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Daniel - Poker Journal

Sports Celebrity Festival

01 Dec 2005

I was invited to my first ever Sports Celebrity Festival which is a fund raiser for the Special Olympics Canada.

I really didn't know what to expect, but when I got there at the Westin Harbour Castle I was absolutely floored.

The place was totally packed and everyone looked great as it was a black-tie gala. All of the men were dressed in tuxedos and the women all had beautiful evening gowns on.

When I walked in I was escorted to the Celebrity section as we were all packed in awaiting our introduction to the dinner.

As soon as I walked in I noticed Vernon Wells and Orlando Hudson of the Toronto Blue Jays and they in turn recognized me.

We chatted poker, but mostly, we talked about the Blue Jays and their recent endeavors into the free agent market signing closer B.J. Ryan. The guys were really excited about that and also hoping that the team might land Brian Giles.

Damon Allen, a 21 year veteran of the CFL and multi- MVP winner also joined us.

Later I was seated next to Dan Ferrone and John Tavares. Ferrone, I remembered meeting 14 years ago when he came to speak at my high school A.Y.Jackson.

Tavares, now he is a kid I was excited to meet. The kid is 15 years old and is already playing in the OHL for the Oshawa Generals and scoring at better than a point a game pace. He is touted as the next Sidney Crosby according to scouts.

He was a very well mannered kid that seemed like he had a very level head, and mature way about him. He is a poker player too, of course, so we had a lot to talk about. I let him know that he was drafted in the AHL this season by one of the weaker teams, the Ingmen.

I was introduced along with Paul Phillips, a Special Olympian and good all around Canadian kid.

The room was full of items for the silent auction donated by many of the sponsors. I looked around and finally found what I had to have: a plaque with signed pictures by Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods at the British Open. The title read, "Changing of the Guard."

I ended up "winning" that item for $600 which went to the Special Olympics.
Then it was my turn to take the stage for the live auction. Several other items had already been auctioned off, and then "I" was auctioned off in a package that included airfare for two to Las Vegas, three nights at the Palms, including a one hour poker lesson from yours truly.

When I got up on stage I decided to sweeten the pot a little bit. I added, "After the lesson, if you are able to beat me in a heads up freeze out, you'll win yourself $5000 in cash.

That got the bidding moving and we were quickly up over $4000... then $5000... then $6000!

The bidding finally stopped at $6600. Later, the organizer of the event, Natalie Cook, dropped by and asked me if I would do her a favor. The lady who lost out on the bidding was saying that if I'd do another hour for her, that she would donate another $6000 to the Special Olympics.

I, of course, agreed to do it so our package raised $12,600 for the Special Olympics Canada. Up until that point, after the auctions, the event raised over $1.2 million! Wow, that's impressive.

The whole evening was a blast and a good reminder of why I enjoy being a part of these types of events. They inspire me.

Tonight, I'm headed to a hockey game between the NHL Alumni and the "Bay Street Bullies."

I'm super excited about this game because it will feature my favorite hockey player of all time, Wendel Clark, along with guys like Gary Leeman, and Bill Derlago.

I'll be coaching the boys which will be fun, and then we'll be having a poker tournament afterwards. Anyway, the game starts at 6:00pm so I gotta get going!