Poker's Out-of-Sight in Trendy Toronto

It's a classic case of "hiding in plain sight."

Toronto, Canada's largest city has produced some of the best poker players on the professional circuits. Daniel Negreanu, Gavin Smith, Evelyn Ng, Jason Sagle, who finished second at the recent World Poker Tour North American Poker Championship, they're all Toronto natives. In fact, three of the six players at the NAPC's final table, Sagle, John Lam and Jim "KrazyKanuck" Worth, were Toronto residents.

Yet, despite the city's ability to pump out poker talent, there is no real venue, at least that we're supposed to know about, within its limits.

"Toronto poker's been going strong for many years," Shampoo (Vince Deleo), who won the first major event in the history of the Canadian Poker "There's been an underground here since I was 16 or 17. If one game busted, we'd all move on to another club. We'd all scatter. There's no casino in Toronto, so the action is all underground."

Ranked seventh overall by the CPT in 2004-05, Shampoo spent countless hours playing with Negreanu.

"Daniel, of course, is at the top of the list," Shampoo said. "But we really have a lot of good Canadian poker players who aren't recognized. Sagle, John Lam, there are so many. I'd like to get the top 10 Canadian players and the top 10 Americans and see what would happen. A lot of these Toronto boys never make it out to Vegas. But if they're able to win a tournament on the other side of the border or in Europe that money goes a long way."

"I don't consider myself that great," Lam, who finished third in the NAPC, said. "I don't think to highly of myself, yet. I guess I'll see how I do in next year's WSOP.

Legal Poker There may be a lack of legal opportunities in Toronto, but that does not hold true for the surrounding area. Casino Rama, in Orilla, Ontario, has 2,400 slot machines, 110 table games and a poker room. It also played host to the Fall Classic Poker Tournament in December and holds poker tourneys, with an initial buy-in of $275, on a biweekly basis.

The Brantford Charity Casino features 450 slots and 55 table games, including eight for poker and nine for Texas hold'em. Located in Port Perry, Ontario, the Great Blue Heron Charity Casino has 60 table games and hosts regular tournaments, including the 2006 Tournament of Champions, a CPT major event.

"Brantford is probably my favorite casino, because of the limit games," Lam said. "The poker room there is very well-run."

The Niagara Fallsview Casino, which hosted both the NAPC and the WPT Canadian Open recently, consistently attracts Toronto's top players. Located in Niagara Falls, Ontario, the Fallsview's elegant poker room is open 24 hours a day and offers a wide assortment of games such as Omaha, Omaha high-low, hold'em and stud.

"The poker action there is generally pretty good," Lam said. "During the week, though, there's not a lot going on."

"I don't want to pick and choose," Shampoo said. "Brantford, Port Perry, there's also Windsor, but Windsor's too far. In Niagara Falls, you also have Casino Niagara, which has low-limit hold'em, yet that's an hour commute, unless you get a place there. I know people who have done that. But the best casino in the area is the Fallsview. For the underground, I don't disclose that, for many reasons."