Grand Bend gambler Richard Webb will travel globe after winning the Canadian Poker Tour crown
Richard Webb hit it big January 21 when he won the Canadian Poker Tour Invitational Finals at Ocean World Resort and Casino in the Dominican Republic. Webb was the best of Canada’s top 43 players, who were invited to the Caribbean resort to compete for the $60,000 title and a sponsorship contract worth $100,000. With the win, Webb will represent Canadian Poker Tour as the Canadian poker champion, and the company will pay his entry fee and all expenses when he competes in tournaments across Canada and around the world this year. He also gets to keep most of his winnings from any tournaments where he places “in the money”. It’s a high level of success for this 48-year old Dashwood native, who grew up playing cards and still plays poker weekly with his friends and family.
Photos and photo illustration by Casey Lessard As told to Casey Lessard
When did I start playing poker? Probably with my dad when I was a young child. He would deal hand after hand of seven-card stud, and practice and play. He was a card player, and I learned my card skills from him. As we were growing up, we played cards all the time: euchre, solo, hearts – all the card games you play as a family. Along came the charity casino days, and I played poker at those not knowing much of what I was doing. It was mainly limit poker, so there’s a fixed small blind and large blind, and there are only three or four raises. Each game would be $5 to $20 per game. We started playing out at a local establishment in Exeter on Monday and Tuesday nights, and we moved out here for a regular Tuesday night poker game (his basement has a poker room complete with a beautiful poker table, comfortable chairs, and a painting of dogs playing poker). We had been playing various types of games, but we could see that no-limit hold ‘em was where the future of poker was. In no-limit, you can raise any time. This was in the fall of 2004 after Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker, which really was the start of the explosion of the poker trend. In February 2005, I entered my first tournament, the Bluewater Championships at Point Edward charity casino, which was their first. There were about 400 people putting up $500 each. Lo and behold, I finished second. That was a good start. I took a good portion of the winnings and took a month long motorhome trip across Canada with my family. I played the Bluewater Championships again in February 2006, and won it that time. They had another one in September, and I won that, too. I think first prize was something like $50,000 each, so that set me off. I made headlines in poker magazines, and the international poker rankings mentioned it because it’s unusual to win back-to-back. In 2007, I made the money again at Bluewater, finishing 12th. Then I went to Regina, where I won a tournament. It’s not the biggest tournament in Canada, but it’s one of the best. In 2008, I came back and won the Bluewater for the third time. That gave me entry into the Canadian championships, which were put on by the Canadian Poker Tour. They decided to have a tournament for the top point getters throughout the year. In any given year, I’ve never been the top points person, but I’ve always come close. Historically, since I started, I am number one overall.
Canadian championships It was a very good field of experienced players, all of who had won tournaments or come close, and we played in Puerto Plata. It was well put together with a big reception party. I went through day one, not as the top chip player but as one of the top 12 moving into day two. By the time we got to nine players, I started to take the lead. When we made the final table, I was the chip leader. Not by a lot, but I was chip leader. I played well. I made two bad calls throughout that time where I actually got in the hand when I was behind. In one case I lost the hand, and the other I drew out on a guy from Toronto. He had an ace/nine versus my king/jack. You get two cards and you’re trying to make a five-card hand. Three cards are flipped – the “flop”. The “turn” brings another card, and then there’s the “river”. I got a jack on the flop to make a pair and that eliminated him. That was good luck. You want to get in when you’re the favourite. His hand was 55 per cent favoured to my 45 per cent because he had the ace. He had one card that was over my two, but my two were over his bottom card. He had to hit an ace to win. It worked out for me. I proceeded to knock out the rest of the field. I got down to playing heads-up with a guy named Robert Beveridge, who won two Grey Cups as a CFL player and now coaches football at the University of British Columbia. I trapped him on a hand. I had pocket queens and he had ace/seven. I was 75-80 per cent favoured to win the hand and luckily he got an ace in the flop. The very next hand I picked up pocket sevens and moved all in against his ace/queen. A seven on the flop gave me three of a kind and I won the tournament. With the $60,000 prize, I get a $100,000 contract to go around the world and play poker. I give them 20 per cent of what I win and I give 10 per cent to charity in the city where I win. If it’s an international win, I’ll donate it in Grand Bend, Dashwood or Calgary, where the Canadian Poker Tour is based. I’ve worked my schedule so I can still run my business (Stewart Webb & Sons septic systems, which he runs with his brother), and have already started touring. I went to Los Angeles for the LA Poker Classic, which is one of the premier events. The winner takes $1.7 million, and I played well, but didn’t make it into the top 63 to get into the money. I jumped on a plane a couple days later to Calgary and finished 38th, which was in the money, and came home. I’m going to Regina this month; to Sanremo, Italy in April, to play in the European Poker Tour event there; Calgary for the Canadian Open; Las Vegas for the World Series; Barcelona, Spain; hopefully the North American championships in Niagara; and a whole bunch of tournaments across Canada to represent the tour coast-to-coast. For the World Series of Poker, there will be 7,000 players putting up $10,000 each, so first prize is about $9 million. Last year there were two Canadians at the final table.
Keeping everything in perspective Cards are a hobby for me. You see the glamour and glitz on TV, but there’s so much more that goes into it that it isn’t something I would want to have to depend on for rent payments at the end of the month. It would certainly subsidize my income if I decided to retire, but the pressure wouldn’t be there to perform. I’ve been fortunate. But if I never won another tournament again, I’d be quite satisfied with what I’ve achieved. That said, the Canadian Poker Tour wants me to win. Next year they’re planning to do the same thing but offer contracts to all of the players that make the final table. If I walk into a poker room anywhere in Canada, they know who I am because of the previous years. I play as hard as I can, but it’s always about the W for me. I don’t look at the money – I look for the win. That might help me be more relaxed at the end, and I think that’s one of my strengths. Plus I have a lot of final table experience. I wear sunglasses and a hat, and I’m listening to music a lot of the time. I try to establish how good someone’s hand is, and if I’m right 60 per cent of the time, I’m doing well. The more hands you see, the better. In no-limit poker, there’s raising (the stakes) and folding (your hand); no calling. Calling will just get you into trouble unless you’re trying to trap somebody. A good fold is as good as a good call. Maybe better. You’ve got to be able to fold when you’re beat. If you don’t, you’re going to be out of the tournament in a hurry. It doesn’t matter if it’s for $10 or $10,000; it’s still about winning. I still like to play. Cards are a social sport. At tournaments, you’re sitting at tables for 10-12 hours, so I want to be able to talk to the person next to me. If you’re likable, maybe people don’t try to knock you out as hard. I always shake hands and say goodbye to everyone. I’m definitely living the dream. It’s always nice to take Jackie and Sarah with me to places where it’s nice and warm, or places they want to see. Jackie will be going with me to Italy, and hopefully Jackie and Sarah will go with me to Barcelona. When I’m there playing, I don’t do anything other than play, but if I take an extra week, we can enjoy the places together. The money I’ve won has been used for things for my family and extended family, so it goes to good use and isn’t wasted. We still play every Tuesday night with the boys, and they beat me all the time. I play with my father every Tuesday and he beats me quite regularly. I like the ability to play with my dad. I’ve taken him to some tournaments; he sees the success I’ve had, and he’s proud of that. If I win $50,000 Sunday night, I still go to work Monday morning. If I were given a long-term contract to represent an organization, I probably would take it. I like the ability to get out there and meet people. If they want me to do charity events, I’m happy to do it. If I have interviews to do, I’m happy to do that. If I win one of the big tournaments this year, it’s not going to change the way I am and I’ll probably still come to work the next day. Well, maybe I’d take a couple days off before coming back.
To see Richard Webb win the Canadian Poker Tour Invitational Finals, you can watch The Score in April. Air dates and times are not yet set, but will be listed at thescore.com