POKER LIFESTYLE

Top 10 Highlights of Covering the 2024 WPT Montreal Festival

The 2024 WPT Montreal Festival is now coming to a close, having drawn poker players and enthusiasts from around the globe to the vibrant Canadian city of Montreal. This year’s festival was no exception, with new stars shining in the spotlight, established pros making deep runs in marquee events, and plenty of great cash game action on the side to complement the packed tournament fields. Outside of the hosting Playground venue, the city was buzzing — as always — with plenty else to offer poker fans and aficionados alike. Here’s a look at the top highlights from my time covering the 2024 WPT Montreal Festival.

Robbie Montreal

1. Reconnecting with WPT Talent and Poker Friends

Every big poker festival offers the opportunities for reunions. For those of us who regularly travel the worldwide poker circuit, or even only make the odd appearance here and there, it’s always great to see familiar faces at and away from the felt.

While here, I had the pleasure of reconnecting with many friends including WPT talent and ambassadors like Matt Savage, Tony Dunst, Vince Van Patten, and Brad Owen. It was also great to catch up with friends and colleagues like Eric Afriat, Jaime Staples, Benny Glaser, Mike Patrick, Tim Fiorvanti, and Matt Hansen, as well as meet bunches of new folks who I can now call friends.

I’ve also got to give a special shout out to four people: Darren, whose story I chronicled here, as well as Steen, Lynne, and Pat, the three of whom traveled to Playground from their homes two hours away(!) to see me. Their enthusiasm for the game was simply heartwarming and a reminder of the strong community that poker fosters.

Robbie and Pat Ang at WPT Montreal

Pat’s presence was integral in helping to get the Montreal Mixed Game running

2. Capitalizing on Playground’s New Player Offer

Who doesn’t like free money? 🙂 Upon arriving at Playground for the first time I was told that if I sign up for their rewards card, and followed them on Facebook and Instagram, I’d get $30 in free play. When printing out those vouchers, the attendant told me “come back again tomorrow and we’ll give you another $25 in free play.” Not one to miss the opportunity, I did so, and had $55 in free play to try and convert to real, actual dollars. Wouldn’t you know it, I succeeded to a nice degree!

3. The Daily Rides in the Playground Charter Shuttle

I usually work from home, which means that I don’t really have a commute of which to speak. As there isn’t yet a hotel on premises at Playground, staying in Downtown Montreal meant a half hour commute each way to/from the venue.

Between the daily shuttles and group Uber rides, I spent a good few hours “on the road” this week to chat with fellow media folks and WPT staff, catch up on some podcast listening, and — well, frankly — appreciate that I usually work from home and don’t have to regularly commute. Even so, it was nice to have the contrast and experience something different.

4. Enjoying Montreal’s Up-and-Coming Stand-Up Comedians

Montreal is renowned for its comedy scene, particularly the Just for Laughs festival in the summer. So, I had high hopes for hearty ha-has when booking tickets for a couple local shows. While the performances were entertaining, they didn’t quite live up to the city’s high comedic standards. Nonetheless, it was a fun way to spend the evenings and enjoy local talent.

5. My Shabbat Walk to Mount Royal

As I don’t work on the sabbath and completely disconnect from electronics (including my phone), a pleasant walk seemed like the perfect activity; and the weather was absolutely perfect. It was one heck of a climb up those hundreds of stairs, but reaching the top of Mount Royal and getting to take in the stunning city views was certainly worth it. This iconic landmark offered a great chance to gain a unique perspective on Montreal’s natural beauty away from the hustle and bustle in the city streets.

Luckily, a kind fellow (thanks, Robert!) agreed to take this picture of me and email it to me, so that I can have documentation of the shabbat walk to Mount Royal beyond my memories.

Mount Royal Montreal

6. Exploring Old Town and the Port of Montreal

No visit to Montreal is complete without exploring the historic Old Town and Port areas. Wandering through the cobblestone streets, admiring the charming architecture, and enjoying the waterfront views were memorable experiences. I couldn’t resist buying a few souvenirs, watching a couple street performers, and just people-watching on the pedestrian promenades.

7. Getting to Know the Playground Staff

Playground has long been widely considered as the best poker venue in Canada, and having experienced it myself over the last week, I couldn’t agree more with that sentiment. Top to bottom, the staff were exceptional, showcasing the newly enhanced property as a poker-first destination. From their famous championship belt display to the free food on offer for cash games to absolutely world-class dealers, Playground’s hospitality and professionalism were evident throughout the festival.

READ MORE: Playground’s Not-So-Secret Recipe for Success

8. Organizing and Playing in the Montreal Mixed Game

Organizing and playing in what was likely the first-ever Montreal Mixed Game was an exciting experience. I wrote 1,500+ words about our 8-hour-long mixed game session, the effort that went into getting it together and up-and-running, and the wonderful time we all had, so there isn’t much more to add here.

I just hope that our little group perhaps succeeded in inspiring some folks and staff, and that many more Montreal Mixed Games will run in the future at Playground.

9. WPT Montreal Championship Event & WPT Prime Final Tables

Naturally, the pinnacle of World Poker Tour stops is the staging of WPT Prime and WPT Championship Events. The live streams of both event’s final tables are available on the World Poker Tour’s YouTube channel, with great commentary provided by Jamie Kerstetter and Jason Somerville.

Being here in person, however, has reminded me of the context surrounding those final tables. Players had to wade through fields of 1,291 (Prime) and 882 (Championship) to make it to the bright lights of the final table. Watching the action unfold and witnessing the players’ skill and strategy is always thrilling.

Homage must also be paid to the world class WPT production crew. I saw them turn what’s usually a 17-table “overflow area” of Playground into the stage. It’s a big operation and the team handled it with expert precision, speed, and gusto. And they’ll be folding it all up to transport it to the next WPT stop when all is said and done; all in a day’s work I suppose, but it’s such great work they do and they ought to be applauded for it!

10. Savoring the Local Food Scene

As the old saying goes, “the way to a man’s heart passes through his stomach,” and boy did Montreal deliver its heartfelt best. I enjoyed meals at a couple kosher restaurants: Pizza Pita and Benny & Fils, plus had food from a third establishment, Sushi Metzuyan, delivered to my hotel via Uber Eats for shabbat. Each place offered delicious culinary delights that greatly added to my overall enjoyment of this trip.

Au Revoir, Montreal

For me, getting to cover the 2024 WPT Montreal Festival was an unforgettable experience filled with exciting poker action, cultural exploration, and cherished reunions. It highlighted to me what the World Poker Tour name itself stands for: sure, there’s poker, but it’s also about touring the world while experiencing that poker. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity, hope that you’ve enjoyed Cardplayer Lifestyle’s coverage over this past week, and encourage you all to visit Montreal the next time the World Poker Tour rolls into Playground.

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Written By.

Robbie Strazynski

Robbie founded Cardplayerlifestyle.com in 2009. A veteran member of the poker media corps, in addition to writing and video presenting, Robbie has hosted multiple poker podcasts over the years, including Top Pair, the Red Chip Poker Podcast, The Orbit, and the CardsChat Podcast. In 2019, Robbie translated the autobiography of Poker Hall of Famer Eli […]

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