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A Scary Night

08 May 2005

So we arrive in Toronto at about 7:15am and Gord Andretti our limo driver is waiting for us outside. Erick and I pick up our bags and meet Gord who was taking us to the Royal York hotel in downtown Toronto. Normally when I go back to Toronto I stay at my mother’s condo, but since most of the stuff I had to do over the next couple of days was downtown it made more sense to stay there I thought.

I was pretty disappointed with the rooms. I was a little annoyed even before I got to my room. We asked for an early check in when we made the reservations, but had no idea that that meant paying for an extra night!

A full $249 just for a few hours. Erick asked if we’d have to buy the 8th also in order get the 7th! The room was pretty basic, a little old school if anything. The one thing that really got to me though was the fact that I didn’t have blinds!

I mean, how much do you have to pay to get some blinds? It’s almost like, “If you’re going to stay here at the Royal York, it’s inappropriate to sleep past the crack of dawn. Wake up lazy!” Erick had it worse than I did. He had blinds, but his room was next to the old, rickety, elevator and he couldn’t sleep.

Nevertheless we both decided to take a nap, but mine only lasted about 20 minutes since I was doing a Canadian show called Designer Guys. One of those makeover type shows where they remodel somebody’s house.

Gord got me there on time and they were shooting from a very trendy new hot spot in Toronto called, “The Lobby.” The idea behind having me there was that one of their clients wanted to have a poker themed basement so I was there to help with some ideas. The client, named Rav a “semi-pro” player from Toronto had no idea I’d be there. He thought he was just meeting the Designer guys to talk about the project.

They had a table set up, complete with chips, cards, and a dealer. Before Rav got there I busted the Designer Guys a couple of times, but of course it was all just play money. When Rav finally got there I had my back turned so he couldn’t see me. He exchanged greetings with everybody, and then sat down next to me.

He did a little double take, and then said, “You’re Daniel Negreanu!” Of course, I already knew that J We played for a little while and the piece went pretty well overall.

From there I had a chance to head back to the hotel to take a real nap before heading over to The Score studio for a half an hour of e-mail and phone questions at 5:30pm. That went well, and from there we picked up Erick and his friend Leah and made our way to the International Poker Tour’s event being held in Brampton.

The event was being held to raise money for charity. Recently, a mother of four children was caught in some gang crossfire, so the event was being held for the family. There was a decent turn out, everyone playing for free of course but the $20 they paid to get in all would go towards the charity.

Erick and I signed some autographs, took some pictures, and then said a few words. There would have been a ton more people there but there was a screw up in the ad that had the wrong address in it! Oops. We’d hoped that more money could have been raised, so Erick came up with the idea to match all of the donations taken on the evening. We chopped the bill up 50-50.

Some old friends of mine showed up to the event, along with both Canada’s and the World’s #1 9-ball player Alex Pagulyan. I’d never met Alex but had heard a lot about him from some mutual friends. Man is this guy a bundle of energy!

We talked poker, and we talked pool. Apparently he is learning to play poker also and has done pretty good playing online this year. Of course, him being a gambler we ended up trying to figure out how we could get a fair match together. I started the negotiations with, “I’ll play you 9-ball even, but you can only make one ball at a time.” I said, figuring that this would even the odds and possibly even tilt them in my favor.”

“No way, are you crazy man? How can I win dat game? How about if I give you the Pibe, eight, and the nine?” Alex is Philippino hence the reference to “pibe.”

We jockeyed for position but couldn’t figure out a fair match. I tried to make it a pool/poker game but even then, we couldn’t come to terms on anything. Oh well, it’s always fun negotiating.

After the event, we were to meet Van Nguyen- another Canadian poker player that could have easily won the WSOP main event this year had it not been for a really tough beat against Josh Arieh with five tables left. Interestingly enough, Van booked a table at The Lobby.

Several of my old friends hopped into the limo with us, including Alex who told us some funny pool stories the whole way there. Overall the guy seems like a lot of fun, and in some ways makes me look like a quiet, mild mannered, shy person!

The Lobby was absolutely packed. Little room to maneuver but luckily we had a table. Everyone was having a good time, but I suddenly became very drowsy and very ill. It couldn’t have been the alcohol since I really didn’t drink very much, but I was out of it.

When I got back to my room I was violently ill. I think I may have gotten food poisoning from the Italian restaurant we ate at.

I had tons of media scheduled for the day: 8:00am radio interview, 10:30am promo work with the Blue Jays, 12:30pm I was to appear on Off The Record, 2:30pm to 4:00pm I was supposed to do a feature with Driven magazine.

It wasn’t going to happen. The phone in my room wasn’t working, and my cell phone was off. I don’t think I would have been able to answer it anyway, I was out cold. Finally at about 3:30pm my publicist walked into the room worried sick. I had no idea what time it was when she walked in, but I knew it was bad.

It’s so not like me to miss appointments. One of the main reasons I go back to Toronto is to make the most of my time, but I was just too ill to move. Still sick, I was able to get up and head to the shower. In the limo ride over I didn’t think I was going to be able to make it. I took two Tylenols which I think helped, but I was still in very rough shape.

When I got to the stadium they were very understanding of my situation and I truly appreciated that. We headed to the field to watch batting practice for a while and then I headed to a booth where I signed autographs for about half an hour.

After that it was show time. Sick or healthy I was going to throw this pitch! I’d practiced from 60 feet, but noticed that they shortened the pitch so much that a baby could have made it across the plate! I threw it a little high, but hey, I’d never practiced the baby toss!

After the pitch I head to my skybox where my brother and extended family were. Before that though, I made a little detour to Roberto Alomar’s box to say hello. He seemed like a really nice guy. We talked for a bit, he signed a ball for me, and then I headed over to my skybox for the rest of the night.

The people with the Blue Jays took really good care of us, free hats, pizzas, hot dogs, veggie plates, drinks, and anything else. I was too sick too drink or eat anything really, but I forced down some veggies and a slice of pizza.

In about the third inning, since Erick had no rooting interest in the game I decided to place a little wager on the game with him. With the Jays tied 1-1 with one out and runners on first and third I laid him 1.40 on his money. That felt like a good bet, despite the fact that the White Sox have the best record in baseball.

The Jays scored twice making it 3-1 so I decided to lay Erick even more on a second bet. This bet was pretty stupid I think, laying him 3-1 odds!

The 8th inning ended up being a disaster. With two outs in a 3-3 tie and facing an 0-2 pitch, a blooper to left field scored two runs giving the White Sox a 5-3 lead that did me in. Doh!

After the game I joined Mike Wilner for the post game wrap up on the Fan 590. We talked a little poker, but a lot more baseball.

Still sick from the night before though, I went straight back to my hotel room. I have no idea what the others ended up doing, but I wasn’t about to go anywhere.

I slept a good 14 hours and am feeling a little better. I’m on a plane once again, this time to Reno. From there it’s about a one hour drive to Lake Tahoe for the WSOP Circuit event, my last chance to qualify for the $2 million free roll since I’ve cancelled my New Orleans plans.

Erick is once again sleeping in the seat next to me, luckily this time he’s not snoring. Phew!


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