Famous figures of the Canadian gaming scene
While Canada may be known first for aspects like their sports, music, food, and culture, it also has a very respectable community of professional poker players. This is a hotbed of talent that has spread to every facet of the gaming industry from poker, to blackjack, and outright business entrepreneurs. Let’s take a look at some famous players and prominent gaming figures that have come from the Great White North.
Starting off the list is an exceptionally talented and well-known Canadian personality. The 61-year-old businessman is the co-founder of the world-renowned circus and entertainment company Cirque Du Soleil. In between his other business dealings and philanthropic efforts, he also has become a fearsome poker player.
Laliberte started off his poker career by playing high stakes online games and honing his skills. Sometime around the mid-2000s, Laliberte burst onto the mainstream poker scene, making regular appearances at various tournaments. In 2007 he took 4th place at a major World Series of Poker event and won almost $700,000 for his efforts. He has even put together his own poker tournaments which attracted numerous pros.
Calvin Ayre is certainly a controversial figure in this sector but one that cannot be overlooked. Ayre is first and foremost an internet entrepreneur and businessman. His online company Bodog turned Ayre into a billionaire and he is responsible for numerous industry standards that are now commonplace for online gaming and sportsbook websites.
It takes a certain mind to excel at games like poker, and McDonald proves that with his story. Before he even finished high school, McDonald was online building his stack by grinding out hands of poker. By the time he graduated, he owned a Lamborghini. Since then, McDonald has built quite the reputation for himself as a skilled and astute poker player.
When he turned 18, McDonald ventured outside Canada, winning massive international tournaments. He holds the honor of being the youngest player to ever win an event at both the European Poker Tour and the Epic Poker League. His grand prize for the EPT win was €933,600. Another big win would come later in 2014 when he took 2nd at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure main event. Here he took home over $1,000,000. His total combined tournament earnings is rumored to be over $13,000,000.
Canada may be primarily known for its sensational poker pros, but there have been a few standout blackjack players as well. Monica Reeves is one of those talents that has excelled at the classic gaming staple known as blackjack. Over the years she has had many different careers, including modeling and acting, but she really found herself excelling at the game of 21.
Hailing from Ontario, Reeves got her start in 2005 after training under another expert Canadian card player, Jim Worth. After this, she went out on her own, winning some respectable events. She took 8th place at the St. Maarten Spring Poker Showdown, taking home $2,570. Months later she won $16,760 for a 5th place finish at the 2006 Bellagio Cup in Las Vegas. The following year she secured a 2nd place $11,850 prize from the WPS Bahamas Poker Showdown.
It was after this that she made the switch over to blackjack permanently. One of her best wins came when she took 4th place at the Ultimate Blackjack Tour. Aside from various tournaments, she also became a spokesperson for UB Management. While her live tournament days are now over, she still occasionally plays in online blackjack and poker tournaments.
Mike Watson has a long-standing reputation for being a top-notch poker player in Canada. Born in St.Johns, Watson got his start early in the poker world. He excels at both online and tournament poker, the later of which has been quite lucrative for him.
Watson is rumored to have made over $15 million from playing poker. His best finish to date was in 2008 when he swept the WPT Bellagio Cup IV and received $1,673,770. At one point he was ranked as the #24 best poker player in the world.