Poker Faces in the Crowd: Chris Canan

Ben Saxton
Aug 26, 2018 · 5 min read

Have you met Da Coach? A New Orleans Saints season ticket holder since 1993, Chris Canan has only missed one home game in twenty-five years — when he attended a family reunion at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Reunions aside, Canan spends Superdome Sundays diligently aping coach Sean Payton and his outfit: black visor, dress shoes, windbreaker, khaki pants, silver Motorola headset, clipboard, even a red challenge flag. Da Coach roots in the second row alongside Leroy “Whistle Monsta” Mitchell, the Saints Popes, and five-time WSOP Circuit Event ring winner Caufman Talley III. Good company, for sure.

Three Sundays ago, when the Saints played at Minnesota in the NFC Divisional Playoffs, Chris faced a dilemma. Should he drive to Biloxi for the Million Dollar Heater — the Gulf South’s biggest poker tournament series of the year — or root for his Saints? Last week, I spoke with Chris about balancing life as a Superfan with tournament poker, the best way to insult Tampa Bay Bucs fans, and Super Bowl LII predictions.

Ben Saxton: How are you feeling about the end of the Saints’ season?

Chris Canan: I’m still salty. I’m gonna be salty until August, I think. I watched the game when I was in the [$2700] Main Event at the Million Dollar Heater. I have a friend, Rob, who I’ll often call for advice. His father has terminal brain cancer, and my mom also has cancer, so he’s a good person to lean on when I’m stressed. Rob told me: “Why don’t you convince yourself that the better you play, the better the Saints will play?” So I did that, and I built my stack up to 92,000. Then the Saints blew it.

Did that affect how you played?

A little bit. I was playing pretty aggressively. Then I got more conservative and couldn’t hang on. The tournament paid out fifteen, and I finished twentieth.

What was a highlight as a Superfan, this year?

We almost got into a big fight against the Bucs. We had Tampa Bay Superfans in our section who were dressed kind of like pirates, and I said to them: “You know what a buccaneer’s favorite thing is? Booty!” Right when that happened, a big fight broke out on the sideline. Tensions rose really high. The police had to break things up. Fortunately we didn’t get thrown out of the game.

Who’d you dress up as before Sean Payton?

I tried several things that didn’t work. I wore a gorilla suit with a jersey over it, but it was too hot. One game after we lost to the Colts — Peyton Manning threw for six touchdowns on us — I tried to walk home and probably almost killed myself. Remember Tom Hanks in Cast Away? I found the same Hawaiian shirt, didn’t shave for a whole season, and wore cutoff jeans and sandals. It never really worked.

But the Payton outfit caught on.

It wasn’t even my choice. Soon as we hired Payton in 2006, Whistle Monsta called me right away and said, “Dude. They hired you!”

Have you always been a Saints fan?

Always. I was born nine months to the day after my parents’ wedding, which happens to be the day before they opened the Superdome: August 3rd, 1975. I’m one day older than the Superdome.

That’s very fitting.

My dad was nowhere to be found when I was born. He was playing poker in the back of a restaurant in New Orleans. His grandma was a mean Cajun woman — she was so mean, they called her Sunshine — she found my dad and dragged him out of there, but by then it was too late. He thought he had more time — that’s the way he put it.

When did you get into poker?

Around 2007, Whistle was running single-table tournaments out of his house. He’s friends with a lot of locally-famous people: Kermit Ruffins, Steve Gleason. Anybody in the music or sports scene, Whistle’s probably friends with. If I ever make a final table, he’s gonna be on my rail. And it’s gonna be nuts.

After that, I ran a poker game out of Mick’s [Irish Pub] from 2007 to 2012. They were small games — $20 tournaments and .25/.50 cash — six nights a week. I got a lot of hands in, but mostly when I was drunk. When we were all drunk, I was the best player.

When did you dive into full-time tournament poker?

Only two years ago. My friend P.J. took second in a Circuit Event in Biloxi, and then a third in Lake Tahoe. He told me that I was good enough to be going deep in them. He gave me Phil Gordon’s Little Green Book and talked me into coming out to Vegas for the first Colossus. Around that time, I decided to fully commit to tournament poker. I quit drinking then and haven’t had one since.

Why are tournaments so attractive to you?

First and foremost, the money. You’re not gonna make ten times your money playing cash games. But you can expect to do that in a tournament, if you go deep. On top of that, I don’t want to just book a win. I want to win. I want to defeat the field.

What are your plans for the next few months?

I’m trying to get the fuck out of town for Mardis Gras.

You’re over Mardis Gras?

Well, since I don’t drink anymore, that takes a lot of the fun out of it. The problem is that I live too close to the Endymion parade route. If you leave the house, you’re not getting your parking spot back for the whole weekend. I’m thinking about going to the [WSOP] Circuit Event at Coconut Creek. Other than that, I don’t know.

The Circuit Event in Cherokee is in April. It’s pretty good action. Big fields. One of the better stops on the Circuit, I would say.

I’d like to go there. I hear it’s beautiful.

It is. I hope you get over the Saints playoff loss before August. Are you rooting for anyone in the Super Bowl?

When I saw the Patriots got there again, I felt like Chevy Chase in [National Lampoon’s] European Vacation: “Look kids, Big Ben! Parliament!” I used to live in New England as a teenager, so I don’t hate them as much as everyone else.

Can I get a prediction? I’ll say Pats, 24–10.

I also predict a blowout but worse: Pats, 38–17.

*originally published in the February 2017 issue of Two Plus Two Magazine

Ben Saxton

Written by

reading, writing, teaching, pokering @McGovernCenter

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