EPT11 Malta: Italy win Global Poker Masters

Phil Hellmuth once famously said, "If there weren't luck involved, I would win every time," and it's a throwaway comment worth remembering as we look back at the inaugural Global Poker Masters which last night was won by Italy after they defeated Russia heads-up to win the title.

Nearly 1 million viewers watched the action unfold on Twitch.tv this weekend but few observers gave Italy a chance. When a betting site opened a book on this event Italy were rated as fifth favourites at odds of 22/1, Russia, as sixth favourites were even longer odds to win the title. But this was a eight horse race and a poker race at that. Anything can happen and it usually does, as the saying goes 'that's poker!' If you missed any of the action from the event you can catch up right here.


Champions of the World

Still, heading into the second and final day of the competition it seemed the bookies might have got this one right. Team America had locked up an automatic semi-final spot, narrowly edging out Team Germany to top spot in the opening round of sit and gos. Those two had inevitably been amongst the favourites before play began. As for Italy, well they were in the middle of the pack, but as history has shown us they usually start slowly when they win the Football World Cup.

They stumbled their way through the heads-up quarter final to advance to the six-handed semi-final. Still victory looked unlikely, they were in fifth spot when the race to the title began. Although the semi-final, which played out as a tag team six handed sit and go was very much a team event, with the teams obliged to sub players at least once an hour, if there was one man crucial to Italy's ascent to the title it was Giuliano Bendinelli. In the first days play he'd earned his team 29,000 points, more than any other player on his team, and indeed more than any other player in the event and he'd recorded Italy's only victory in their heads-up quarter final against Ukraine.


Italy's MVP

Now he'd be involved in two crucial back to back pots which would change his team's fortunes and put them on the path to victory, whilst sending the impressive Team Germany crashing out. In back to back hands Bendinelli won coin flips against Ole Schemion. In both hands Schemion held pocket nines, in the first Bendinelli had A♣Q♣ and spiked an ace. In the second he held K♣Q♥ and hit a king on the river.

Just like that Germany were out in fourth and Italy were sitting pretty in second. They soon took the lead and when Dan Smith of Team USA ran pocket sevens into Dario Sammartino's pocket aces - another hidden form of luck in poker - Italy were heads-up for the title with a huge chip lead.


The player ranked number one in the GPI couldn't win the flips when it mattered

The heads-up portion of the tournament saw the five players from each team face off in heads-up matches. They'd start with the chip stacks that they'd ended the semi-finals with and the first team to win three matches would be the champions. Despite a valiant effort from Russia, they were always underdogs to turn round a near three to one chip deficit.

And so it proved, Rocco Palumbo defeated Anatoly Filatov, Dario Sammartino overcame Alex Bilokur and Mustapha Kanit sealed the deal when he beat Vladimir Troyanovskiy to give Italy an unassailable 3-0 lead.

So there you have it, Italy are the best team in poker and when the Global Poker Masters returns in 2016 - and it will be back, - they may have a gold star sewn into their jerseys to signify that they're the champions. They may not have been rated as having the best individuals, but it pays to remember that whilst there's no 'I' in team there is an 'I' in the team won the Global Poker Masters. Forza Italia!


1st. Italy

2nd. Russia
3rd. United States of America
4th. Germany
5th. Canada
6th. Ukraine
7th. France
8th. United Kingdom


Championes, championes!

All photos are copyright of Global Poker Index

Nick Wright
@PokerStars in News