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Tommy Angelo, a True Master of Poker

More than once I’m sure someone has told you that you should choose a career in something you love. Decide what you want to do, attend a college or university in that subject and spend a lot of years perfecting it. Then, hopefully, you get a career you enjoy. What if what you enjoy is playing poker? What if you want to make a day job out of it? Many people would consider this both a risky and crazy option, beyond the realm of reality – a dream. But making a career in poker is not as crazy as people would lead you to believe. In fact, thousands of people have left their day jobs to pursue a career in poker and many professional poker players – GOOD poker players – could make around $500 plus a month. Take famed poker legend Tommy Angelo, for instance!

Born in 1958, he first played poker with his brothers at the tender age of five before playing for actual money at 14, but it wasn’t until the age of 17 that he first heard the title “Professional Poker Player” and he realised this was something he could make some serious cash out of. It took a further 13 years for his dreams to come true, but not before making a career playing piano and drums in rock and country bands. In 1990, though, he quit this gig and turned back to his first love, and that’s when Tommy Angelo turned into a pro poker player.

Anglo because a pro because he was “so insanely addicted to poker that there was literally nothing else” he wanted to do, in his own words. Then, he says, “because of obsession and necessity, I learned how to win.” Playing predominantly home games of poker for the first few years of his career, he learned he needed to play tight and play “tilt” – a poker art he perfected. He would assess, dissect and analyse his game and before long he had assessed, dissected and analysed his way to a Poker Master level. He lived, breathed and ate poker so avidly that he catapulted himself to poker stardom, playing in mostly cash games over tournaments.

It wasn’t long before the likes of Bluff, Poker Digest and PokerPages realised his poker genius and enlisted him to write articles and he became a columnist for five years. This is what led him to pen his first poker-based book entitled ‘Elements of Poker’, released in 2007. He wasn’t simply sitting back and writing his book all this time, however. That took merely a year. He also coached other hardcore poker fans to reach the best of their ability and became renowned for his Tiltless Coaching program, which offered a unique and ground-breaking new approach using meditation and spending time alone with his clients, smoothing out psychological issues, honing their mental attitudes and leading the likes of Phil Galfond and Jay Rosenkrantz to greatness whilst establishing himself as a poker “deep thinker”.

Not only did he carve out a name for himself playing poker professionally, this career choice also created avenues in which he could express himself creatively and teach other’s everything they need to know to be able to achieve poker greatness the likes of his own. Keeping his feet firmly in the door of the poker community with the release of his series “The Eightfold Path to Poker Enlightenment” for poker training site DeucesCracked in 2010, Tommy Angelo could never leave the world of pro poker, even if he wanted to! He has had a taste of being penniless-broke as well as riding high with money being thrown at him from his articles, coaching and book sales and though he claims he rarely plays poker himself these days, this self-confessed poker addict is sure to be a pillar in the poker community for a long time coming.

Canadian presence at the 2010 WSOP final table

This year at the World Series of Poker, two Canadian poker stars have made it to the final table along with six fellow North Americans from the States and a lone European player representing Italy.

This kind of success makes poker fans in Canada justifiably proud of their countrymen, especially considering that Jonathan Duhamel, a Canadian from Montreal, is the top chip holder going into the finals. This is the first time a poker player from Canada has been in such a promising position to take home the most prestigious poker title in the world, making this year’s World Series of Poker events even more widely watched across Canada as fans cheer Duhamel on to victory.

Matthew Jarvis, born in British Columbia, is the other Canadian poker star to make it to the final table and is currently standing in fifth place. His name is well known to Canadians already, as he has made a name for himself locally already by participating in Canadian tournaments before heading to Las Vegas to take on more international competition.

For Canadian poker fans keeping their fingers crossed that a local poker star will win the World Series of Poker main event in 2010, don’t miss a minute of the action and stay tuned to Poker.ca for updates as the competition progresses. With Duhamel leading the nine players and Jarvis also in the top five, Canada has a real shot at global poker success for the first time.

Canadian poker star: Jonathan Duhamel

A potential WSOP champion, Canadian Jonathan Duhamel is poised to put Canada on the map of world poker. In November 2010 he will have the chance to show what Canadian poker players are capable of achieving. No Canadian has managed to snag the WSOP championship before, meaning a lot of hopes have been placed on his upcoming performance.

At only 23 years old, he, like many other young players, started playing poker online only a few years ago and has since very quickly risen to poker stardom with his performance. To progress from playing the Montreal poker scene as a student to being at the top of the poker world is an amazing accomplishment that any veteran poker player, Canadian or otherwise, has reason to admire.

An interesting angle apparent in Duhamel’s experience is the necessity of adjusting his online poker strategy and habits to suit real world poker. Until recently, most poker players were accustomed to playing poker in the physical, concrete world of tables and tangible chips and real people face to face. However, Duhamel – along with many poker fans his age – have come of age in the digital era of poker where their first exposure to the game is online only. According to Duhamel, a big difference between real world poker and online poker is the speed of the game. Online, he says, he learned to play quickly and aggressively, while live poker is often slower and requires a good deal more patience.

For other young Canadian poker players hoping to follow in Duhamel’s footsteps to fame, this is an important point to keep in mind as you hone your poker skills in online poker rooms. For those players who have been involved in poker since before the internet added a new dimension to the game, checking out an online poker game or two might be a good way to broaden your horizons or challenge you in new ways. There is clearly plenty to learn from any kind of poker, so best to try them all!

Pat “Toronto Toro” Pezzin

Canadian pro poker player Pat “Toronto Toro” Pezzin – hailing from Toronto originally, of course – recently became a member of PokerStars Canada. A versatile player capable of competing in more than just Texas Hold’em poker tournaments, Pezzin cashed in seven out of thirty events at the 2010 WSOP, which puts him close to the top considering the stiff competition at such a prestigious series. Although he is competitive in many variations of poker, he considers himself to be an Omaha poker star at heart. Omaha Hi Lo (also called Omaha Eight or Better) is his self-professed strongest poker game, as he has had the most experience with this variety over the past fifteen years of his poker career.

Surprisingly, Pezzin identifies his weakest poker game as also being a variant of Omaha: Pot Limit Omaha. He attributes this fact to just how different the two types of poker are, as he believes Omaha Hi Lo allows more room for error and also more room for the perceptive expert to swoop in and capitalize on other players’ mistakes. Pot Limit Omaha doesn’t share this profitable quality as much, and therefore Pezzin doesn’t feel he has as much of an edge while playing as he does in other poker varieties.

Contrary to the pattern most poker players follow when they learn how to master poker, Pezzin learned no-limit Hold’em last, which is usually the game most players learn first. For this reason, perhaps, his strengths are as unique as his learning process.

Matthew Jarvis, Canadian poker star

In addition to the rising fame of Jonathan Duhamel, Canada has another poker star to watch carefully in the coming months: Matthew Jarvis. Jarvis is from Richmond in British Columbia, and was born to a professional golfer, making him no stranger to the world of competition. Learning how to play poker from his fellow university students and coworkers from his job in sales, Jarvis was immediately drawn to the intricacy and skill that poker demanded from serious players, which inspired him to excel at the game.

With the help of local Canadian casinos and online poker tournaments, Jarvis made a name for himself in the online poker community as well as the local Canadian casino circuit. After a lot of hard work, perseverance, and study, he eventually was able to generate enough profit to live off his winnings from poker and thus focus his energy on improving and taking advantage of his unusual skill.

Although Jarvis is still quite young, he has already accomplished more than more seasoned poker pros who have been in the game a lot longer. With encouragement from his family, particularly from his father who fell ill with cancer recently, Jarvis has worked hard to become a rising Canadian poker star. He shows courage and determination despite the hardships his family is currently facing, saying he plans to introduce himself to the world and represent Vancouver and all of Canada to the best of his ability by playing well at the World Series of Poker final table in front of an audience of millions of poker fans around the world.

Canada’s most premier poker star: Daniel Negreanu

Born in Toronto in 1974, Daniel Negreanu is perhaps Canada’s most famous and beloved professional poker star. He has been active in the professional circuit since 1997, when he finished first-place in two World Poker Finals events. He has since gone on to win more than thirty times in poker tournaments around the globe, making him one of the most recognizable and most profitable Canadian poker players.

Negreanu began playing poker at a very young age, excelling early in life and becoming the youngest poker player in history to earn a WSOP bracelet at the age of 24, which further catapulted his public image and prestige both at home and in the larger poker community. His prowess at the poker table is almost legendary, as he’s able to read his opponents remarkably well and can understand exactly what his next move should be based on the most infinitesimal of hints from other players. As testament to his poker genius, his total winnings amount to around $13 million so far.

Fellow Canadian poker star Evelyn Ng learned everything she knows from Negreanu, who mentored her back when they were dating. Negreanu continues to be a Canadian poker force to be reckoned with and will no doubt remain so in the years to come.

Canadian poker star Gavin Smith

Gavin Smith, one of the most well known and successful professional poker players to represent Canada, is a force to be reckoned with at the poker table. Born in 1968 in Guelph, Ontario, Smith was well versed in card games at a young age but didn’t start to play poker until he reached his twenties.

While he was known in the poker community well before winning the World Poker Finals in 1999, it wasn’t until this very high profile win that he caught the general public’s attention. His reputation was further cemented when he took the title again the following year.

Smith made an even bigger splash and earned even more prestige for Canadian players when he dominated the 2005 World Poker Tour’s Mirage Poker Showdown, which netted him an incredibly impressive $1,128,278. Thanks to several other incredible finishes that year, he went on to became the World Poker Tour player of the year.

At the WSOP Mixed Hold’em event in 2010, Smith was able to earn his first WSOP bracelet by placing first. He continues to be very active in the poker community, both in tournaments as well as online poker rooms. Known as ‘The Caveman’ when playing online poker, he is a markedly aggressive player know for his small-pot poker strategy and has $3.2 million in total poker earnings thus far. Smith is thought to be a formidable player and one of the best currently active poker stars who has yet to bring home a WSOP main event title.

Still in his early 40s, Smith still has many years of poker tournaments ahead of him and may yet bring the WSOP to Canada.

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