It is one of the most hotly anticipated events of the poker calendar and after months of dealing and bluffing the winning nation of the PokerStars World Cup of Poker (WCP) was finally crowned. Italy managed to defeat all its rivals to surprise the world and take home one of the most coveted titles in the world of poker.
Some interesting names were gracing this tournament’s roster with individuals such as Liv Boeree, Vanessa Selbst and Juan Manuel Pastor leading their countries into battle. However, it was Team PokerStars Pro who led his team to victory. Nobody expected the Italians to walk away with the bragging rights.
The tournament came down to nine countries after a qualification period that initially included 56 countries from around and started way back in November, 2010. Gradually, as the weeks passed, the numbers were cut down until the final nine was decided. Argentina, France, Italy, Philippines, Slovakia, Spain, UK, Ukraine and the USA made up the numbers at the live final which was fulfilling its annual schedule slot at the PokerStars.com Caribbean Adventure in the Bahamas.
Teams were made up of four online qualifiers and a PokerStars selected team captain. Before the tournament began everyone was picking the UK and the USA to cause the most damage but as the tournament progressed it was soon to unfold that the less developed poker playing nations were going to stomp their mark. The Philippines went first shortly after a stunning hand that involved themselves and the chip leaders France. France forced the Philippines to fold in a large pot which really took the wind out of their sails. Less than half an hour later an epic heads up, where the Philippines had a pair of Aces and the UK had a pair of Kings, saw the UK hit a King on the flop and then the turn to seal the win and send the Philippines crashing out of the final first and wondering how it went wrong so quickly.
The USA was the next surprise nation to go. With few chips left, they went all in with an Ace and a 9 but their opponents, as fate would have it, had a pair of Aces. They hit a flush on the turn and the poker giants departed the final in 8th place. It wasn’t long before Argentina left the competition leaving us with just six teams left.
It was roughly four and a half hours of enduring stamina-filled poker before Spain, who had looked reasonably comfortable for an extended period of time, hit the ropes and exited the tournament. Italy had reduced Spain’s chip count to about 400 chips by hitting an Ace on the river. Juan Manuel Pastor attempted a saving play by going all in with an Ace and a 5 but France saw an opportunity to eliminate their geographical neighbours and turned over to reveal Ace and 10. The board drew nothing and Spain bid their farewells.
Slovakia and France soon followed as teams began to realize this was getting serious. With Italy so far out in front one of the chasing pack had to make a move and in doing so both Slovakia and France were foiled. Slovakia was eliminated by Spain who hit a three of a kind with Jacks compared to Slovakia’s three of a kind with 4s. France was then undone by some Ukrainian cunning. Believing that Ukraine was bluffing, France went over an original bet in order to steal the pot. Ukraine weren’t bluffing and turned over a pair of Queens. France only had an 8 and a 9 suited. France was out.
This left just the three nations. Italy was way out in front. Luca Pagano’s men had taken an early lead and weren’t letting go. However, Ukraine’s win over France and UK slowly building up a pot saw the chip counts level out. As time passed, the tables turned. Italy began to suffer, Ukraine became stronger and the UK held firm in order to make the heads up. Italy was now beginning to look in trouble. A hard fought win against the UK saw Italy get their chip count up and the UK battled back immediately by taking a large chunk out of Ukraine’s chip count. Italy then took Ukraine to the cleaners in the next big pot. It went down to the river but a board that drew blank saw Italy’s pair of 5s beat Ukraine’s Ace and Jack. Ukraine then fell out of the tournament shortly after as another heads up with Italy saw the Ukrainians draw blank on the board again to limp out of the tournament with a whimper.
Fewer than five minutes passed after Ukraine’s demise that the World Cup of Poker was decided. UK went all in with Ace and a 3 only for Italy to show an Ace and Queen. A Queen and a 3 showed on the board giving Italy the win they craved and had achieved in rollercoaster fashion. Luck had certainly been on their side at the right times but the game played by Luca Pagano’s side was not only riveting but courageous.
The potential of this event is unlimited and this was just another fantastic advert for this unique and entertaining tournament. It showed how far poker has come in the last decade with so many nations getting involved and it was a delight to see a nation like Italy win, especially after the news that WSOP is expanding its brand into the Italian market. The future is certainly bright for Italy in poker and this win only emphasizes that maybe the Italians need to be watched more closely on the poker circuit. Judging by this performance, there is a lot more to come from them in the future.