World Cup of Poker: Team Nova Scotia ready to warm up

The current temperature in Halifax, Nova Scotia is somewhere around 14 degrees Fahrenheit. It is snowing, and chunks of ice drift through the ocean waters that surround the small province off Canada's eastern coast. In only a few weeks time, four lucky Nova Scotians will leave this frozen winter landscape for a sun-drenched Bahamian beach, where their poker skills will be put to the test on a global stage at the World Cup of Poker final.

Team Nova Scotia, though, didn't exactly have easy sailing as they competed against their fellow Canadians en route to the finals. A slew of poker's elite were born under the maple leaf flag including Mike "Timex" McDonald, Matt "ch0ppy" Kay, and Team PokerStars Pros Daniel Negreanu, Isabelle Mercier, and Steve Paul-Ambrose.

Negreanu will lead his Canadian team back into battle on January 6. This will be his second year on athe World Cup FInals and he will be leading a star-studded collection of players.

Negreanu with the 2007 Canadian team

Dennis "dendoggone" Hamlin qualified to play in the World Cup by being the second-highest ranked Nova Scotian on the PokerStars Tournament Leaderboard. Married with two young sons, Hamlin is a computer programmer who plays poker on the side. He learned the game by playing freerolls, ultimately winning a 7,700 player tournament to win the seed money from which he grew his bankroll. He has been playing cash games for about two years now.

Hamlin's success online has inspired a slew of questions from curious friends. "People are asking me for knowledge of how to get more involved with poker, and as always I lead them to and say 'That's the best learning tool there is.'"

Hamlin's teammate Matthew "lobstrman29" Muise woke up one day to a call from a PokerStars representative asking if he would like to play for Team Nova Scotia in the World Cup of Poker. For the father of three, it was an offer he could not refuse. Though he has played online for five years, Muise has never set foot inside a casino, his live poker experience confined to home games with friends.

"It would be so good to give Canada its first World Cup win and being from a small province like Nova Scotia it would be great to be able to make that accomplishment" said Muise.

Wanda "AK**QUEEN**" Whitlock earned a spot on Team Nova Scotia via FPP qualifiers at the National and Divisional levels. A self-described "little ole housewife and mother," Whitlock has two grown sons and has been playing on PokerStars for the past four years. Though this will be her first live tournament, she'd like to encourage other players to get out there and chase down their poker dreams.

"It's possible for anyone to be able to participate in such a prestigious tournament. All you have to do is believe" said Whitlock.

Along with freeroll qualifier born_in53, these three newcomers are out to make history for their home and native land. O Canada, indeed.

Kristin Bihr
@PokerStars in World Cup of Poker