A night out with Norm MacDonald
About a month ago, I missed a phone call from an unknown number but noticed that the caller had left a voicemail in my inbox. I figured that it was either a wrong number or a sales call but was pleasantly surprised upon discovering that neither of my initial assumptions were true. As it turned out, the voicemail was from PokerStars's Western Canada VIP Relationship Coordinator, Rich, and he wanted to see if I would be interested in joining a few other Supernova Elites for a complimentary night out on September 10th to thank us all for playing on the site. This is the kind of service that you certainly don't expect from many poker sites but given that I know how amazing PokerStars is to their players (especially VIPs), I wasn't completely surprised by the offer either. I don't usually like to tie up my weekends so far in advance but it was easy to commit to this invitation and I told Rich to deal me in!
The plan for the night was to meet at 6:30pm for dinner at Tramonto, an elegant Italian restaurant located inside the River Rock resort, before heading into the River Rock Theatre to watch Norm MacDonald preform stand-up for a couple of hours. Afterwards, we were to head upstairs to the penthouse suite and relax while playing a few SNGs amongst each other for some free swag.
I arrived a bit late (around 6:45pm) and took my seat at the dinner table amongst Rich and three other young poker players. There were a couple of appetizers already waiting for me in the form of prawns, scallops and some vegetables that were set up for the table to share. The waiter immediately came over to take my drink order (crown and coke) and everyone got to know a bit about each other. One more player joined our party shortly after I arrived and I only recognized the screen name of one person, which I found unusual considering how few Supernova Elites there are. I kind of forgot that there are other games outside of NLHE lol, and it just so happened that we had quite a diverse group of players. Being a NLHE full-ring player, I recognized the only other exclusive NLHE player even though he plays mostly 6-max games. Aside from the two of us, we had a fixed limit grinder, and two PLO players (although they play NLHE too). A few of us are locals from Vancouver but two of the guys had recently relocated to Vancouver from the States. Naturally, the conversation was primarily dominated by poker-related topics but also ranged from things such as what to do in Vancouver, to theories about how the world is supposed to end (brought on by the fact that there was a very recent earthquake off of Vancouver Island).
After finishing a Delicious dinner (I ordered Dungeness Crab risotto), the group relocated to the first level of the resort and entered the River Rock Theatre where we took our seats for the comedy show. There was some confusion while trying to find our seats because the usher pointed us in the wrong direction and apparently none of us could be bothered to read our tickets. After doing a few laps around the theatre, we got settled into the correct seats. The opening act for Norm MacDonald was Stevie Ray Fromstein, who goes by the stage name "The Holy Atheist." As you could probably guess, his routine was about criticizing religion in a logical sense as to not mock it but merely draw humour from things that can't be rationalized. As someone who doesn't get easily offended or fired up over sensitive topics, I found his routine to be very funny. After about half an hour, the big ticket stepped on stage and Norm MacDonald came out dressed in a fancy suit contrasted by solid blue running shoes. When it was all said and done, Norm delivered about an hour and a half of laughs and I thought he was hilarious.
After the show, we were all herded out of the theatre and made our way towards the elevators to take us up to the suite. Everyone was particularly excited because during dinner Rich had mentioned that Norm MacDonald might actually stop by and play some poker with us! Apparently Norm's a huge poker fan and aside from commentating on High Stakes Poker, he also enjoys playing the game as much as anyone. The 6 of us arrived at the suite and were treated to food and beverages as things were being set up for the poker games. We learned that there were going to be at least 3 Sit 'N Goes to be played in a winner take all format for prizes...the prizes were awesome too: two winners would walk away with a pair of tickets to see the Vancouver Canucks and the big prize was a $700 iPad! Needless to say, I was hoping to run good since the format was like a turbo with 2500 starting chips and blinds increasing from 25-50 every ten minutes.
In the first SNG, I got off to a decent start by winning a few tiny pots. Unfortunately, I eventually busted after losing a coin flip with 22 against ATs after shoving from the button over an open from the Cut-Off by the PLO CAP specialist. I believe he ended up taking it down!
Sure enough, before the 2nd SNG even got underway, there was a knock on the door and in came Norm MacDonald along with Stevie (the opening act). Everybody seemed pretty excited to meet the two comedians and they both shook everyone's hand and introduced themselves in a friendly manner while being congratulated by the group for a terrific show.
Stevie ducked out shortly after arriving because he was flying out early the next morning but Norm sat down and was ready to play some poker! The second SNG was the big one too as the winner would be walking away with the iPad. The very first hand of the match I found myself in a dream spot. Norm limped UTG, the PLO CAP player made it 150, I looked down at KK and made it 450...Norm called and so did the CAP specialist. They both checked a low flop to me and I fired out a Cbet with no intention of folding...they both folded. I couldn't believe The CAP player showed me AKo as he threw it into the muck...I guess my full-ring nitty reputation cost me stacking him pre-flop :( After winning that fairly large first pot I was out to an early lead and was cruising towards that iPad...until Norm MacDonald crushed my chances of winning. At 50-100 Norm opened the cut-off to 500 (ok, I'm not going to critique his speculative bet sizing lol :)) and I shoved AQo from the SB...he called with 22 and won the flip. I was out shortly after when my A5 lost to 78s. Norm kept making hands and soon amassed a sizable stack. It came down to Norm heads up against the CAP player that won the first SNG and they were pretty even in chips. Obviously you'd have to give the Supernova Elite the edge at this point but Norm check-raised him out of a few pots and before we knew it he had the chip-lead! All of the money went in soon after when both players made top pair on the flop but Norm had the bigger kicker...the hand held and Norm beat all 5 of us "pros" to scoop the iPad!
The next SNG was for more Canucks tickets-something that I value very highly. On top of the tickets, a few players and Norm agreed to a $200 last-longer that would see the last man standing take home the whole pot. I opted out of the bet for a few reasons-I had no cash, I was getting tired and didn't like my chances, but mostly I'm just a life nit. Anyways, again I got off to a solid start after calling from the BB with 77 and getting some value after flopping a set against the limit specialist. I kind of hung around without doing too much for a while and before I knew it I was heads-up with probably a 3 to 1 chip disadvantage against the limit player. With the format being so crazy, I knew that it would mainly come down to whoever got the cards at this point as the blinds were very high. I managed to pull pretty close to even in chips and then decided to make a move with J8 after folding twice in a row. Unfortunately, he called with Ace-rag (I think) but I hit a jack to scoop a massive chip lead. Unfortunately again, I was unable to find a hand to finish him off and after he battled back he eventually busted me to scoop the tickets. Oh well, I didn't walk away completely empty-handed...I was given a PokerStars jersey on the way out!
At this point, it was around 3:30am and I could barely stay awake anymore. I had had a great time all night socializing with Norm about many different aspects of life and he genuinely was a super nice guy and was naturally hilarious. I haven't met very many celebrities before and it was a very cool experience!