Team USA: World Cup winners

Victorious USA: Greg Raymer, Randy Principe,
Tyler Netter, Shaun Deeb & John Kenlan

Poker players all seem to have their signature hands. Many like aces, for obvious reason, but Greg Raymer, for instance, swears by pocket eights, the hand he rode to World Series success in 2004.

And from tomorrow onwards, two other young American players schooled, like Raymer, on, will have trouble passing one particular set of hold 'em pocket cards.

And here's why.

This evening in the Gran Casino, Barcelona, Tyler Netter and Shaun Deeb, of Team USA, both won huge pots holding the mighty Q-J off-suit, eliminating their Icelandic and Canadian adversaries from the final of the World Cup of Poker and building the chip stack that would eventually earn their country the top prize of $100,000. Oh yeah, and the small matter of the World Cup itself.

The United States -- Deeb, Netter, Raymer, as well as Randy Principe and John Kenlan -- are champions, beating Romania into second spot after a lengthy heads up duel. But it was those key pots with Q-J that did the damage, sending two other countries in search of sangria, and the United States to the top of the tree.

We convened at 6pm with the deepest of deep stacks and four countries in with a shout. They began with 25,000 in chips and levels starting at 50-100. How about that for a short-handed sit and go?

The World Cup is a team event, and the final is where strength in depth comes into play. Team captains are required to make at least three substitutions, ensuring at least four of their five players have at least an hour around the felt.

And in the first leg, Einar Sveinsson, of Iceland, Razvan Bengulescu, of Romania, Ed Byrne, of Canada and Randy Principe, of the United States took to the tables. And, predictably, it was tight: with the likes of Raymer and Daniel Negreanu looking on like caged lions ready to pounce, no one wanted to be responsible for denying them their chance.

When the first substitutions came at the end of level two, few chips had changed hands. That meant that Cristian Dragomir, the Romanian star player, Tyler Netter, the American captain, Jody Thompson, the Canadian captain, and Magnus Johannesson, Iceland's joker in the pack, had it all to play for. And play they did.

First substitutions: Cristian Dragomir, Tyler Netter, Jody Thompson & Magnus Johannessson

Netter had impressed in his heat before going out in second place, but Johannesson, himself a runner-up in heat five, seemed to have the American's number, pushing him around with a series of aggressive re-raises. In fact, though, it was Netter who was excelling: the television broadcast revealed that Netter made a good lay-down with pocket jacks after Johannesson moved all-in with a flopped set of deuces.

Johannesson then slow-played a flopped straight to earn a few more chips from Netter, and Cristian Dragomir joined in the beating, re-raising his turned set of kings to force Netter into another shrewd lay down.

At this point it was looking grim for the short-stacked United States, and it was soon looking even bleaker. Netter moved all in over the top of Dragomir's pre-flop raise and the Romanian made what turned out to be a great call. He had K-Qs and no one knew at that point how dominant the American Q-Jo would turn out to be.

But this was the turning point. The flop was painless for Romania: 9c-5s-2d. The turn was the eight of spades, which also hardly seemed troubling. Sure, the United States had made an inside straight draw, but Romania now had four to the flush. Only a non-spade jack or ten could win it.

Romania look away now.

Out popped the ten of clubs - one of only four outs - filling the middle-pin straight and doubling up America at the hands of their most dangerous opponents.

We then had some substitutions. The United States and Iceland both wheeled out their big guns: Greg Raymer came in for Netter and Halldor Sverrisson replaced Johannesson. Michael Watson came in for Canada.

But it was the man who stayed, Cristian Dragomir, of Romania, who took the bull by the horns. Anyone could have excused him for being on tilt after the horrific suck-out he had just suffered. And in these circumstances he must have been overjoyed to peer down at pocket kings.

Sverrisson raised from the small blind with A-6 and called Dragomir's re-raise, seeing a king high flop. This, of course, had made the set for the Romanian, and when an ace came on the turn, Sverrisson did exceptionally well to lay down his top pair to an all-in raise from Dragomir.

Iceland, however, were in trouble.

So were Canada, who had left Negreanu on the rail until the end. Michael Watson tried to get things moving for his side, but wasn't getting any help from the board and Greg Raymer was profiting with USA's ill-gotten gains.

Watson eventually gave way to Negreanu at the end of his two-level allotment, but if Team Canada was expecting their star man to send them soaring up the leaderboard, they couldn't be more wrong. They were soaring out the door instead.

Shaun Deeb, in for the United States, raised from early position and Negreanu found pocket sevens. It was all in or fold, and he favoured the first option. Deeb saw his chance to knock out a superstar and took it, tabling K-J. When the king came on the turn, Negreanu was out. Team Canada finished fourth and Negreanu had played precisely two hands.

Daniel busted

Then, it was that Q-J again for Team USA. Andri Bjorgvin, now playing for Iceland, bet from the button and Deeb moved in. The Iceland captain called with A-9 and was ahead. But as Deeb turned to his own captain, Netter, and said: "This is your hand, Tyler," the writing was on the wall. A queen came on the flop and Iceland were sent packing.

Deeb had eliminated both Iceland and Canada, and it seemed wise to keep him on for the heads-up battle. He had a three-to-one chip lead and all the momentum. He was looking strong.

Romania's Cristian Rajala did achieve one double up against Deeb, overtaking 6-6 with K-10. But after Cristian Tardea came in, he couldn't find any help from the board and eventually got his dwindling stack in the middle behind J-8.

Deeb, as was customary, was going nowhere. He'd found ace-queen, called the all in and there were no miracles for Romania.

All the chips went the way of Team USA, and the new World Cup winners were decided. World Cup of Poker - Final results

1st - United States (Tyler Netter, Randy Principe, Greg Raymer, John Kenlan, Shaun Deeb) - $100,000

2nd - Romania (Razvan Bengulescu, Florin Constantin, Cristian Rajala, Cristian Tardea, Cristian Dragomir) - $60,000
3rd - Iceland (Andri Bjorgvin, Fridrik Jorgensson, Halldor Sverrisson, Einar Sveinsson, Magnus Johannesson) - $40,000
4th - Canada
(Jody Thompson, Ed Byrne, Otto Byrne, Daniel Negreanu, Michael Watson) - $20,000


Daniel Negreanu, Team Canada: “It’s been a lot of fun. I love this kind of environment. It’s not all about the money; it’s about five guys sacrificing personal goals for the whole team. I’ve really enjoyed it. ”

Greg Raymer, Team USA: "I was really impressed by Romania. I thought that one-through-five they had more depth than any other team in the competition. They didn't make any obvious mistakes that I saw."

Randy Principe, Team USA: "It's a dream. And now it's come true."

Tyler Netter, Team USA captain, pointing to World Cup trophy: "Who gets to keep that? I do!?!"

John, Tyler Netter's roommate: "Wooah. That's going to be the centrepiece of the apartment from now on."
Brad Willis
@BradWillis in