French Canadian Kryptonite
I woke up late and rushed to pack my suitcase, grab some cash, and make it to the airport in time for my flight to Montreal. My Uber driver was on point, getting me to FLL with time to spare. I breezed through security, grabbed some coffee, and jumped on the plane like a boss.
Three and a half hours later, my flight landed safely at YUL. As I was going through customs I noticed that the officers were being especially invasive. "Where are you coming from? Where are going? How long will you be here? What is the purpose of this visit?"
I had no idea ISIS committed heinous crimes during the flight. My phone was still on airplane mode. The first level of security asked if I had any cash on me. I politely told them I brought $7,000 USD. They overreacted and sent me through a secondary security screening. The line consisted of me, 20 Muslims, and a little old Asian guy trying to bring some Vietnamese tea into the country for his wife. Something was wrong.
45 minutes later, I made it to the front of the line. The customs officer assigned to me looked like a withered Jason Statham. You know, one of those guys that has such a bad Napoleon complex that he feels the need to spend way too much time in the gym, wear platform shoes, and stand next to fake mugshot measuring boards to hide the fact that he's really 5'2"?
My 6'8" stature triggers bad high school memories for these little guys. They got cut from the basketball team. They overcompensated by chugging gallons of whey protein shakes. They feel insecure when their women want to go out in high heels. This insecurity leads them to become bouncers, security guards, and police officers. They need a power rush.
It doesn't matter where I go. These guys go out of their way to feel taller. One time I got kicked out of a club by a bouncer that insisted my real MN license was a fake ID. Another time I got kicked out of an amusement park for jumping a rope blocking an empty line to a roller coaster. Still, another time I got a speeding ticket for going 32 in a 30 mph zone. Guess what all those guys had in common?
This customs officer was no different. He patted me down 17 times, ripped my suitcase open, called for drug detection dogs, and insisted that my money be counted. As he was counting, I remembered how I forgot to add the $2,970 score I had in the PCPC Main Event. Even then, I wasn't worried. The total amount was still under $10K. Then I saw that look in his eyes. He was only $30 away from being able to seize my money.
He kept looking through all the pockets of my suitcase, my pants, my sweaters. Finally, he found a handful of small bills to break the $10K mark. "Your money is getting seized under subsection 18(1) of the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act because they were not reported contrary to the provisions of subsection 12(1) of that act."
I proceeded to spend the next two and a half hours filling out paperwork to challenge this search and seizure and recover my funds. Then they wanted to know why my cologne was seized on the way out of the Dominican Republic. Don't get me started. In the end, all I had to do was pay a $250 CAD fine. Here's $200 USD. Yes, my US dollars crush your maple syrup stained currency. Mess with me one more time and I'll tell Negreanu!
Then came the matter of converting my USD terrorist money to CAD poker money. Canadians are so salty about American currency. I used to go hunting with my dad way up north in Minnesota and all the Canucks wanted to talk about was how our dollar was only worth 90 cents to them. Oh, how times have changed! How's our 1.33 conversion rate now? I was feeling much better.
But my battle against the dwarfs wasn't over. I took a cab to Downtown Montreal to check-in to the Airbnb Aaron Mermelstein booked a week in advance. He was late because he missed his flight, so I had to go on a solo mission to investigate.
The place looked nothing like it did in the photos. It had a terrible, pungent, musty smell in every room. Someone created a makeshift bathroom in a closet by putting a toilet right next to the water heater. The walls were covered with one coat of nasty, smudged, white paint. The beds were simply mattresses without bed frames. There were four bedrooms. Each one had a window that could see into the adjacent room. The windows were covered with huge, demonic paintings laced with alchemy related Illuminati symbols that I had seen in paramedic textbooks. The place was certifiably evil.
I texted Aaron and told him we needed to find a different place to stay. He took my word for it and canceled the reservation. As I was on my way out, two French Canadian guys barged through the front door and heatedly told me that I wasn't allowed to cancel so late at night. As I tried to leave, one of them slammed the front door and tried to block my way out. Want to guess how tall he was?
I calmly looked down at him and said, "You should get out of my way." He jolted back and scrambled toward his friend. It was comical! Listen, I'm a really skinny dude. I don't consider myself one bit intimidating. But I guess even the Illuminati can see the monster that is Gringo Loco lurking behind my pale blue eyes.
I handed him the keys and left without saying a word. I went across the street and waited for Aaron in a sandwich shop. Luckily we were able to find a different place to stay for the week. This time the host was incredibly gracious and willing to help us in any way possible. He had notes with the wifi password, charts for parking and nearby restaurants, and instructions for checkout procedure. This is how Airbnb is meant to be run. He deserves a shout-out for being awesome.
The next day we went over to Playground Poker Club to play the WPT that they were hosting. The trip didn't go well for me. I fired two blanks into the Main Event and bricked two side events on my way to a $9K loss. Short summary: Canadians don't fold anything -- not even laundry. I bluffed off my stack four times in spots where I NEVER get called in Florida. This wasn't on the scouting report.
Although things didn't go well financially, I will say this; Playground is one of the nicest, well-run cardrooms I've ever been in. Everything about it screams high quality. The tables, chips, chairs, dealers, food, and service are outstanding. They put American cardrooms like the Venetian to shame. Poker could be so much bigger if casinos started putting that kind of effort into accommodating players, but I digress...
On a totally different note, if you're ever in Montreal, you MUST have breakfast at Restaurant L'avenue. To be clear, this is not optional. Cancel all your plans and sacrifice your first-born child to eat there. It's absolutely glorious. Mortals don't deserve to eat food like that. Get the Smoked Meat Benedict and sip a cappuccino as you chat with the locals. I promise you won't be disappointed.
In summary, I've had a rough go as far as customs are concerned and ISIS hasn't helped my cause. I need to start traveling lighter and wiring money more often. But even after all that nonsense, I really enjoyed Montreal. It's a beautiful city with all the things I like -- big poker, good food, and fun nightlife. Hopefully, they'll let me back in!!!