Less than five months after its grand opening, the Playground Poker Club in Montreal went “All-in” by hosting its first major tournament series entitled the Playground Poker Classic consisting of 15 events over 2 weeks which in addition to the big prize pools, the winners collected specially crafted championship bracelets to commemorate the series.
The Playground Poker Classic attracted a number of accomplished poker pros from Montreal and other parts of Canada who saw great value in the series including WSOP bracelet winners Gavin Smith and Pascal Lefrancois. Other notable players with impressive tournament cash earnings included Anh Van Nguyen, former COPC heads-up champ Ben Leblond, Samuel Chartier, Philippe Plouffe, Eric Afriat, Jonathan Driscoll, George Caragiorgas, Brian Hodhod and Shayne Khanna. There were even some local celebrities from the professional hockey community and members of the famous Angélil family who are very involved in the local poker scene.
The PPC had something for all players’ tastes from No-Limit events, Pot Limit Omaha, Freeze-outs, Rebuys, Turbos, Deepstacks and even a $5,000 Freeroll. Equally important, throughout the entire tournament series the cash table action was thriving and we even saw the $96,000 Bad Beat Jackpot get hit last week, an Ace Jack full house beaten by Quad Jacks. Playground’s bad beat jackpot is always pre-loaded with $20,000 and builds up fast.
The $500 Heads-Up tournament was capped at 32 players creating a prize pool of $16,000. After five rounds of play, Anthony Greco defeated Rob Brown in the final heads up match to win $7,500 and a championship bracelet, Rob Brown won $3,700 while Levon Dedeyan and Fuyuki Ikura who were heads up 2 months ago in Playground’s $1,000 No Limit event, each got $1,600 for finishing in 3rd and 4th.
The showcase event for the PPC was the signature $3,000 NLH Deepstack. It’s rare to see high buy-in events in Canada except at the major casinos out west who have hosted the British Columbia Poker Championships, the Fallsview Poker Classic and COPC tournaments and these events have been running for several years. The fact that 75 players made the $3,000 buy-in for this event first time around and last month’s $1,000 event had almost 200 players, demonstrates that there is an appetite for higher buy-in tournaments with good structures and Playground delivered.
The winner of the $3,000 Deepstack was none other than Pascal Lefrancois who started 2 hours late due to just getting in from playing in the European tour. Pascal managed to build up a chip lead in the earlier rounds of the tournament but started at the final table as one of the short stacks, but after a couple of bold moves he secured the chip lead and held it until the end when he went head-up against “Marathon” George Caragiorgas.
Here is the complete list of winners for this event who shared in the $210,000 prize pool.
|8th||Anh Van Nguyen||$5,000|
The team of CanadaPoker.com was on hand throughout many of the events and we had a chance to meet with the owner of Playground Poker Club, Mr. Bobby Delaronde and ask him a few questions.
CP: Are you pleased with the turnout for the PPC?
BD: “I am very pleased, locally the guys who said they were going to show up did show up as well as players from out of town. Every night has been busy throughout the series. Our first tournament in the PPC attracted over 320 players and that set the momentum for the remainder of the events.”
CP: It’s certainly not easy to pull-off a $3,000 buy-in tournament in today’s poker climate and especially in Montreal where it’s very rare to see anything more than $1,000 buy-ins, especially without the help of online poker satellites. Were you worried about not getting adequate numbers?
BD: ” Not at all. We’ve got a crack marketing team including Jay Kastner and Justin Kelly of Full Tilt and 888 fame as well as Quebec’s Martin Roy. We also have an unbelievable crew on hand. From dealers and managers to certified massage therapists and dining staff. We know that we’ll get players in the door and keep them here. Why play anywhere else? …and believe me, I’m extremely proud to be able to make that statement. Our standards our high and everything we do here, we have to deliver to absolute perfection.”
CP: Can we expect to see another PPC on the horizon and if so what would you like to see next time around?
BD: “We definitely plan to hold more tournaments of this calibre. Montreal is a top poker destination and is known as good breeding grounds for champions like Duhamel, Cajelais, Lefrancois and others. Playground has the attention of the rest of Canada, as well as elsewhere in the world.”
CP: Throughout the series I couldn’t help but notice that there was no shortage of cash games.
BD: “Yes and that’s another thing that players look for, especially those coming from out of town. We have plenty of action from $1/$2 NL and higher and PLO games and we also accommodate bigger money players nightly in our private High Stakes room.”
CP: Something that also caught my attention was that you’ve gone to great lengths to create a complete poker experience here. Besides the phenomenal poker atmosphere and decor that you’ve put together, I was impressed by the incredible food platters that have been making their way to players at the tables.
BD: ” Thank you. Players can’t play on an empty stomach and we’ve gone to great lengths to ensure our restaurant is second to none from hiring top chefs to create special unique dishes for our 5 star menu to ensuring only ingredients of highest quality are used. When we set out to add our kitchen, we decided to go all the way and create a gourmet bistro with a full service bar as a business that could compete against the finest hot-spots. If you’ve tried some of our unique coal-fired dishes, I’m sure you’d agree.”
CP: I can attest to that personally! Thank you so much for having us at Playground.
BD: “You’re very welcome.”
We also had a chance to speak with Jay Kastner, who heads up Playground’s marketing team.
CP: Jay, true to its name, Playground Poker Club is a fun place to be. How do you achieve that quality?
JK: “My team set out to ensure that Playground defines itself as a leading brand in the poker world and always upholds our motto, “For players, by players” by giving the players what we ourselves as players want out of a club. We’re corporate enough to deliver professionalism at every turn, but not corporate at all when it comes to customers. We are proud of our product and challenge any club, anywhere, anytime to deliver the way that we do. Executive class service, gourmet dining and qualified, knowledgeable staff are a few of the many reasons why players come here and why they keep coming back.”
CP: Your club organizes a lot of freerolls for the members, it’s something that we don’t see to commonly except in the online poker world.
JK: “Besides having the lowest tournament fees in Montreal, tourney fees are set aside to offer monthly freerolls at 10k a crack. Tournaments aren’t money makers for us and we don’t want them to be. Our goal is the continued happiness of the players.”
CP: We understand that Playground works with charities, tell us a bit about that.
JK: “Playground is a friend of the community and involved with multiple charities. In the local community of Kahnawake we run at least 1 charity tournament per month where the fees go to local causes. We are also working with several charities including Autism Speaks and The Red and White Foundation, which is raising money in the name of former Montreal Canadiens coach Pat Burns, who passed away last fall, to complete the building of the Stanstead College Arena for the community, a cause close to Pat’s heart. We’ll be doing a big charity event in the coming months.”
CP: Any upcoming events we can expect to see at Playground?
JK: “We’re happy to be able to offer what the players want as well as some unique events. Without letting the cat too far out of the bag, we’ve got an upcoming event that has a structure that hasn’t been done before and we’re talking with some big NHL names like Mike Bossy, Guy Lafleur, Roberto Luongo and others as well as some big name poker pros who will be joining us. Carey Price is a friend of the club and is also set to appear, but rest assured – we’re not gimmicky! Poker purists and fans alike will be happy with these events. As far as the regular stuff, we always offer a wide array of tournaments in a wide array of buy in levels. You can expect to see everything from rebuys, shoot-outs and bounties to PLO, short handed tables and our “Freebuy” events, a Playground creation, and all that and more at buy in levels to interest players of every level. Even larger than our 3k event. Stay tuned, you won’t be disappointed!”