PokerStars World Cup of Poker: Memories Pt. 2

When the finals of the World Cup of Poker III started, I was in Las Vegas for the World Series. Blog writer, Jo, took over for me in Barcelona--somehow I keep missing those trips...--and did a bang up job. I asked her to take a look back at her days in Spain.

by Jo

Someone sent an email asking, 'How many beds do you get in a hotel room?' PokerStars Support are used to helping players with all kinds of questions, but I must admit this was the first time I'd been asked that one. This question was from a player who'd won a PokerStars satellite, the lucky guy would be playing in a big money tournament, and I knew he would be staying in a very nice hotel.

It reminded me of the World Cup of Poker last year. I remember the day when my boss called me into his office to ask, 'Would you like to blog at the World Cup of Poker?'

I'd never blogged about poker before so of course I was terrified, but this was a trip to Barcelona, and I'd get to stay in a very nice hotel! So of course I said, 'Yes!'

I didn't make good use of my hotel's roomy bed on that first night in Spain, I
was up all night writing and re-writing my introduction, scared to hit 'publish' on my first ever PokerStars blog post.

The next day I was tired, and I felt lost as I waited in the hotel lobby
for the coach to take me to the World Cup Welcome Party. I wasn't in party mood at all. I could see Tom McEvoy and Anthony Holden waiting around too.
I wanted to tell these respected authors how much I loved their books, but I was too shy. I told myself that overcoming shyness was an important part of this new job. I decided I sucked at this new job.

Then I looked around and realised that the hotel lobby was filled with people almost as lost and shy as me. Eight teams of five players were competing in Barcelona for the honour of their countries. I realised that most of these players had never met their team mates before. If they were lucky they might figure out who was in their team by overhearing a language they knew, or perhaps they'd recognise a face from a casino game back in their homeland.

This poker trip was strange to everyone, that thought gave me confidence. I was standing next to a tall, thin, dark-haired teenager. 'Hello,' I said, 'I'm writing the blog for PokerStars.'

Andrzej Skawinski spoke pretty good English,and happily introduced me to the rest of his Polish Team. The young Poles knew each other already, it seemed the poker scene in their country was small, so most of the team had met and played each other before. As I chatted to Andrzej and his team mates, I realised that he, and every one else in the room were eager to talk about their qualification games, to discuss hands, talk wins or losses, to share good and bad beat stories. There were eight nations represented in Barcelona that June, but when we talked poker it felt like everyone spoke the same language.

After a couple of days nobody was a fish out of water any more, the only concern they felt was avoiding looking like a poker kind of 'fish'. The teams were bonded and felt like real teams, each with a different character. The Brazilians were macho, eager to watch the football World Cup that was playing at the same time, often with a bet on the line. The Irish were quirky, eccentrics, always ready with a joke and a smile. The US Team seemed serious and clever, focused only on poker success... Teams could be seen together, talking tactics, laughing, drinking, or simply dreaming that they'd enjoy a World Cup win.

PokerStars had put together a completely free to enter contest, flown 40 poker
players and their guests on an all expenses paid trip to Barcelona. I know that for some players this would be their first live game, for some it might be the first time they'd left their home country. Maybe it would even be the first time some had stayed in a hotel? I wonder if they knew how many beds to expect?

Whatever these players backgrounds, all were here on poker merit, having qualified through tough online tournaments, or persistent tournament leaderboard success. Each team was led by an experienced captain, and each also benefited from a 'celebrity player', a talisman of their poker power.

The prize money in this competition was generous, but I don't think money was the sole motivation for these World Cup teams.

An image that sticks with me from this event is the crowd of anxious players gathered around a paper on the casino wall. It reminded me of the day my school exam results were posted this way. This important scrap of paper was the tournament league table. Points were updated on this on each players exit from the tourney. The numbers on that scrap of paper signified each teams chances of reaching the final. Players would look at this, and then nervously discuss complex mathematical equations, like, 'If Brazil finish higher than Ireland, but Canada don't win, then we make the final!'

This was exciting fun for a neutral observers like me. But I do remember a few less happy occasions when players seemed close to tears. A badly played hand that costs you half your bankroll will always hurt, but I don't think it would cause most thick-skinned poker players to reach for the Kleenex. A badly played hand that lets your team down, and will then be replayed on TV for your country's poker fans to criticise...? The World Cup could provide some serious poker pressures!

The team game poker of the WCP brings out the romantic in me. I don't know if poker will ever be classed as sport. The very idea of defining 'sport' hurts my head. But I do think the World Cup of Poker flies the flag for a poker game with purer motives. It feels like 'people poker' rather than 'profit poker.'

Poker has a reputation for a game full of selfishness and greed, it's a loners game, a game that rewards those who take advantage of the weakness of others. I admit that I admire this dark and moody side of poker, but I do enjoy the contrast I notice in the World Cup of Poker. It's free to enter for all who love the game, it's about poker played with a passion for more than just money, it's about supporting your team mates, it's about folks back home caring about your game. It's about feeling the same way as others, sharing something... And I feel honoured to have shared my World Cup of Poker experience with the teams of WCP III.

A few weeks after my trip to Barcelona a member of the winning World Cup team got in touch. Andrzej, who'd been a friendly face on my first day as a blogger, sent a letter, photos of his team's win, and postcards from his home town. He said he hoped we'd meet again if he wins a seat to another PokerStars event. I hope that too.

Which leads me back to thoughts of that satellite winner who asked, 'How many beds do you get in a hotel room?' I smiled as I wrote my reply, happily thinking that PokerStars had broadened this player's horizons, sending him on foreign adventures, to nice hotel rooms. I told him there would be room to bring a friend. I like that poker isn't just about selfishness and money, I like it when it's a people game.

I'm very much looking forward to following the people of the World Cup of Poker IV. I wish them well and I look forward to reading their stories here on PokerStars blog.

Team Poland and their fans

Team Poland : World Cup of Poker III Champions

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in