PokerStars 10th Anniversary review: World Cup of Poker

10th-ann-thumb.JPGA nine or a ten. Those were the important cards. Those were the cards that would make all the difference in the world. This was the World Cup, a tournament where flags mattered as much as poker chips and the stakes involved more than money. National pride was on the line.

Team Costa Rica was already a championship squad. Sixteen months earlier it had won the very first PokerStars World Cup of Poker. In an alternate universe, the members of the team might have had nothing to prove. In this world, a London television studio in 2005, Team Costa Rica had five outs. If a nine or ten didn't fall on the river, hopes of a repeat championship would become very, very faint. That just wouldn't do. Team Costa Rica, a team full of pride and joy, wanted to repeat.

Over the many years since the World Cup began, it's taken on may forms. It started in 2004 at the PCA on the Voyager of the Seas cruise ship. In 2005, it was a series of of heads-up matches played live-to-tape for later broadcast. There was no gallery surrounding the table except for the TV camera operators. Every other member of Team Costa Rica sat outside in the bar watching the match on closed circuit TV. Their opponents, Team Norway, sat at the tables around them sipping on beers.

A nine or a ten. Alex Brenes made it clear what he wanted.

Brenes held up ten fingers as he looked at the TV screen. Look closely at that picture. It reveals the very moment Brenes got what he wanted, but he didn't know it yet. He was still processing the river card. Team member Terrence Chan stood behind Brenes, hands grasping his teammate's shoulder. Chan had seen the ten. His smile gave it away. Two seconds later, Team Costa Rica realized it had just repeated as World Cup of Poker champion.

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After a year on a ship and a year in a London television studio, the World Cup of Poker headed to Barcelona in 2006 where Poland won its championship. The excitement was palpable and signaled a clear need to establish a permanent home for the world's top team poker tournament.

For the next World Cup of Poker, PokerStars revamped the entire scheme, packed up the WCP, and moved it all to the Bahamas. That first year in 2009, Germany, led by Jan Heitmann, won its first World Cup title.

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Jan Heitmann celebrates at the World Cup

The excitement of the Team Germany victory made sure the World Cup had a sure place at the PCA. In 2010, Chinese Taipei made the long journey to the Bahamas to notch its first win in the World Cup.

Since its very beginnings, the World Cup was built around the idea of national pride and excitement. It found it from the very start with Team Costa Rica. It's still going today. In Janaury 2011, Team Italy (a country of people no stranger to exuberance) took the title in the Bahamas.

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Team Italy celebrates

The World Cup of Poker will return to the Bahamas in January 2012. There Costa Rica, Germany, and Italy all have a shot at their second titles. France, Peru, the Netherlands, Tajikistan, Japan, and the Rest of the World team will be working to make sure that doesn't happen.

As always, you'll find coverage of the event on the PokerStars Blog.

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We are publishing these daily review articles throughout November as PokerStars gears up to celebrate its 10th Anniversary.

Previous reviews:

The Bear Necessities
SCOOP, hold the front page
Slaying the EPT monkey
Pole position
When two cards just won't do
ElkY, one name says it all
Going live at the PCA
It's a bling thing
Online wizards cast their spell
The EPT circus
Sporting greats
Making world champions
Party treats

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in News