World Cup of Poker - Barcelona

I'm Jo, the newest member of PokerStars 'Team Blog' and I'm going to be updating you on all the World Cup of Poker action in Barcelona.

My usual role at PokerStars is in the London office Support Team, a job with a great bunch of guys (yes, I am the only girl!) helping player's with password changes, as well as constantly reminding them it's 'two from the hand, three from the board' in Omaha. I'm also a 'Poker Specialist', unfortunately this doesn't mean I win any of our office games, it does mean interesting shifts where I play 'poker detective', reviewing hands for collusion and monitoring our games to ensure PokerStars upholds it's reputation as the site with the highest standards of security.

After a busy weekend at work, I find myself flying into the Spanish sun this Monday morning. Does that sound back to front to you? It feels like it to me... And I don't usually pack a bikini when I head to the office on a Monday morning.



Gran Casino at night

It's cloudy but hot in Barcelona, and I've had little time to see the sights, nor have many of our players who've flown in today from eight different corners of the world. Instead they were gathering for a team building wine and tapas reception hosted by PokerStars. Most of the teams had never met before today, but either the wine or the tapas (I'll let you judge) seemed to ease their shyness, and soon I overheard numerous poker tales exchanged, and happy chats about their homelands. I noted one exchange between two US Team players who discovered they lived practically around the corner from each other. Useful if they have a space seat to fill in their home game.



The toughest table in the freeroll? John Duthie, "Sugar" Teddy Tuil and Tom McEvoy

Tomorrow the tourney proper begins, but tonight the teams play for fun in a freeroll tournament. Perhaps this will be the first taste of casino action for some? Yet all these players are here on merit, having earned their place through skilled play. As, one newcomer to live games pointed out to me, 'Well, poker is poker.' And no one I spoke to seemed at all fazed by the idea of playing under the TV lights, or taking on name players like Isabelle Mercier and Tom McEvoy.

Thirty nine teams wanted to play on TV, and make their country proud, just these eight made it:

USA-North Carolina
Brazil
England
Iceland
Ireland
Canada-Alberta
Israel
Poland

As I watched the teams play tonight I could see that these players knowledge of the game made any language differences unimportant. When an unlucky card hit the river it didn't matter if the swear word was Spanish, Icelandic or Polish, these guys speak 'poker', it's a universal language.

The idea of poker as team sport excites me, and I hope that it does you too!
Maybe this is because my country is football crazy with 3 matches of the soccer World Cup ever day right now? Maybe it's the exciting David vs Goliath prospect of underdog Iceland taking on the might of the USA? Maybe I'm dreaming of some exciting Ryder-cup-esque USA vs England heads-up game?

I like that the WCP is about poker players wanting to win, not by grinding out a good hourly rate, not about winning to make money back from a hand that was lost hours ago... It's more about pride than money. Every poker player I spoke to was determined to do well for their team, for their country.

PokerStars is leading the way here, I think, it's something innovative and brave... Yes, sending a humble support email answerer to Barcelona to write about the poker! But I also think it's an interesting challenge that PokerStars is determined to make poker work as a team sport. Will it work? Yes, I think so. Eight teams dream of lifting the WCP trophy. The best team sport is about will to win, all these 40 players want to hold that trophy. Just one team will succeed. No deals in this tournament. Well, can you imagine chopping that cup in two..? I hope you'll join me on PokerStars blog to find out which team will taste victory, and maybe even more wine and tapas, they seemed to like that.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in World Cup of Poker