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From Sam's Town to Your Town: James Van Alstyne at the Canadian Open
Day 2 of the inaugural World Poker Tour Season 5 Canadian Open began with a field of largely unrecognizable faces. The big-name pros had all been eliminated on the first day of competition, and armchair poker fans would have been hard-pressed to come up with the name of one player still surviving. Anyone familiar with the poker that is played at casinos and not on soundstages would have noticed one face of note, however. Its owner sitting quiet and unassuming at his table in a corner of the playing area.
James Van Alstyne got his start playing blackjack and eventually moved into poker as well. The Georgia native won the World Poker Players' Association Championship in 2004, and finished fifth in the WPT Championship event during Season 4.
Last week he logged a $25,050 payday at the Festa al Lago at Bellagio, and while many of the pros who played in that event opted to take a pass on the Canadian Open, Van Alstyne was not one of them. I spoke to James about the Canadian Open, the Festa al Lago, and the pop-rock band The Killers, whose t-shirt he wore to the felt on Day 2.
How are you playing today?
Not so great today. I don't know. Maybe I woke up lethargic or something. I'm not really playing that good today.
What are your impressions of the tournament as a whole?
Oh, it's very well-run, the tables are nice, and it seems to be well-organized. We didn't play too long yesterday, so that was nice, the slow structure. The structure's really good.
How was your Day 1?
Day 1 was excellent. I played pretty good the first day. I wish I would play better today, though.
How would you rate the caliber of play at the Canadian Open?
Um, not so hot. (Laughs) No, there are some strange things going on at my table. I saw this one hand - guy goes all-in, second guy calls the all-in, and then a third guy calls the all-in. The first guy went in with Q-10; he was the short-stack, that's understandable. Second guy calls with A-10 off-suit; third guy called with K-Q off-suit, which is unbelievable. That's the type of play we're getting.
So it's substantially lower than what you saw last week at the Festa al Lago?
I would say so at this point. I mean, maybe once it gets down to twenty or thirty players, they might be stronger players, but right now it's …
The play will probably be a little better in the North American Poker Championships.
Will you be playing in that tournament as well?
Oh, definitely. Definitely.
How was the Festa al Lago for you?
I finished twenty-first, but I had a lot of chips after Day 2. I was in third place after Day 2 and I thought I would do better. So I finished twenty-first but I was hoping for a little bit higher.
What brought you up to Canada after cashing at the Festa al Lago last week?
Basically, it was a spur of the moment decision, actually. Just literally a Friday night decision to fly out here on Saturday.
Do you feel like there's a different style of play between Canadians and Americans? Joe Sebok said he felt there was more of a disparity between West Coast and East Coast players.
Yeah. The players here are not afraid to put their chips in at this point.
Great. Well, thanks a lot, James. Have you heard the new Killers album (Sam's Town) by the way?
I have. I thought it was excellent.
It's pretty good, isn't it? Anyways, good luck for the rest of Day 2 and beyond.
Thanks. I appreciate it.
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James soldiered through most of Day 2, making do with a smaller chip stack and surviving a move to a table with Monica Reeves and some very inexperienced players. He took a number of pots down before busting out with top two pair against a set of jacks in 37th place, 10 spots away from the money. With his cash in the Festa al Lago and the upcoming North American Poker Championships to prepare for, I don't think he was that concerned. But it was a good run anyway, and his presence at the Canadian Open certainly lent some legitimacy to the tournament, especially on a Day 2 that was otherwise depleted of recognizable stars.