Meet The best Canadian Poker Players Ever

Wayne Gretzky, Steve Nash, Nancy Greene, Gilles Villeneuve…. It’s fair to say that Canada has brought us some of the biggest, best and most charismatic stars across a whole range of sports. At the pro poker table, it’s the same story. Americans love to travel across the border to play poker at the highest level, and they are guaranteed to face some of the world’s top talent.

Back in the 20th century, Canada would not have been the first country to spring to mind as a breeding ground for gamblers and poker players. However, from the 1970s onwards, two things happened. Poker started to capture the public imagination through TV promotion of the WSOP and the Canadian authorities relaxed the rules and regulations surrounding gambling.

As a result, Canada became the nation of choice in North America for those indulging in games of chance. As we moved into the 21st century, the rise of online casinos in the country provided more opportunity than ever for people to learn and play poker, and indeed numerous other games such as blackjack or baccarat, to hone their skills. Some of those Canadian card players rose right to the top of the game and have become household names beyond their native land. Let’s meet them.

Daniel Negreanu

Let’s not beat about the bush, Kid Poker isn’t just the best Canadian poker player ever, he’s arguably best in the world and would certainly appear in anybody’s all-time top five. The Kid has been on the scene for more than two decades now, and a few grey hairs are starting to poke through that trademark beard. In that time, he has amassed winnings of well over $40 million, collected six WSOP bracelets, won two World Poker Tour Championships and appeared in an X-Men movie!

Negreanu is alongside the likes of Phil Ivey and Doyle Brunson as one of a handful of stars in the world of poker who are just that. These are genuine celebrities whose names are known even by those with little or no interest in poker. 

Tim Adams

Tim0thee, as he is known in cyberspace, is the closest Canadian competitor to Kid Poker in terms of earnings. He started playing in 2004 at the age of 18 and by his 21st birthday, had already amassed winnings estimated around the $3 million mark.

While he has become a fixture on the WSOP tour over the past decade, Adams is really a product of the online poker age. The unique circumstances that we have faced in 2020 have played to his strengths, and the man from Burlington, Ontario won just short of $6 million in the first six months of this year in online tournaments.

Jonathan Duhamel

Daniel Negreanu might hold most of the Canadian poker records going, but there is one that will always belong to his compatriot Jonathan Duhamel. This Quebecer was the first Canadian ever to win a WSOP Main Event bracelet, a feat he achieved back in 2010 at the tender age of 23.

That earned him a payday worth just shy of $9 million and since then, he has continued to achieve consistent success that has taken his career earnings to almost $20 million. However, this only tells part of the story, as Duhamel has often said he prefers playing at cash tables to participating in tournaments. There’s no way of knowing for certain, but it is quite possible that if we were to include his cash winnings, his all time earnings might well approach those of Negreanu. 

Kristen Bicknell

One of the best-known female poker players in the world, Bicknell has been a star of the online scene for 15 years, yet is still just 33. A flurry of victories has seen her rise to 16th in the all-time Canadian money list, with career earnings of more than $5 million. In fact, she has amassed more than half of that money in the past two years. For example, last July she raked in $356,412 on GGPoker.

Bicknell is arguably Canada’s biggest rising star of the moment. Her no-nonsense approach to the game is refreshing, she is not actively seeking to be a pioneer for equal opportunities but just wants to get on and play the game. This only serves to make her an even stronger role model for the next generation of female poker players.

Evelyn Ng

Of course, Kristen Bicknell was not Canada’s first big-name female poker player. In fact, Evelyn Ng was terrifying all-comers with her super aggressive style while Bicknell was still in grade school. That style of play has become a trademark, and Ng has used it, along with her “girl from the wrong side of the tracks” image, to foster a successful media career.

Ng started money gaming as a teenage pool hustler 30 years ago, and has been a feature of the World Poker tour since the early 2000s, hitting the big time at around the same time as Daniel Negreanu. In fact, Negreanu is credited with helping her develop her aggressive playing style and the pair even dated for a while back in the day. All before apparently ‘ruining Negreanu’s life’.

Gavin Smith

Every sport needs its characters, and in the world of Canadian poker, you needed to look no further than the man from Guelph. More than $6 million in winnings placed him 13th in Canada’s all-time money list, which is no mean feat. But it only tells part of the Gavin Smith story.

With his larger than life personality, trademark black shirt and Ace of Spades baseball cap, Gavin Smith was one of Canada’s most recognizable players. But as well as accumulating winnings of more than $6 million, he was also a master of the prop bet. This is a bet on a specific event occurring or not occurring, and wagers are typically non-financial in nature. In the case of Smith, these usually involved tattoos, and while he usually won, he famously lost one to fellow pro Joe Sebok and had his rival’s initials tattooed to his shoulder.

Sadly, Smith passed away last year at the age of just 50, leaving the Canadian poker world a little quieter and less colorful. The Gavin Smith Memorial Tournament in May last year was organized in order to raise money to support Gavins’s two young kids. The tournament luckily also managed to put a smile on people’s faces while Phil Hellmuth MC'd the event.

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