In its fifth year, the PokerStars World Cup of Poker brought teams together from around the world to compete for international poker fame and honor. It took weeks and weeks of poker tournaments online to determine the finalists who would travel to the Bahamas to represent their teams in the live finals, and when it was all said and done, Germany proved that it could live up to its growing reputation as a giant of a poker playing country.
All players qualified through freerolls on PokerStars in the fall of 2008, and by November, the final rounds of online tournaments took the best of the best from online qualifiers and tournament leaderboard champions and put them to the ultimate online test to determine those who would make the final teams. The countries that made it were the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Poland, Latvia, Mexico, Italy, New Zealand, and Germany. And the players on those teams, along with their designated team captains, were as follows:
USA - Shaun Deeb, Benjamin Zamani, Jarred Gabin, Bruce Armstrong, Captain Greg Raymer
Canada - Blair Maltby, Dennis Hamlyn, Wanda Whitlock, Tammy Bailey, Captain Daniel Negreanu
Great Britain - Steven Devlin, Laurence Houghton, Derek Morris, Sean Joseph Flaherty, Captain Vicky Coren
Poland - Jerzy Slaby, Pawel Chmiel, Patryk Slusarek, Leszek Krawcynski, Captain, Marcin Horecki
Latvia - Vjaceslavs Ivanovs, Juris Saicans, Ance Laganovska, Dmitirjs Kurchins, Captain Krisjanis Jurdzs
Mexico - David Harold Huber, Jose Francisco Munoz Osuna, Antoine Barriere, Jorge Lozano, Captain Juan Carlos Alvarado
Italy - Michele Migliore, Pennisi Omar, Valeriano Bilancetti, Villa Gerardo Fabrizio, Captain Luca Pagano
New Zealand - Nicholas Webb, Richard Grace, Wayne Lo, Jordan Bryant, Captain Lee Nelson
Germany - Georg Geissler, Bastian Wulff, Peter Schmidt, Malte Strothmann, Captain Jan Heitmann
All of the players who won the right to represent their respective countries were flown - all expenses paid - to the Atlantis Resort and Casino in the Bahamas, the site of the concurrently running PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. It was a switch for the World Cup of Poker, as the live finals had been played out in Barcelona for the four previous years. The tournament was broadcast live on EPTLive, and the teams were playing for pride and the $100,000 team grand prize.
Players gathered on Tuesday, January 6th for the live finals, and the rules were for the preliminary round were laid out in the simplest way possible. Five one-table tournaments would play - each with a different member of the nine countries - with 3K chips as starting stacks, and finishes of each player would be assigned points, i.e. 15 points for first place, 12 points for second, etc.
When it was said and done, the following teams accumulated points that earned them their associated starting stacks for the final round:
1st place - Great Britain (45 points) - 50K starting stack
2nd place - USA (37 points) - 45K starting stack
3rd place - Mexico (37 points) - 41K starting stack
4th place - Poland (35 points) - 37K starting stack
5th place - Italy (31 points) - 34K starting stack
6th place - Germany (30 points) - 31K starting stack
7th place - New Zealand (26 points) - 29K starting stack
8th place - Latvia (22 points) - 27K starting stack
9th place - Canada (12 points) - 25K starting stack
The teams divided those starting chip stacks by five, one-fifth for each player on the team. Players were set to play in a tag-team sort of fashion and accumulate chips in order to pass them on to the next player on the list. Truthfully, the rules were grandly complicated, but suffice it to say that each player would be allowed to play, but when a team lost all of its players, the team would be out of the competition.
Players entered the Imperial Ballroom for the final round draped in their countries’ flags, and play began with Vicky Coren, Lee Nelson, Jorge Lozcano, Patryk Slusarek, Krisjanis Jurdzs, Tammy Bailey, Jarred Gabin, Malthe Strothmann, and Pennisi Omar. Bailey didn’t make it through the round, however, and Canada had Negreanu to look to in the next round to make up for that elimination.
The second set of players didn’t experience much fluctuation, but the third round was action-packed. With Great Britain out front, followed by USA and Poland, GB began by chipping up even further. The USA also took in some chips, courtesy of Greg Raymer, but Canada lost even more chips to slip deeper into last place.
After the evening’s dinner break, Team Canada attempted to make a change in Level 6 by putting Negreanu back at the table, but he got involved with Lee Nelson’s A-K. Negreanu’s K-Q couldn’t find any help, especially after a king came on the flop, and that was the last opportunity for Canada. Negreanu’s team was ousted in ninth place and received $5,000 to split amongst the players as a consolation prize.
Though the Brits were in jeopardy, it was Mexico that slid into short-stack position. With JC Alvarado at the helm, he took his K-Q into battle with the pocket sixes of Britain’s Steve Devlin. With a six on the flop, Team Mexico was done in eighth place and took $5,000 to split within the group.
Latvia looked as if it was climbing the leaderboard, especially after a double through the British team to sit in third place. However, the team slipped when Jurdzs allowed Coren’s team to double through, then allowed the German team to do the same. Finally, just past midnight, Jurdzs pushed all-in with 10-9 offsuit but found USA’s Gabin calling with A-Q. The board was useless to Latvia, and the team was out in seventh place with a collective $10,000 prize.
Poland was the next country on the short stack, and when its T-6 met up with the A-Q of Germany, Horecki’s Polish team was out in sixth place, also with $10,000 to split among the players.
With the USA going into the next round in last place, it wasn’t long before Shaun Deeb doubled up on the team’s behalf and soared into first place, courtesy of the British team. Britain attempted a comeback and doubled through New Zealand, but finally, team member Houghton attempted it again with A-6 of hearts to no avail. Great Britain was gone in fifth place, which was worth $10,000 for the team.
Team USA was sitting pretty in first place until New Zealand doubled through them. Finally, with Deeb again at the table, an all-in move with pocket nines couldn’t stand up to the A-8 of New Zealand when two eights hit on the flop. The defending champion United States was ousted in fourth place but received a pay jump to $30,000 to be split among its players.
With three teams left, New Zealand was in the lead and took some time to watch Germany and Italy battle it out. Italy doubled through Germany, but Germany reversed it and doubled back through the Italians. Germany then doubled through New Zealand.
Luca Pagano made a move for Italy with 8-5 offsuit, but Jan Heitmann of Germany called quickly with 8-7. When nothing came on the board for either team, it was Italy that was eliminated in third place with a sizable $50,000 prize for the effort.
Heads-up began between New Zealand and Germany, and the match was settled on the first hand. Germany pushed all-in right away with , and New Zealand called all-in quickly with . The flop didn’t help Germany with , but the turn of did the trick. The on the river would’ve helped New Zealand if it hadn’t made a flush for Germany. New Zealand was forced to accept second place and the $70,000 that went with it.
Team Germany claimed victory after sixteen hours of play at the World Cup of Poker V, taking the championship for the country and $100,000 for the team members.
Team Captain Jan Heitmann said, “This has been a great experience, a really great tournament. Our team played fantastic. We got lucky a bit but overall we played very good poker.”
(Thanks to PokerStars Blog for detailed tournament information.)