World Cup of Poker: All smiles on WCP eve
The closing stages of the World Cup of Poker started this morning. No cards were dealt but team uniforms and patience were required for the pre-tournament photo shoot, each team marching on stage in turn with the table draped in the relevant national colours, flashing their best smile before an afternoon off ahead of the real action tomorrow.
After weeks of international online poker, played out between each nation's tournament leader board finest, the action now switches to the live poker world for the fifth incarnation of the PokerStars World Cup of Poker, here in the Bahamas, with a one day marathon slog that will leave just one team - our new champions.
Barcelona has been the home of the World Cup in all of its previous four years, but if you're looking to make an upgrade then only the Bahamas fits the bill. That's not the only change. This year there'll be a few more twists in the plot. Not only will the final table structure, copied from notes originally written by Franz Kafka, provide a dose of mind bending originality to keep your attention all the way through, but every hand will be shown, hole cards and all, during the live broadcast on EPTLive, which will see one team walk away with $100,000.
So who are the players flying the flags of home?
Poland - Jerzy Slaby, Pawel Chmiel, Patryk Slusarek and Leszek Krawcynski.
USA - Shaun Deeb, Benjamin Zamani, Jarred Gabin and Bruce Armstrong.
Canada - Blair Maltby, Dennis Hamlyn, Wanda Whitlock and Tammy Bailey.
Latvia - Vjaceslavs Ivanovs, Juris Saicans, Ance Laganovska and Dmitrijs Kurchins.
Mexico - David Harold Huber, José Francisco Muñoz Osuna, Antoine Barriere and Jorge Lozano.
Italy - Michele Migliore, Pennisi Omar, Valeriano Bilancetti and Villa Gerardo Fabrizio.
Great Britain - Steven Devlin, Laurence Houghton, Derek Morris and Sean Joseph Flaherty.
New Zealand - Nicholas Webb, Richard Grace, Wayne Lo and Jordan Bryant
Germany - Georg Geissler, Bastian Wulff, Peter Schmidt and Malte Strothmann.
Just 24 hours ago these guys and gals were just usernames, bundles of letters, numbers and those things you need to press SHIFT to find, and each unknown to the other. Today they're names, people who are now busy forming new friendships and plotting a ruthless assault on team poker's greatest prize.
So with the photos done there was only one more thing to do, the matter of introducing the Team PokerStars Pros tasked with helping steer their nation to victory.
For Team USA that job goes to World Cup regular Greg Raymer who, like team mate shaundeeb, knows what it's like to hold aloft team poker's greatest prize, doing so last year. Vicky Coren does the same job for the British team, Luca Pagano for Italy, Daniel Negreanu for Canada, Lee Nelson for New Zealand, Daniel Negreanu for Canada, Jan Heitmann for Germany and Marcin Horecki for Poland.
If you're wondering who steps in for Latvia well, you were in good company this morning. With none of the PokerStars stable boasting any Latvian connections Krisjanis Jurdzs will fill the role. JC Alvarado does the same for his native Mexico.
Those are the details. If you're already in the mood, want to find out what it's all about or re-live Team USA's victory last year, you can watch all the heats on PokerStars.tv. while this year's version starts at 10am ET tomorrow. The PokerStars blog will be firing away from start to finish with all the intricacies on how the tournament works explained in full.
Until then it's time to get partisan, grab a flag, look up any lost Latvian roots and adopt a country to call your own. See you tomorrow.