Caitlyn Howe Reflects on the Majestic WPT Fallsview Poker Classic

I type this on a computer screen with an extraordinary backdrop. Behind the pixels sprawls a snow-frosted landscape with one overpowering feature on full display; the world-famous Niagara Falls. It’s hard to tell whether the soft roar of the powerful rushing water is making its way through the well-insulated glass or if it just exists…

Matt Clark
Feb 25, 2020

Tony Dunst and Caitlyn Howe

I type this on a computer screen with an extraordinary backdrop. Behind the pixels sprawls a snow-frosted landscape with one overpowering feature on full display; the world-famous Niagara Falls. It’s hard to tell whether the soft roar of the powerful rushing water is making its way through the well-insulated glass or if it just exists in my mind, recalling how it sounds to stand next to this majestic landmark and breathe it all in as I did yesterday morning. 

That experience is the great gift of visiting Fallsview Casino for the WPT Fallsview Poker Classic. We can play poker anywhere in the world (and for the staff and players of the WPT, we do!), but there is only one place like this. 

It has been a while since I have had the pleasure of presiding as a Royal Flush Crew ambassador at a World Poker Tour event. With some new faces joining the team and new goals to pursue in my personal path, I took some time off the tour and got into the world of personal coaching. And over the past year, as I’ve taken on this new mission, I have grown too, living in service to others. So the woman who sits here today has changed a bit since the first time I had the pleasure of experiencing the WPT Fallsview magic in 2017. 

I was excited to be invited back and reunite with my beloved poker community this week in Ontario. But I was surprised in the best way, as me and WPT commentator Tony Dunst took to the town on Day 1, to discover that seeing this place for the second time is just as riveting as the first. We did not waste a moment before getting into the amazing experiences available in Niagara Falls. 

Tony Dunst and Caitlyn Howe

We began with the most adventurous activity, “Journey Behind the Falls”, and I found myself standing next to the world wonder the first morning after our arrival before we took an elevator 38 meters down into the cold, damp, tunnels behind the waterfall to get the closest look possible. Feeling the immense force of energy in the water, combined with a palpable sense of history (it has been 12,000 years since the Falls formed at the end of the last Ice Age), stirred something primal inside of me. My wild inner self awoke as I stood in the icy mist of the falls, feeling the thunderous flow of the cascading water. 

From the Falls’ cave-like interior, to the breathtaking photo ops at their stony edge, we enjoyed the close-proximity views for as long as we could, and then moved for respite in the warmth of the Niagara Parks Floral Showhouse, a delightfully unexpected change of climate and scenery, which offers a tropical garden experience featuring succulents and various greenery and flora, as well as seasonally-rotating indoor and outdoor experiences that make for a lovely afternoon stroll. Next, we continued on to Clifton Hill, a destination playscape for both children and adults with innumerable attractions, where we rode the Niagara Skywheel and enjoyed the view from loftier heights. 

Tony Dunst and Caitlyn Howe

But upon returning to the poker room for Shuffle Up & Deal, the arresting beauty of the falls stayed on my mind. It felt so good to be back on the floor of a WPT event, smiling at familiar faces, shining out the encouraging support I carry for the players, and doing what I have loved to do for the past five years on the World Poker Tour. And as the first few hands were dealt, I felt a sense of gratitude wash over me – a deep thankfulness to be here at Fallsview again. It was in this space of reflection that it occurred to me what is so special about an event in a location like this. 

While there are man-made attractions in so many WPT stops that draw in players from all over the world, there is nothing that gets us quite as present in the moment as nature. The nature here – the Falls – creates a sense of connection with our history as human beings. Whether we realize it or not, the cells in our body awaken in the gravity of the moment. We remember, on some level, how many people have stood before us, on the same land, in witness of its splendor. We feel how humanity has worked with this power source to create energy and economy in the cities that developed around it. For the moment that we spend standing next to the Falls, we don’t think about what happened before, or what will come next. We are as present as Mother Nature herself. 

Caitlyn Howe

As I pondered all of this, poker came into my awareness, too. I recognized that poker demands presence as well. When we sit at the poker table, what happened before that hand or what will happen after the chips are bagged cannot matter. We get present with the cards we are dealt. We tune in more acutely to the environment; the energy of the room, the other players at the table, the dealer, the game.

Presence is survival in a poker tournament. And just as people are attracted to Niagara Falls to feel this sort of presence come to life inside of them, so are people drawn to the game of poker. 

Final 6 and WPT staff

Some people call it flow state, poker players call it “running good,” and some people don’t know what to call it, they just know it when they feel it. But as human beings, we are compelled by the experiences that help us access it. I love this event because we get a double dose of this presence; both on the felt, and just steps below the action on the ice-glazed walkways that encompass Fallsview Casino. 

With this appreciation, I have felt more present than ever at this WPT event. I am enjoying the conversations I have with event staff more, I am recognizing the amazing hospitality of the Canadian culture with more gratitude than ever. I find myself keenly admiring the buzz and glamour of the casino; this warm oasis of action and enthusiasm amidst the cold terrain of the surrounding land. From fabulous dining options ranging from fine Italian at Ponte Vecchio to the Grand Buffet, world-class shows in the impressive lineup of music performances and stand-up comedy at the entertainment venues, to the popular Canadian coffee hub Tim Horton’s, the pulsing energy of Fallsview Casino makes the indoor experience worthy of such a geographic location. 

And still, out my window, I see the Falls; adorned with a looming 100-year old barge known as the Iron Scow still lodged in the rushing water, and illuminated in bright colors in the evenings, under a sky that periodically lights up with fireworks at night. With every step this week I am grateful to walk in these two places at once – the timeless Niagara Falls and the timeless world of poker.