World Cup of Poker: FossilMan back to defend World Cup

Team PokerStars Pro Greg Raymer is preparing to help Team USA defend its title in the PokerStars World Cup of Poker. In just a couple of weeks, Raymer and the team will be in the Bahamas for the World Cup live finals. Greg was part of Team USA when it won the championship in 2007. We asked him to give us his thoughts on what it takes to get ready for such a big event.

by Greg Raymer

The PokerStars.com World Cup of Poker is a great event. I was only able to read about the earliest editions of this event, but was very fortunate to be asked to be a member of Team USA at Barcelona in 2007. I was already coming to Barcelona for the popular EPT tournament that takes place there, and was asked to stick around after the EPT to play in the World Cup as the celebrity member of Team USA.

The World Cup is a unique tournament, with four of the members winning their way onto their countries team via freeroll satellites on PokerStars.com or by being one of the top two point leaders in the annual TLB competition on PokerStars.com. In 2007 Tyler Netter was the TLB leader and captain of our team, with Shaun Deeb also getting onto the team via the TLB. Satellite winners were Randy Principe and John Kenlan. Now these four guys did some of the hardest work, by beating out a slew of countries in the online tournament.

You see, once you get onto your countries team, you still have to beat out other teams to advance to the live finals, and they did that in 2007. Only afterwards was I asked to play alongside them in Barcelona.

Once in Barcelona, we all got together to discuss strategy. This is the key to winning a team competition. In a regular tournament, you can follow one of two viable strategies, play for first, or play for money. In team competition, it is important that you balance your strategy with the team's overall strategy, to best maximize the team's chances of advancement.

Playing for a team is so different than playing for yourself. If I make a correct but marginal decision in a tournament and get eliminated, I am disappointed, but happy that I made a correct decision. In team play, you feel like you let everybody else down, and the disappointment takes a lot longer to fade. The key is to determine the strategy together, so then you know that the decision you made is the same decision the rest of the team would have made.

Also, a lot of poker players can get emotional. It is essential that as a team you support one another, call time-outs to settle down a player who is getting emotional, and lend them your support. Once the emotional player remembers they are representing all of you, they usually have no problem regaining control and playing their A-game.

The most important thing that we did as a team to win in 2007 was exactly this, we supported one another. I was clearly the member of the team with the most live tournament experience, and I did not hesitate to share all of my advice with the other members of my team. In addition, captain Tyler and Shaun both have played thousands of online tournaments, and know the basic strategies of tournament poker by heart. They also pitched in to help our other team members, both of whom were good players, but much less experienced. As a team we developed our overall strategy, given the structure of the World Cup. That, plus a few key cards, guided us to victory.

It was a great feeling to represent my country, something I had never done before. The prize money for this event, while not chump-change by any means, was a lot smaller than the $5 million I won for the WSOP. Yet, winning this event carried with it just as much emotion. This was so mostly because I was representing not just myself, but my country and my team.

We will have full coverage of the World Cup of Poker January 6, 2009 live on the PokerStars Blog.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in PokerStars news