On the heels of several attempts at organized team poker, the World Team Poker league was launched on May 19 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Though a press party the night before kicked things off, it wasn’t until the afternoon hours of May 19 that the Golden Nugget hosted the actual event, under the lights and cameras of a production crew that would ship the final product to Fox Sports Net.
The team poker concept allowed teams to represent various nations around the world, and the members of each team could coach each other and play as substitutes for other players on their respective teams. All in all, there were eight teams. One player from each team sat at each of the five tables in play, and the top two finishers from each table advanced to the final table. If more than two players from one team advanced, the stacks would be consolidated and one of those players would be chosen to play them. And there was a $400,000 prize pool in play, and competitors were ready to get started. The teams were as follows:
Team USA: Doyle Brunson (captain)
Phil Hellmuth, Erik Seidel, Chris Ferguson, Jennifer Harman, Howard Lederer, Mike Matusow
Team England: Ben Roberts (captain)
Joe Beevers, David Ulliott, David Colclough, Peter Costa, Surinder Sunar
Team Brazil: Juliano Maesano (captain)
Christian Kruel, Leandro Pimentel, Rodrigo Caprioli, Felipe Ramos
Team China: Johnny Chan, David Chiu (co-captains)
Maria Ho, Rich Zhu, Chau Giang, Winfred Yu, Derek Cheung
Team Australia: Tony Guoga, Jeffrey Lisandro (co-captains)
Gary Benson, Mel Judah, David Saab, Steve Topakas, Marsha Waggoner
Team Greece: George Theofanopoulos (captain)
Georgios Kapalas, Alex Zervos, Stavros Kalfas, Dimitris Lyritsis, Dimitris Chatziriotis
Team Israel: Eli Elezra (captain)
Josh Arieh, David Levi, Robert Mizrachi, Michael Mizrachi, Abe Mosseri
Team Vietnam: Men Nguyen (captain)
Van Nguyen, Scotty Nguyen, John Phan, Kenny Tran, Karina Jett
The double-shootout format was set up to play a 30-minute round of limit holdem, 45-minute round of pot-limit Omaha, and 30-minute round of no-limit holdem. Each player started with 10,000 chips.
Action kicked off with Team Australia losing David Saab not long into play and Mel Judah not long after that. And Jeffrey Lisandro was the next to go, leaving the team with only two players out of the five originals. Team Greece was next, followed by the USA.
A few hours into play, Australia was down to only one player, Greece had three, and Israel, Vietnam, and USA all had four. The rest of the teams had all five players still at the tables. But the USA quickly lost ground, as did China.
Many hours later, Israel was the first team to lose all players. It happened when Chau Giang eliminated David Benyamine, and Team Israel was out of the game entirely. England actually followed after taking several hits in succession. Ultimately, Johnny Chan took out Ben Roberts, and Team England was gone. When all was said and done, USA was eliminated by Vietnam, and Team USA was out of the game.
The final table was eventually set with the last five teams standing, their respective chip counts and starting players as follows:
Seat 1: Team Brazil - Christian Kruel (45,350)
Seat 2: Team Australia - Jeff Lisandro (34,650)
Seat 3: Team China - Maria Ho (142,550)
Seat 4: Team Vietnam - Karina Jett (75,650)
Seat 5: Team Greece - George Theofanopoulos (101,800)
Final table action started with Brazil doubling through Vietnam, leaving the latter with a short stack. Minutes later, Tim Phan representing Team Vietnam was eliminated when Brazil flopped middle set and Vietnam’s draws never materialized.
5th place: Team Vietnam ($0)
Play slowed tremendously as the hours went by, but Australia was on the short stack for quite some time with Brazil hovering below the 100K mark as well. Finally, Tony G playing for Australia went all-in during the PLO round with against the on a flop of . Australia didn’t improve on the turn or river, and Team Australia was eliminated.
4th place: Team Australia ($0)
China was on the short stack going into three-handed play, but David Chiu doubled up through Greece to keep China alive. Greece couldn’t come back from that hit, and the Greek player moved all-in with against the of Team Brazil. The board came , and Team Greece bubbled the money portion of the tournament.
3rd place: Team Greece ($0)
Heads-up play then began with the following information:
Team China - Johnny Chan (107,500)
Team Brazil - Leandro Pimentel (292,500)
China struggled during the first few levels, but when David Chiu came in for Johnny Chan, it didn’t take long for Chiu to move all-in with A-2-3-9 against the 7-8-9-10 of Brazil on a flop. The on the turn and on the river gave China the much-needed double-up.
It was well past 8am when the tournament finally came to an end. It happened during a PLO hand when Brazil was the short-stacked team and moved all-in with . China called with . The board came , and the flopped two pair for China held up when nothing hit for Brazil.
After 19 hours, the World Team Poker event was over, with Brazil finishing in second for a $100,000 prize, and Team China taking the grand prize of $300,000 to be split amongst the teammates as they wished.