Your Guide to Ontario’s Top 5 Gambling Personalities

Hailey Campbell

Casino expert

Your Guide to Ontario’s Top 5 Gambling Personalities

The gaming industry creates celebrities all over the world, and Ontario is no exception. There are some massing Ontario gambling personalities that have become well known not only in the province, but across Canada and around the globe. The following is our list of the top five gambling figures from Ontario, featuring those who have connections both to the province and the gaming industry.

Daniel Negreanu – The Titan of Poker

Poker player

While there are plenty of famous poker players in the world, only a few truly move the needle when it comes to the general public. Without a doubt, Daniel Negreanu is one of them. Born in Toronto in 1974, Negreanu has won over $42 million in tournament prizes in his poker career, and owns six World Series of Poker bracelets.

Negreanu’s poker career began in the Toronto area. After learning how to play the game at the age of 15, he dropped out of high school, and started playing Ontario’s charity casinos. By 22, he had built enough of a bankroll to take a shot at making a living as a professional poker player in Las Vegas.

While that first attempt didn’t go so well, Negreanu quickly rebounded. In 2004, he won both the WSOP Player of the Year and Card Player Player of the Year awards, and by 2014, he earned induction into the Poker Hall of Fame. Today, he is still one of the best tournament poker players in the world, and perhaps the most famous Gambling figure in Ontario.

Tom Cochrane – The Maverick Entertainer

Guitar and microphone

Tom Cochrane may have been born in Manitoba, but it was Toronto where he joined rock band Red Rider. It was a smart move: Cochrane has since been inducted onto Canada’s Walk of Fame and received the honour of being invested as an officer of the Order of Canada.

The “Life is a Highway” singer has long been a fan of the gambling industry as well. Cochrane was the obvious choice as the first performer to grace the theatre at the Great Canadian Casino Report Toronto, effectively opening the venue on December 31, 2023 for New Year’s Eve. Earlier in the year, he performed at the Fallsview Casino and Casino Regina.

While you can’t watch Cochrane play at an online casino, you can get some of the same atmosphere he clearly enjoys. Live dealer sites give you the opportunity to play your favourite casino games with real dealers and other players over a live video feed, making it the closest thing to visiting a real-world resort.

Kristen Bicknell – St Catharines’ Queen of the Cards

Poker player

Few Ontario gambling personalities have found more success in the gaming world than Kristen Bicknell. Born in St. Catharines in 1986, Bicknell – now known as Kristen Foxen after marrying fellow professional poker player Alex Foxen – began playing online poker in 2006. She became one of the biggest online grinders in the world in the early 2010s, reaching Supernova Elite on PokerStars in three consecutive years.

Bicknell became known to the wider poker world in 2013 when she won the Ladies No Limit Hold’em Championship at the World Series of Poker. Since then, she has won a total of four bracelets, the first female player to ever reach that level of success.

So far in her career, Bicknell has earned more than $6.7 million in live tournament earnings, not to mention her massive online success. While Bicknell has acknowledged the challenges that women face in the poker world, she has also said she wants to focus on the positive aspects she has seen – and has herself become an icon for women who want to take up poker in Ontario and around the world.

Dr Karin Schnarr – The Industry Chief

Business people

Of the personalities on this list, Dr Karin Schnarr is the one you’re least likely to know as an Ontario gambling celebrity. But her impact on the industry in the province is arguably unmatched by anyone.

A longtime senior executive who has worked in the Government of Toronto, Dr Schnarr most recently served as the Chair of the provincial Task Force on Women and the Economy. From there, Dr Schnarr moved into her currently role: the Chief Executive Officer and Registrar of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), a job she took over on September 18, 2023.

That position give Dr Schnarr significant power over the gaming industry in Ontario. The AGCO regulates all gaming and horse racing in the province, as well as alcohol and cannabis sales. That includes licencing and setting the rules for all casinos in Ontario, both at live venues and online in coordination with iGaming Ontario. With Dr. Schnarr at the helm, her name is one that every gambler in the province should know.

Vanessa Selbst – The Record Holder

One of the true icons of poker, Vanessa Selbst is the only woman in history to reach the No. 1 overall ranking on the Global Poker Index. While there were plenty of successful women in poker before Selbst, she was the first to have a strong argument as the best overall player in the world for a time.

Originally from New York, Selbst has since moved to Ontario. She has won nearly $12 million in poker tournaments, is the only woman to win three World Series of Poker bracelets in open events, and was an executive producer for the now defunct poker training site DeucesCracked.

While Selbst officially retired from professional poker in 2018, that didn’t signal an end to her winning on the felt. The biggest female money winner in poker history continued to cash in tournaments after establishing herself in Ontario, finished 22nd in a World Poker Tour event at Fallsview in 2020.

Conclusion: A Diverse Tapestry of Gaming Icons

A crowd seeks a star

As you can see, Ontario boasts a wide variety of gambling personalities, ranging from superstar poker players to executives that are changing the industry. Ontario enjoys a dynamic and growing gaming landscape, and these five individuals have all played their part in enriching the provincial gambling scene.

If you have dreams of getting on a list like this one someday, it’s not too late to get started. You can check out any of Ontario’s newest casinos and make a name for yourself, whether that’s by winning poker tournaments or drawing crowds of fans for your next show. These venues are some of the best casinos available for Ontarians today, and any one of them would make a great place to start your gaming career.