It’s a packed house in Vancouver, BC. The air is dripping with the scent of Lemon Haze as thick cannabis clouds billow out of the half dozen dab rigs being hit in quick succession by the enthusiastic patrons of the Cannabis Culture Lounge & Dab Bar—one of the world’s most pot-friendly establishments.
I look up from the laptop I have perched on the end of the bar as a particularly dense smoke cloud envelops me, momentarily blinding me from the Americas Cardroom playing cards flashing on the screen. I look around for the source and immediately make eye contact with the smiling face of one of the new friends I’ve made over the past 7 hours sitting there playing real-money online poker tournaments.
“Sativa boost,” he says with a grin, “for focus, and motivation.”
I nod in gratitude while suppressing the impulse to point out that the thousands of dollars on the line and small crowd of friends and onlookers now huddled around me is all the motivation I need at this point. There is only a dozen or so players left standing between me, a five-figure score, and the poker story of a lifetime.
It hasn’t always been like this though. Vancouver was always considered a liberal city regarding cannabis use, but it wasn’t that long ago that the best option for finding weed if you didn’t “know a guy”, was roaming through the dark downtown streets looking for crotch-weed (named after the unfortunate location that street dealers kept it hidden) at the steps of the Art Gallery.
Eventually we learned about Hemp BC, the small paraphernalia bookshop and seed store that would eventually lead to the creation of the very same Lounge I sat in that day, some two decades later. In those days, your best bet for a little public “pottoxication” was to hang around Hemp BC long enough, pretending to look at some books, until someone inevitably lit up a couple of joints and passed them around the store, an incredible contrast to the full-service weed bars that exist today.
As the poker tournament takes its final break, I notice the crowd behind me has grown substantially, with many of the onlookers taking the opportunity to wish me good luck in the form of a pat on the back, pull of a joint, or hit of some dank shatter. I accept each gift with gratitude, not because I think my body can process any more THC — after nearly 10 hours of smoking, it likely can not — but Mary’s gotten me this far so now’s not the time to forsake her and risk jinxing the entire thing.
With a mid 4-figure score already locked up, I instruct a close friend to purchase all the pre-rolls he can carry and pass them around the room, a chance for me to pay-forward the karma from my Hemp BC days. Then, as the tournament reaches its final stage, it’s time to tune everything out and focus on the task at hand. But first, of course, one last dab for good luck.
Historically speaking, poker’s been predominantly a drinker’s game. The media’s depiction of dark dens and waitresses in short skirts funneling whiskey directly into the gullets of thirsty degenerates was relatively true-to-form in the earliest days of the game.
Cannabis, for its part, had very little association with poker until recently, with Las Vegas casinos handing out lifetime bans just a couple of years ago to players caught smoking in the parking lot during tournament breaks. But slowly, as legalization continues to sweep across poker-havens Nevada, California, and beyond, things have begun to change for the better. Even the World Series of Poker noticeably turned more of a blind eye to cannabis use this past series.
But nowhere is the merging of two of North America’s favorite pastimes more apparent than on Americas Cardroom. The US-facing site has long been keeping their players informed on the state of legalization through the robust cannabis section of their popular ‘Big Blind Blog’.
Starting October 31st, Americas Cardroom will also be launching the latest edition of their High Five Tournament Series, which features 25 added events (five per day) and $1.5 Million in guaranteed prize pools, including a…wait for it… $420,000 Main Event on the final day (Sunday, November 4th at 4pm ET.)
Not only will the High Five award enough green to put Snoop Dogg’s plug out of business, but in true stoner ingenuity, Americas Cardroom has also added a 10-minute “courtesy break” every day at precisely 4:20pm ET to let players relax in whatever way they choose.
When asked to comment on the reasons for this poker/cannabis crossover, Americas Cardroom CEO Phil Nagy had this to say:
“Well, first off, from a much larger perspective, there’s been some real similarities with the way governments have tried to limit the public’s access to both cannabis and online poker, all the while allowing millions to suffer at the hands of alcohol and tobacco.
It all really boils down to taxation dollars. I firmly believe that cannabis, much like sports betting for instance, will see widespread legalization in the US before poker. Not because either is necessarily more or less harmful than online poker, but more because there’s bigger taxation dollars in sports and marijuana because they are high margin products.
So, from a personal standpoint, I find that very hypocritical. Because even though it’s true that some people will suffer consequences from gambling more than they can afford, or smoking more often than they should, it’s clear that this will always be a small minority of either population, one that is much, much smaller than with the two other vices I mentioned.
At the end of the day, as long as it’s not hurting anyone, it should be about each of us having the right to choose the life we want to lead. And I think for many of our players — and millions of people around the world — they should be given the right to choose, whether that choice is cannabis or lit online poker tournament series with fire guarantees.”
Eventually, after nearly a full half-day battling at the poker table and more dabs than I could count, the moment of truth had finally arrived. With my arms raised in anticipatory celebration and the sounds of cheers from my new friends beginning to fill my ears, the final card flipped over, giving me the victory and $11,000 grand prize!
And while taking down the tournament on Americas Cardroom was nice (very nice, actually!), standing there among a group of like-minded individuals who were kind enough to shower me with love, congratulations, and enough second-hand THC to put Willie Nelson into a coma, I couldn’t help but think back to the crotch-weed smoking days of my youth.
Because as good as winning the money made me feel, the feeling of joy at finally getting to be on the frontlines of the healthy Cannabis community so many of us have been fighting for was, without a doubt, infinitely sweeter!
Puff, puff, pass.
Want to take your bankroll higher? Use Bonus Code: Halloween from October 27th-30th to claim a 50% Reload Bonus up to $300. To see the complete High Five Tournament Series schedule, head over to www.americascardroom.eu today.