The WPT's Canadian Open began today at noon and runs until Tuesday, although the final table will be played on Oct. 30. In between, the Fallsview will play host to a second WPT event, the North American Poker Championships, which begin on the Wednesday and play down to a final table on the 29th.
Both events are new to the WPT schedule this year and together comprise the only Canadian stops on the tour. The North American Poker Championships features a $10,000 Main Event and is sure to be packed with pros. Even Brandi Hawbaker, darling of the Festa al Lago, is rumored to be making an appearance, which certainly has us members of the press feeling giddy.
Despite the airline losing our luggage on the flight up last night, Matt and I were able to get over to the casino to watch the opening hands of the Canadian Open. A full roster of 300 entrants crowded the Grand Hall at the Fallsview Casino Resort in Niagara Falls, which, fittingly, boasts a spectacular view of the Horseshoe Falls from just outside the tournament area. The field is relatively slim on pros, with proud Canadians like Gavin Smith, Daniel Negreanu, Isabelle Mercier and Jim Worth joining visitors from Stateside and around the world like Michael Mizrachi, Joe Sebok, James Van Alstyne, Nam Le and Humberto Brenes.
The majority of the seats in the Grand Hall seem to have been filled with amateurs, most of them Canadian, many of them wearing replica hockey jerseys. Unlike the jerseys sported by many poker professionals, however, most of these jerseys feature the names of pro hockey players, which will no doubt cause confusion amongst members of the press who aren't so well-versed in Canada's national sport. Fortunately, Matt and I are both Canadian, so you can expect no such confusion when it comes down to reporting the names of the big movers at this tournament.
It will be interesting to see how players like Negreanu and Mizrachi deal with the rest of the field here - the tournament buy-in was a relatively paltry $2,500 CAD, which makes the tournament accessible to many of your average poker fans from the surrounding area who probably wouldn't be able to justify spending $10,000 US on a WPT Main Event.
Will the tournament turn out to be a room full of fish for the big names to munch on? Or can the Canadians and their neighbors from New York state hold their own against some of poker's best? We'll find out in the days ahead.
In any case, it looks like the tournament organizers are excited to have such a prestigious series come to their casino, and are pulling out all the stops to ensure that the WPT has no excuse but to return during Season 6. They've even put in a free buffet around the edges of the poker room, and if that isn't a sign of a great venue, I don't know what is.
PokerListings.com will be on location in Niagara Falls until the last hand is dealt on Oct. 30. We'll bring you the same comprehensive coverage as the Festa al Lago and the World Series of Poker, including blogs, interviews, updates and photographs, so keep checking back with us for all the tournament details.