Les Aventures d'Elena à Montréal

After I returned from my last trip to London, I began hatching my grand plans for SCOOP, the massive online tournament series that takes place every spring on PokerStars.

I've been stationed on the East Coast for the last few months, so I immediately thought of Montreal as a logical destination for a poker road trip. My sister attended McGill University as an undergraduate, and I used to make frequent trips up to Canada to partake in the festive Québécois culture, cuisine, and, of course, cocktails.

Elena Stover - PS_poutine.jpg

A summer night on Saint-Laurent circa 2007 with a sugary adult beverage and a regional delicacy, poutine!

As a test run to prepare for my May SCOOP trip, I hitched up to Montreal in mid-April to scout out a grinding location. For the first few days, I stayed in a trendy hotel near the student district, and the room was top-notch but the spotty wi-fi put me in some sticky situations while deep in online tournaments. Thankfully, my timebank bailed me out in most cases, but the stress of repeatedly disconnecting in the middle of playing huge pots cannot be understated! I also struggled to find fresh food that I could pick up in the morning to last through an entire 8+ hour online session. These obstacles were not conducive to winning piles of money on the Internet, so I began making a list of the essentials I would need in my future SCOOP headquarters:

• Non-flaky Internet connection (preferably cable)
• Big large TV to use as a monitor
• Kitchen, or at the very least, a refrigerator free of minibar junk
• Nearby markets with healthy food (one cannot subsist on poutine alone!)

I relocated to an extended-stay "suite" hotel and was pleased to find that the room had a full kitchen and satisfied all my major requirements. Equipped with a more favorable grinding situation, I focused my attention on the nightly $100 Rebuy satellites to the PokerStars Canada Cup at the Playground Poker Club in Montreal, which would be taking place directly after SCOOP. Each online satellite guaranteed one entry to the $3,300 main event, and although I made it into consolation prize territory a couple of times, I fell short of winning a seat.

The main poker highlight of this trip was finally claiming a victory in a PokerStars Women tournament! Unfortunately it wasn't the $55 Women's Sunday, but I can proudly say I bested a field of 31 entrants in the $8.80 Women's Nightly Special for a cool $91.76. Take that, Canada Cup!

When I returned to Montreal in May, excitement was in the air; the city was abuzz preparing for the summer festival season, and I had some serious SCOOPing to attend to! I set up shop at the same hotel I'd found in April, and each morning I'd walk to the supermarket for my daily food and supplies, followed by a stop at the local Starbucks for my morning coffee. I find that developing little routines like this is crucial for maintaining my focus and well-being when I am traveling.

I've now taken trips abroad to play poker during every month of 2014, and while all this travel has been fun and profitable (so far!), it sometimes makes life feel unpredictable and chaotic. Like many poker players, I tend to be introspective and self-critical, and I often question whether the freedom that online poker affords me is worth the considerable effort of constant international travel. But, sometimes reassurance comes in unlikely places:

Elena Stover - montreal_oprah.jpg

Merci, Starbucks/Oprah!

To live the life you want, not only do you need courage, but you also need to put in hard work and dedication. For several days, I holed up in my Montreal grinding lair for one of my most jam-packed and exhausting poker trips to date. According to my tracking software, I played an average of 11 hours each day and an average of 57 tournaments per day. However, these efforts were not particularly fruitful at first, and while mediocre results are always troublesome, they are even more so when traveling. The overhead costs of staying in hotels add up, so if you are traveling to play poker but just breaking even, you will find yourself losing money very quickly!

Another sad matter was that I had no success winning a Canada Cup seat in the online satellites, so I scrapped the idea of staying on longer in Montreal for the live tournament. The day after SCOOP ended, I resigned myself to playing one more online session and driving home the next day. I was beyond exhausted from the cumulative effect of several days of nonstop mental exertion, but somehow I managed to make it to the final table of a large $11 rebuy tournament with a $40K guarantee! It was the end of another long session and I was basically playing on autopilot, but I've been at this for a few years now, so my autopilot mode is still a relatively competent form of ABC poker.

Before I knew it I found myself heads-up with a 3-2 chip lead, and my opponent asked if I wanted to look at the numbers.

Elena Stover - 40k.jpg

Un chop!? Tabernac!

Now I'm not one of those arrogant people who "never chops," but usually in practice, I never chop. I like the feeling of winning a tournament outright, and ever since coming second in the PCA Women's Event, I've been working on my heads-up game to ensure I have the skills to seal the deal. However, on this occasion, my eyes were about to fall out of my face, so I was not opposed to sacrificing a bit of glory in order to lock up my share of the equity and end the match right then and there!

Thanks to that (chopped) victory, my trip to Montreal was overwhelmingly profitable, and I'm feeling great about both online and live poker in the coming months. PokerStars has announced another Montreal series coming up in August, the Stardust Canadian Poker Classic, and of course the World Series of Poker is currently in full swing in Las Vegas. I'm heading out next week, and I'm hoping my good fortune from Montreal will follow me there! I'll be playing the WSOP Ladies Event and most of the other tournaments around town reserved for our fairer sex.

Hope to see some of you at the tables!

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