Sunday, November 12, 2006

My Brush with Poker Superstardom

The night before my wedding, Friday October 27th, we held a rehearsal at the St. Vincent De Paul Catholic Church in beautiful Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

Jacky and I arrived a bit late as I continue to live up to my 'Tardy' nickname. There were a couple of others who were even later than us from our wedding party but we finally got started around 6:10pm. After the rehearsal, everyone was invited back to our house for some pizza, wings and refreshments.

We had a full house, entertaining about 25 people that evening. A few of Jacky's friends wanted to head over to the Casino later that night and Jacky put on her best sad face, wanting to go as well.

I wasn't convinced that going to the Casino the night before our wedding was a good idea but I realized shortly thereafter that getting Jacky's mind off all the planning was in our best interests and said we were in.

So Jacky's friend Shelly and her husband Vito (who went to PGA Village with Harry, Preston and I earlier in the year) and Jacky's friend Jodi and her husband Dave (the former Canadian Football League star) were off for some Casino entertainment at about 9:30pm.

Vito is an employee of the Casino and is strictly forbidden from playing at the Fallsview Casino so we decided to lay low instead at Club 365, where a few bands were playing.

The place was packed and you could tell that there were a number of poker pros in attendence due to the World Poker Tour event being held at the casino. We were able to get a table pretty quickly, surprisingly enough and got comfortable watching the band play with our drinks in hand.

A big guy with a backwards 'Full Tilt Poker' hat was sitting beside us. He took out his cellphone and promptly snapped a picture of my wife-to-be and then showed it to her. Jacky quickly realized that the dude was flirting with her and shot back with the words "I'm getting married tomorrow!".

"You're kidding? To who?", he asked.

Jacky pointed to me and he smiled, offering his congratulations. The guy looked REALLY familiar.

My mind started working when I saw him signal for the waitress. While talking to her, he motioned towards our table and circled his hands in the air.

"Oh man", I said to Dave. "That guy is buying us a round of drinks!"

Wouldn't you know it but two minutes later, the waitress comes back with a full round of drinks for our entire table.

We raise our beers and drinks to him in thanks and I lean over to Jacky and say "you have to ask this guy what his name is...I'm sure he's a poker pro but can't place him."

She was a bit shy about it so I motioned for him to come over to our table. "What's your name?", Jacky asked. "I've seen you on TV before haven't I?".

He laughs. "Maybe. My name is Gavin."

I blurt out "Oh, Gavin Smith right? The Canadian."

We exchange small talk from there for a few minutes about poker, about his hometown of Guelph and other things. We thank him again, shake hands and he sits back down with his crew at the table beside us.

A few minutes later, I see him get up and go over to the bar and watch him make another gesture toward our table.

He seemed a bit frustrated a few minutes later when nothing was happening and got up again to talk to the bar. Wouldn't you know but a minute later, the waitress was at our table, presenting a bottle of Dom PĂ©rignon and six chilled champagne glasses to us, courtesy of Gavin Smith.

Unbelievable.

Gavin wouldn't join us for a toast, saying "I never touch the stuff! I'm a Bacardi guy!" so the six of us enjoyed the bottle with a bunch of interested onlookers taking in the action in the bar.

Gavin did relent and let us take a picture with Jacky and I by his side with our Dom in hand using Jacky's cellphone.

The fun was just beginning.

Gavin was chilling out with a few ladies and another poker superstar, who I later found out was recent WPT winner Joe Bartholdi, who won an incredible $3.7 million dollars for that victory. Both guys were holding huge wads of money throughout the night (especially Gavin) and true to form, they decided they needed to do a bit more gambling on this evening since they were out of the Niagara WPT event.

They asked Dave to get up and do a few spins for them. Gavin and Joe were playing 'Guess his weight' for money. Gavin 'set the line', going first by saying 210 pounds. After careful deliberation, Joe shot back with "209!".

Dave said something like "215" and Gavin was out of his chair, fist pumping. After taking Joe's money, he said "Matt, it's your turn!".

I bolted out of the chair and started doing a few turns, even lifting up my shirt to show them my svelte waist (haha), getting our table to burst out in laughter.

Gavin set the line at 155 pounds and after about 20 seconds of thought, Joe went with 154 pounds.

"168!", I exclaimed and Gavin had won again, eliciting howls from his table and ours.

This likely would have went on all night but we had a wedding to get ready for and it was almost 12:30am by this point so we once again went over to Gavin's table, shook his hand and said goodbye to our drinking partners.

I even told Gavin that if "you and your friends are bored, stop by the DoubleTree across the street tomorrow around 9:30pm. The drinks are on us."

"Don't be surprised if we show up", he said as he shook my hand for the last time.

Unfortunately, they didn't come to our reception but this ended up being a night none of us will soon forget.

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