GPL Playoffs: Wolverines and Bears scrap for place in final
If you struggled to find something on the box last night, there was plenty going on inside the box (well, technically a CUBE) to fill 12 hours of your time. What's more you would have been treated to a fascinating four-way battle for a chance to face the Montreal Nationals in the GPL final.
We'd seen the American Conference teams play out a day earlier, and the format rigorously tested. What was clear then was how evenly matched the teams were, with both first round matches going the distance. Today though would be different.
Moscow Wolverines vs London Royals
"We are going to drink vodka!"
And why not? The Moscow Wolverines had just torn the Royals apart, beating them 4-1. It was only right that the national drink would cross Andrey Pateychuk's jubilant mind.
Pateychuk himself had helped seal the decisive win, beating Justin Bonomo in Game 5, albeit after losing to Igor Kurganov in Game 3. But that was the only hiccup. Anatoly Filatov opened the scoring against Team Pro Liv Boeree in Game 1, then Igor Yaroshevsky doubled them up in Game 2 against Bonomo.
After pulling one back against Pateychuk it was Kurganov to face Yaroshevsky, but the Russian was proving to be the man in form, giving the Wolverines a 3-1 lead. Pateychuk's coup de grace led them straight into the Conference Final.
Hong Kong Stars vs Berlin Bears
Who they would play depending on the outcome of the next match, which would go a Game longer than the opener.
The Team from Hong Kong were taking on a Bears side that looked mightily familiar to the poker rooms of Las Vegas. First up Guo Dong for the Stars was dimmed by Brian Rast before Randy Lew pulled the scores level against Sorel Mizzi.
That tied it at one a piece and things looked to be going the Stars' way when team captain Celina Lin gave them the lead against Bill Perkins, only for Rast to get the better of Dong a second time in Game 4.
Throughout the match the lines ups were so that each player on each side played the same opponent twice, and by the end only Rast came out unbeaten.
In Game 5 Lew and Mizzi came back for more. Lew had finished the regular season as the highest scoring individual player in the league, but this time he was unable to stay ahead of Mizzi. That brought Lin and Perkins back centre stage (centre CUBE?) for what would prove the last Game of the match. Perkins got the edge, sending the Stars out, and leaving the Bears with a rendezvous with the waiting Wolverines for a place in the final.
Conference Championship: Moscow Wolverines vs Berlin Bears
Rast was proving himself as a great leadoff man by now. Having won the opener in the previous round against the HK Stars, he started this match in exactly the same fashion to put the Bears ahead.
Yaroshevsky was unbeaten in his matches against the Royals, and picked up exactly where he left off when facing the Bears, tying the match at 1-1. It was a taste of how close this would become.
Next up Anatoly Filatov beat Perkins, but at the time of writing it's not the Wolverines that lead, but the Bears. That was thanks to back to back wins for Rast and Mizzi which nudged the Bears ahead for the first time.
But this was the Conference Championship, so perhaps it was fitting that the Wolverines tied the game to usher forth the decider between the unbeaten Filatov and Rast.
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Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog. Follow him on Twitter: @StephenBartley.