World Cup: Heat three - the contenders

Hang around the peripheries of any poker tournament for any stakes in any city in the world and players are always conducting post mortems of previous days' play, while preparing strategy for the coming contest.

Daniel Negreanu, the celebrity player of Team Canada, has never been shy with the chat. And in the Gran Casino Barcelona yesterday, he was not only the loudest cheerleader, but also the master strategician, advising Michael Watson all the way to first place in the opening heat, and bolstering the confidence of Otto Byrne as he made his debut in a major poker tournament.

Daniel Negreanu coaches the team before Heat 3

Today, it's Daniel's turn. He'll take his place in the spotlight around the felt of heat three. And true to form, he's the chirpy one as the players prepare for the second day of the World Cup, often by reviewing yesterday's heats and adopting a new strategy for this team-based game.

A reminder: each heat takes the form of an eight-player sit and go, with team points awarded for wherever an individual places in their heat. The winner takes 15 points; second gets 12; all the way down to a solitary point for the first player out.

"It's more than just poker," Negreanu said. "There's so much else you have to think about in this team format. Some of the commentators questioned some of the plays, but I support them 100 percent."

Negreanu now has the chance to show them how it's done. He claimed yesterday that he's "absolutely certain" that he can take second place at least, but his opponents today will enjoy nothing more than undermining that confidence.

Daniel may be accustomed to mixing it with the high stakes crowd like Brunson, Esfandiari and Hansen. But he's never played this group of team players, all fuelled by the desire to haul their country into the next round of the World Cup.

Heat three of World Cup of Poker:

Seat 1: Randy “principe4” Principe, USA

Making it to the World Cup after winning a freeroll qualifier is a dream come true for Randy Principe. The 38-year-old from Pennsylvania used to be a competitive swimmer until he fell ill with MS but playing poker gives him the opportunity to stay competitive despite his disability. Known as the Prince of Poker to his home game friends, the married father-of-two said: “Coming to Barcelona has been a fairy tale story for me and I hope to inspire others. The USA isn’t doing too well in the tournament so far so I’m under a lot of pressure. But this is by far my biggest poker achievement. It’s a great experience and has really lifted my spirits.”

Seat 2: Luis Medina, Portugal
Luis Medina, 44, a business manager from near Lisbon, has been playing poker recreationally for more than 30 years in home games with friends and family. He's was appointed captain of Team Portugal after leading the Portugal Tournament Leader Board for the third time. He also captained last year’s “Rest of the World” team but they failed to qualify. Luis says being at the World Cup is his biggest achievement in poker to date and he has proved himself a dedicated and enthusiastic mentor to his team mates. He hasn’t left the rail once and makes sure his players are well cared for during play, hailing waiters to keep them topped up with water. Before the World Cup began, Luis spent hours researched his team’s opponents and studying hands. Now it’s his turn.

Seat 3: David Windisch, Germany
Team Germany’s captain is a 26-year old student who has just finished studying automotive engineering at the University of Applied Sciences. He’s been playing poker for over two years, mainly in small stakes no-limit hold’em cash games and sit n gos. He’s played more than 10,000 one-table SNGs, earning him the top position on the German Tournament Leader Board on PokerStars – and a place at the World Cup. He said: “My best tourney result so far is second place out of 2,000 players in the PokerStars $3 rebuy and I have also won a couple of $20 180-player SNGs.”

Seat 4: Martha “marene ”Herrera, Mexico
Martha Herrera, the celebrity player on the Mexico team, has been playing cards all her life, in particular the Mexican card game Paco. She originally learnt poker at the home game hosted by John Huston, the legendary film actor and director, and ahe took up Texas hold ’em in 1999. She was one of the first players to join PokerStars when the company started two years later. When PokerStars launched its weekly $200 Sunday tournament, Martha was the first person to win it – and came third the following week. Martha lives in Puerto Vallarta where she runs a hotel with husband Peter.

Seat 5: Cristian Rajala, Romania
Cristian 24, an electronics engineering student from Bucharest, has been playing poker for around three years. He loves the fact that playing poker gives him an opportunity to travel and has already played in Switzerland and in some side events at the EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo last March. He loves heads-up and made it into the Romanian World Cup team thanks to winning a PokerStars $200 Sunday heads-up tournaments a few months ago.

Seat 6: Einar “uglyjoes” Sveinsson, Iceland
This jovial member of the Icelandic team from Reykjavik has been playing poker for two years, after making the switch from backgammon and chess. Now a 42-year-old sales manager, Einar is here at the World Cup thanks to coming second on the Iceland Tournament Leader Board. He took also came third in last year’s Icelandic championship last year and won the Icelandic Open. In 2006 he qualified for the 2006 World Series of Poker on PokerStars but says he came “4000th or something!”

Seat 7: Daniel “Kid Poker” Negreanu, Canada
Ever-friendly Daniel is proving a major hit at the World Cup of Poker, not just with his own team-mates - who he’s been cheering from the rail throughout - but also with all the other players. Although born in Canada, Daniel’s background is Romanian and he’s made himself popular with that team too by chatting to them all in their native tongue.

Seat 8: Daniel “ROONEY_DIVES” Bolton
Daniel Bolton, Ireland’s 24-year-old team captain, has been playing poker for around five years. He topped the weekly tournament leader board on PokerStars twice last year and was 28th overall. He hasn’t played a lot of poker in 2007, but aims to change that today at the World Cup of Poker finals. Daniel’s other hobbies include watching sports and movies. He said: “So far, my biggest achievements have been winning the $10 rebuy a few times on PokerStars, the biggest one being an $13,000 win. I'm looking forward to playing today on TV again!“ Daniel also made the final table in Padraig Parkinson’s annual charity tournament for the Simon Community in Dublin last year.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in