Heat 5: The contenders

Micky McCloskey, Ireland
Micky is Ireland’s celebrity player and a very well-known figure on the European poker circuit. He has been a semi-pro for years and even gave up work for a year in 2000 to try his hand at the game full-time. After that, he went back to running his taxi service in Dungiven, County Derry but on Boxing Day 2004 came a life-changing experience when he took down the PokerStars monthly $500 tourney. A few days later, his business went under and he was asked to write an article for PokerEuropa. Suddenly, the garrulous Irishman, now 57, was a professional poker player and writer. Micky won the celebrity/media event at this year’s WSOP and was a judge at the Europe Poker Awards. He also won the Slovenian Poker Championship.

Shaun Deeb, USA
Shaun came third in the PokerStars 2006 Tournament Leader Board, thus guaranteeing him a place in the USA team. He said: “I’m a solid player. I’ve never had any really huge wins, but steady multiple solid cashes.” Shaun plays poker pretty much full-time and says what he likes abut the game is “the money, the travel, the freedom. It’s a great life for someone of my age.”

Nuno Coelho, Portugal
Nuno is a 30-year-old lawyer from Coimbra who takes his place today in team today thanks to coming second in the tournament leader board for Portugal. Nuno plays regularly on the Portuguese live poker circuit and has also had considerable online success, including a $2,500 win and several cashes. He said: “I’m really glad to be representing my country today.”

Magnus Johannesson, Iceland
Magnus, from Hafnarfjordur, near Rejkjavic, is having fun in Barcelona. "It's the most beautiful city I've seen," he said. And he likes the World Cup: "It's a great experience for us. Maybe not for the professional players, but for us amateurs, it's great." The 34-year-old is "still waiting" for his major poker success, but he plays a lot online, as well as private games in Iceland. It's always no-limit hold 'em, but he plays tournaments, sit and goes and cash. Asked what he thinks Iceland's chances are of making the final, Johannesson was coy. "That's a stupid question," he said. "Write that down." Iceland are in good shape. With two heat wins, a place in the top four is theirs for the taking and Johannesson is in the anchor leg.

Ed Byrne, Canada
Ed Byrne, 37, from Clarenville, Newfoundland, is part of a unique father-son team representing Canada at this year’s World Cup. When Ed won the first round qualifier for the World Cup, he encouraged his dad to have a go and – remarkably – his father qualified too. The IT instructor has been playing cards all his life, but started playing online with PokerStars three years ago. Up until coming to Barcelona for the World Cup (his first ever visit to Europe), Ed’s most exciting poker experience was when he came second a freeroll tourney held to celebrate PokerStars’ 10 billionth hand. Ed came second in the ten-hour event, out of 15,000 people, and won $65.

Cristian Dragomir, Romania
Cristian Dragomir is Team Romania’s celebrity player. He won the Romania Poker Tour main event for €7,000 last November and also the Masters event at the Budapest Poker Open. He also cashed at a side event at the European Poker Tour Grand Final in March. Cristian, a civil engineer by day, likes gambling and the casino “lifestyle” and looks on poker of using competitive skill and focusing his energies.

Emin “bolsans” Ögrük, Germany
Emin, 48, hails from Turkey but has lived in Germany since the early 70s. Trained as an engineer, he teaches mobile-communication at the University Erlangen-Nürnberg. The married father-of-two learned to play poker a kid with friends. He has a lot of live experience and has played cash games against some of the best players in Europe. His mentor is WSOP-bracelet winner Ivo Donev. Emi has won major tournaments playing seven-card stud and Omaha, including a win in the seven-card stud Bodensee Masters in Austria, and a win in Omaha. He said: “I often make final tables and reckon overall I’ve won more than $100,000 in the past few years." He was a FPP qualifier for WSOP 2006 with PokerStars but was busted by Howard Lederer. He qualified again this year but teaching commitments meant he couldn’t go.

Hector Rodriguez, Mexico
Hector is an 18-year-old student who enjoys playing chess and has been playing poker in home games since the age of 15. He started playing poker for play money online and has since escalated to small stakes real money play. He said: "I won a play money tourney with 5000 players, so I realized I was good. Then I started to play real money; my best cash and place were 2nd out of 1600 players and I won $850. I have also won tickets in satellite tournaments, so I think its a good beginning for me in poker."

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in