final table with an average stack of 48,000.

I had a lot of fun at the final table chatting it up with the crowd and getting to know some of the players. Then I did something that had me a little giddy:

4-handed, I was on a relatively short stack with the chip leader in the small blind. I moved all in with 5d 7d and the small blind looked at his cards and hesitated.

I sensed that he had a marginal hand and was able to instantly narrow down his holdings based on a couple of clues I'll share with you in a minute. I looked right at him and said, "You aren't seriously thinking about calling me with that K-9 off suit are you?"

He chuckled... then showed the crowd K-9! I gave myself a pat on the back, but this was no magic trick. In fact, it wasn't all that difficult a read based on the following clues:

1) If he had an Ace he would have called me rather quickly.
2) If he had a pocket pair he would have called me quickly.
3) With K-Q or K-J, I felt as though he would make the call.

That left me with K-10 or K-9, but based on my read of his pause K-9 screamed out of my subconscious so I called it out. Now THAT, was a lot of fun and got a pretty good cheer from the crowd. Oh... and it also won me the pot as he mucked it!

I ended up getting heads up with him and turning three aces only to lose on the river to a spade flush. Oh well, finishing second was probably the best result.

I stuck around till closing as promised, signing autographs, taking pictures, and also getting to know some of the Red Hot Poker Tour staff that continues to grow as the Tour continues to grow in numbers.

The drive back to the hotel wasn't too bad, but it was too late to write a blog since I had a full day scheduled the next morning.

Feb 9th: This was the day I was really in Toronto for. The day that I was scheduled to attend the Conn Smythe Dinner for Easter Seals. Before that, though, I also had an early morning photo shoot scheduled that went really well.

I was back to the hotel by about 11:30am and headed down to meet some of the other celebrities in the hospitality suite before heading down to the room where there would be a press conference.

Not surprisingly, despite the fact that I was there to talk about Easter Seals and the wonderful cause that it was, the first line of questioning I received was, “So what do you think about the Rick Tocchet situation?” Oh brother…

After the press conference I headed back to my room to take a one hour nap before trying on my tux and heading down to the pre-dinner cocktail party.

At 4:30pm all of the sports celebrities met back in the hospitality suite before all heading down together. Others there were Adrion Smith (long time Toronto Argonaut), Russ Adams (Blue Jays shortstop), John Ferguson (former NHL Heavyweight champion), Billy Smith (Islander Goalie with four Stanley Cup rings), Darryl Sittler (Maple Leafs caption who 30 years ago had 10 points in one game), and several other Canadian Olympians including snowboarder Ross Rebagliati (yes the same one who was “at a party”).

Overall it was a really good group of guys to say the least and it was nice to see them all at the dinner in support of Easter Seals.

Others in attendance included:

Wendel Clark (NHL)
Mike Foligno (NHL)
Craig Forrest (Soccer Goalie)
Geraldine Heaney (Women’s Hockey)
Daniel Igali (Olympic Wrestler)
Nick Kypreos (NHL)
Blaine Manning (Lacrosse)
Sandra Post (LPGA)
Jennifer Robinson (Figure Skating)
Steve Shutt (NHL)
John Tavares (Future NHL phenom)
Mike “Pinball” Clemons (Toronto Argos Head Coach)

At dinner, I was seated next to Russ Adams and Ross Rebagliati which suited me just fine. Next to us was Billy Smith who regaled us with stories of being on the road in the NHL With a stellar crew of people on hand, it was time to introduce the real stars of the Conn Smythe dinner, the 2006 Easter Seals Ambassadors:

Ryan Benoit: Ryan has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair or a walker to get around. He admits having a disability means he sometimes has to work harder than others, but he doesn’t let it get in the way of his independence or achieving his goals. Ryan’s motto, and advice to other kids is simple yet powerful, “Never give up and keep on trying!”

Ryan is 12 years old and he blew me away. I think Pinball Clemons said it best when he said that he comes here for selfish reasons. That kids like Ryan are an inspiration and empower him. I couldn’t agree more.

Kaitlyn Lenchak: Kaitlyn was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, spastic diplegia at age one and has some challenges walking. She is usually able to get around comfortably using her walker, but has her friends and family to help her around less accessible areas.

Kaitlyn has been positively influenced by past Easter Seals Ambassadors and is looking forward to helping other kids with physical disabilities. She says, “I want to be able to speak for others who may not be able to.” She wrote such an awesome speech that I’d like to hire her to write some for me if I ever do any public speaking. She was super confident and well spoken.

Kaitlyn and Ryan will take over from Heather Stewart and Paul Manieri whom I met at Chris Pronger’s celebrity golf tournament last year.

The Easter Seals is a first class organization and if you’d like to know more about them and what they do please check out www.eaterseals.org.

After the real stars were finished kicking off the festivities each of the celebrity guests conducted interviews with either Gord Stellick or Christine Simpson.
When dinner was over, we all headed over to the post-dinner reception. My brother joined me at the party and I got a chance to catch up with him there for a bit.

I also had a chance to catch up with Justin Hines who kicked things off by singing the national anthem. Justin is a pretty cool dude. He was diagnosed with a rare condition I’ve never heard of. I forget the name of it, but it basically is a condition where his joints aren’t in the right place so he can’t get around without a wheelchair. Luckily for the rest of the world, his vocal cords work just fine!

In fact, Justin has an album in the works and it should be released in April (www.Justin Hines.com)

After speaking with Justin and his buddy for a bit, I schmoozed at the party for the most part, until a few of us decided to head up to the hospitality suite to keep the party going.

I ended up spending most of the night hanging out with Adrion Smith, Russ Adams, and Christine Simpson who you might know from OLN hockey broadcasts or various other broadcasts she‘s been on.

It was a really, really, fun group. We laughed for most of the night while Russ choked on his “dip.” It seems almost half of the baseballs players in the MLB are chewing tobacco. Man, now THAT, is a nasty habit.

I really enjoyed hanging out with the gang and look forward to checking out some Blue Jays games this year. They have “pwned” in the off season and will make a serious run at the Yankees and Red Sox this year… mark my words.

Adrion is just smoooooth. A cool cat that reminds me of the guys I used to hang out with in junior high. Christine “Stifler’s Mom” Simpson was also cool to hang out with as she was basically, “one of the guys.” We all coined her Stifler’s Mom because of her striking resemblance to the character in America Pie.

I finally rolled into bed at about 5:00am and set my alarm for an 8:30am wake up call.

Feb 10th: Early that morning Mark Cohen who works as my publicist met me in the lobby for another full slate of interviews. We met with our first writer in a pub and went over some poker basics, etc. From there, we headed back the office to run through five telephone interviews.

After we got through that we headed over to the Omni building to do IshtyleTV and TechTV. Ishtyle (say that three times, trust me you’ll laugh) Tv is like a Canadian version of Letterman. Shows like that are few and far between in Canada, but this dude Mo-D had me laughing. It was a lower budget show, but they put a lot of work into it, have a great host, and deliver with the comedy.

After that I did TechTV which was an awesome opportunity to plug www.fullcontactpoker.com as I was able to walk the host through the sign up process and how game play works. Along with attending the Conn Smythe Dinner, the other purpose of the trip was to get the word out about FCP and the Daniel Negreanu Protégé program, so opportunities like these were invaluable.

That took us right up to my dinner appointment with Dean McNeil and the winner of the last Red Hot Poker Tour, Tournament of Champions (the next winner gets a seat in the finals of the Protégé program) Adam Domencini. We stopped by the Loose Moose for a bit to drop off some stuff and said hello to some of the Tour players before heading to dinner.

We ended up at an AWESOME restaurant called Sassafras. The chef did me up right with a Vegan dealio that he conjured up. The mushroom, truffle, something or other combo was totally off the hook!

After dinner we headed out to a condo where we met with other Red Hot winners and some staff members for an appreciation party of sorts. We played a little poker, had a few drinks, and then headed out to a club called Republic.
Very nice club. Very cool company. I had a good time at the club, and then my brother and his friends got hungry (big surprise) so we ended up at a Chinese restaurant that smelled like… well, like dead cat. Needless to say, I lost my appetite. I finally hit the sack at about 5:00am, and once again found no time for a blog entry.

Feb 11th: I finally got to sleep in a little bit. Not for as long as I would have liked, though, because the hockey game was scheduled earlier than usual that night, 6:00pm.

I called Bob “FCPInfo” Masternak who joined me along with Chris “Gruven” Tserrao and his friend Jenn. The game kinda sucked as the Leafs didn’t look too sharp after losing to the Rangers the night before as well. Belfour let in some softies and the Rangers just looked like the better team.

After the game Chris and Jenn took us to “The Bottom Line” for dinner. The place was set up pretty cool. It was a restaurant, but it was also a bar with couches in the middle of the room next to the dinner tables. I’d never seen a set up like that and really liked it.

The plan after dinner was to meet with a cousin of mine who was promoting a club called Suite 106. Before that, though, I met up with a guy I hadn’t seen in ages. “Shampoo” hasn’t changed a bit. He still has “big hair” and is still playing poker in Toronto.

We picked them up at the Devil’s Martini and they followed us to Suite 106 where we met the others. I was pretty impressed with that club as it had a very “Pure-like” vibe to it.

We stayed there till closing time before deciding to head to yet another late night Chinese restaurant. This one didn’t smell like dead cat at all… smelled a little bit more like chopped up Rover over a bed of Bambi and Thumper The bathrooms were just filthy, so yet again I was simply too afraid to eat anything there. I just can’t do it man… I just can’t. I love Chinese food, but I can’t deal with eating at hole-in-the-wall places that smell like toilet. Once again, I was in bed by about 5:00am… too late for a blog.

Feb 12th: It was time to get home, but before that I had to do an autograph signing. I signed 500 pictures, then packed up and got ready to head to the airport starving, and totally exhausted. My brother picked me up and took me to the airport which is really close to his house.

Feb 13th: Today, I got back to Las Vegas and at 10:00am was scheduled to attend the first ever WSOP Player Advisory board meeting. Since I got in late the night before, I opted to just call in as did a few others.

We covered all types of topics concerning this year’s WSOP and things seem promising. Some of the issues are going to have to wait till 2007 since it’s too late to change some things such as the schedule, but we were assured that the bathroom situation HAS been addressed as well as both the quality and price of the food on site.

Then at 1:00pm I had another interview to do at Bellagio. Right after that, I had three phone interviews scheduled back-to-back-to-back. Go ahead, ask me. Ask me the “big question” because I got it down to a tee now. What question? This question, “So Daniel, why do you think poker has become so popular?”

It’s a good question, and I’m certain that I’ve answered it over 200 times by now. I stopped off at the cage to do some “banking” and then headed back to the house for my next set of interviews.

Michael Kaplan, met me at the house for a lengthy interview, and in between that I did a satellite radio show.

And now? Well, now I’m watching High Stakes Poker on GSN. It’s fun to finally see if I made the right decision on a few hands and can finally breathe a sigh of relief knowing that I got away from several hands against Sammy. If you want to learn how to play no limit hold’em, this show is probably one of the best teaching tools available to you.

It’s on Mondays at 9:00pm, and you’ll see me on every episode along with a cast of other top players.

Ok, enough now… end of blog… hand is crianmping uip now and I need slept.


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