World Cup of Poker: Team Italy Takes Down Europe I Divisionals

Poker is traditionally a solitary game; an every man for himself, out to conquer it all and leave nothing behind for the rest of the table pursuit. Players are accustomed to taking a seat and entering a zone where they think of nothing and no one else but themselves and their own goals - to win, to take all the chips and go home happy. The World Cup of Poker turns that mentality on its end. Players are now teamed up with others from their home country, and while they are still looking to be number one at their table, they're also taking stock of what is going on with their teammates and the teams around them. It adds a whole new exciting dimension to the game.

With the points system, a team wouldn't need to even win a tourney at all in order to advance to the finals round. Simply place high enough in all four events and you could rack up enough points to do the trick; assuming no other team did the same or better. And as the Europe I divisionals were wrapping up, it looked as if Italy had an almost certain lock on the win, with a player remaining in each tournament as play fell four-handed. But then again... Belgium still had three players in, and had already picked up 6 points with a 5th place finish from missEcreviss in FR2. Anything could happen.

Iceland was the first country to claim victory, oblivious to the drama that was unfolding between Belgium and Italy in the battle for points as eatyourstac climbed over Italy's billiko (3rd, 11 points) and Belgium's junglestar1 (2nd, 15 points) to claim the full 20 points for his homeland. The Italian was eliminated when he chose to push-all with Ah-Kc following a raise from junglestar1 and re-raise from eatyourstac. junglestar1 got out of the way leaving eatyourstac to call for just 368 more with Ac-6d. He hit a sweet flop - 4h-6h-4c that just got better with the 6c on the turn. A nice win for Iceland, and they'd pick up another 11 points with a great showing from Squrell with a 3rd place finish in TLB2, but the Belgians and Italians were simply too strong to overcome today.

For fans of Team Italy and Team Belgium, the action on the TLB tables was a bit like getting all-in with Aces only to find that your caller has the other two Aces in the deck. In the TLB1 tourney, Italy's mm-nh took it down with a win over Sweden's Dihxm with a pocket pair of deuces turned river quads. 20 more points for Italy put them ahead on the leaderboard. Almost immediately afterword, at the TLB2 tourney, Belgium's tinorossi hit a one-two punch to take out Norway's alesanre and bring home 20 points for his homeland. A double-up with Qd-8s made two pair on the flop and gave the Belgian over 13,000 in chips and crippled his opponent. alesanre pushed on the next hand with suited 6-3 and found he was up against Kh-8s from tinorossi. A flopped set for tinorossi signaled the end of the tournament, and then the case eight hit on the turn - quads to finish things off again. Belgium took 20 points and it all came down to the final event.

FR2 had been the tournament with the quickest pace, chips flying early and players departing quickly. After the first break only three remained - Italy's gvilla2, Norway's ToneLA111, and Israel's EMINEM_T. Despite the quick pace they started with, these three slowed things down and took their time, passing chips back and forth over and over until finally EMINEM_T took a stand. Short-stacked with just two big blinds remaining and now having to post the small blind, he raised all-in with 2h-Js pre-flop and got a call from gvilla2. The board paired, but was no help to EMINEM_T as gvilla's Kd-Qh took it down. With that elimination Israel picked up 11 points, but it didn't matter - it was all down to Belgium and Italy now, and it was all down to gvilla2 now. If he finished first, Italy won it all. If he finished second, Belgium would win and advance to the Bahamas.

It was a long heads-up match, both players working to wear the other down with a series of well-timed raises and continually fired bets. After just check-calling on a 8d-Qs-3c flop, gvilla2 then check-raised the 6h turn and pushed all-in as the Kh hit the river. ToneLA111 called with Qc-4s and doubled-up the Italian who had been holding pocket 3s for a flopped set and a 7,294 pot. Things were complicated for Norway by the fact that ToneLA111 was apparently having internet connection problems and was showing disconnected for several minutes. Advantage Italy? Perhaps. Once connection was restablished ToneLA111 came back kicking, but gvilla2 proved tough to take down, having built up a nice stack thanks to the free blinds. Despite best efforts, ToneLA111 was unable to overcome; pushing all-in with 2h-6s and gvilla2 took it down with Kd-Jh connecting with a Jack on the flop.

It was a hard-fought battle between not only Team Belgium and Team Italy today, but all of the Europe I teams that made it this far today. Congratulations to them all on a fine performance and a job well done! Team Italy advances to paradise - otherwise known as the live World Cup finals in the Bahamas - and no doubt the rest of the Europe I competitors will be cheering them on as they represent. (While planning for their own trip there in 2010, naturally.) Best of luck to Team Italy as you move on, and better get packing and travel documents ready - you're in for the experience of a lifetime!

April Kyle
@PokerStars in World Cup of Poker