World Cup of Poker IX locks final teams

WCP logo.JPGAfter two weeks of online battle, eight teams can now celebrate locking up spots in the live finals in the World Cup of Poker. All eight teams will get expenses-paid trips to the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure where they will play for national pride and big cash in front of a live crowd.

Because the process of picking the teams is so difficult, we've once against conscripted the help of PokerStars' own Bunker Bob, a man who spends a great portion of his time in a fortified underground chamber crunching numbers on a big golden abacus (he had it polished last week!).

While the teams have not yet chosen their competitors, the following eight nations will have representatives in the Bahamas this January:

  • Canada
  • Brazil
  • Germany
  • Bulgaria
  • Russia
  • Belgium
  • Japan
  • Rest of the World

    To see how they got there, here's Bunker Bob's World Cup of Poker IX finalists' report.

    ***

    Group 1: Canada were carrying a solid 63 point lead going into the second half of qualification, with seemingly only two of their opponents in with a shout of catching them. By the end of the third qualifying match though, defending champions Peru had forced their way into the picture. 'MrTWOPAIRJOR' beat Canada's '02/01/68' to the 99.7 points for first to keep the Peruvian interest alive. However Canada locked up both semi final spots to push Honduras and Argentina further back

    Any Canadian fears were laid to rest in the final qualifier on Sunday, as they produced a rare clean sweep of the top four places. 'eqn778' was the eventual victor with a 118.4 point score. The emphatic performance means Canada progress with a thumping 206 point lead over their nearest rivals. A special mention must go to group runner-up Honduras, who went into the group as the smallest team.

    Group 2: The standings were much tighter in Group 2, with just 50 points between the top four teams. It was pre-match favourites Brazil that took the upper hand after Saturdays qualifier, with 'thor99alpha' defeating his compatriot 'alan93sb' for the 66.75 points. Colombia brought themselves further into contention with a semi-final finish for 19.76 points.

    Going into Sunday's final qualifying match, Brazil held the advantage, but with four other teams hopeful of toppling them. After six hours of play, it inevitably went down to the wire - 'JMTrindade' of Brazil against 'abcpoquer01' from Venezuela in a single heads-up match for a place in the Bahamas. There were 37 points between the teams, and a 40 point difference between 1st and 2nd. After a tense 70 hand battle, it was Brazil that took the maximum points and their place in the finals.

    Group 3: Germany's domination of Group 3 continued in the second half of qualifying, as they locked up both tourneys; 'Joaggi' on Saturday for 129.56 points, and then 'monal1.' on Sunday for 136.58 points. The clean sweep of tourneys allowed them to rack up a competition-high of 655 points.

    Greece and Poland should get credit for battling performances, but there was no answer for the numerous and merciless German team.

    Group 4: Meanwhile, in the second European group, six European teams were scrapping for every point they could get. The favourites, the UK and Ukraine were way off the pace, and the underdogs sensed an upset. It was Bulgaria that capitalised, with 'pastroka6666' taking the win and 124.58 points. The Bulgarian cause was aided by Macedonia (FYROM), who fought through to take the runner up spot in the tourney. It would not be enough to get them in the hunt for qualification, but it denied the front-runners in the group from securing major points.

    The final match saw 150 points on the line for first place, and the big dogs finally raised their game as the UK and Ukraine facing off in the final. It was too little too late though, as Bulgarian 'olelemaiko' had secured enough points in the semi-final to carry his team over the line. Croatia can be disappointed to be pushed into second, after they outpunched all but one of their bigger rivals.

    Group 5: The first half of Group 5 was a tale of smaller nations keeping the giant Russian poker population at bay. In the second half, they were just too big and too strong. The Saturday qualifier witnessed a Russian whitewash, with the top four players all from that nation. '8invencible8' closed out the match to secure a gain of at least 157 points on all the other teams in the group.

    In Sunday's match it was 'FrankyS15', again from Russia, that took the win. Only Portugal's 'trooll4ever' prevented another last four blanket finish for Russia. The result gave them a 340 point margin of victory in the group. Some credit must go to Ireland and Lithuania for keeping their opponents at bay in the earlier stages of the competition.

    Group 6: Another upset was in the works in Group 6, with the Netherlands unable to turn their sizable poker population into good results. It was their Belgian neighbours that made the first move in the penultimate qualifying match, as 'Hartige' secured 123.82 points. Serbia did enough to stay in touch as 'sinaloa44' picked up 64.22 for second place.

    The Sunday qualifier came down to almost a straight shootout between Romanian and Belgium from the quarter-final stage, with just a lone Cypriot player representing the rest of the group. It could have swung either way, but in reaching the final, Belgium did enough to earn their place in the Bahamas. They went on to win the tourney and 106.14 points, thanks to player 'Mikedem'.

    Group 7: Taiwan took the initiative in competitive Group 7, when they took a 1-2 finish in Saturday's qualifying match. 'BladeQQueen' topped the field for 65 points, with his teammate 'lak512' crucially helping push the Japanese team out in the semi-finals. The result overturned the 8 point lead Japan had built up in the first half of qualifying, and gave them a big advantage going into Sunday.

    However the dream ended in the quarter-final stage for the former winners, as their last remaining player fell with three Japanese players still in the tournament. Japan did not let the opportunity slip, and they closed out the tournament with a 1-2 of their own.

    'Chiyoukan'picked up 88.75 points, and secured his country's second appearance in the live World Cup of Poker finals in as many years.

    Group 8: The combined force of the Rest of the World team held a healthy lead going into the weekend's matches, but they lost ground to Australia and Kazakhstan in the opening contest. 'I'mJigJig' took 61.35 points for the antipodeans, and 'ZERENDA' a solid 34.05 points for Kazakhstan.

    Sunday's match looked like a three horse race, and with the final four composed of the leading three teams, hopes were high around the globe. However, both RoW teams, represented by Turkmenistan and South Africa, would need to be eliminated before the final. It wasn't to be, as the latter progressed to the final. Kazakhstan's 'Papanya68' closed out the tourney for 61.02 points, but 'Deckoo8' from South Africa had done enough, sending Row through to another World Cup of Poker finals.

    It was a great combined effort from the RoW team, as Iceland, Turkmenistan, Tunisia and South Africa all contributed to their progression.

    The competition now moves to the players selection phase, with the eight qualifying teams selecting their four players for the live finals. The players will be chosen from four tournaments all taking place on August 26*:

  • Freeroll
  • $1.10
  • $11
  • Freeroll for the nations top 10 TLB players in 2011

    Those four players will be joined by a special Team Captain when the action begins again at the tenth annual PCA!

    *Due to live events in Japan on this date, qualifying for that team will take place on September 2.

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    Brad Willis
    @BradWillis in World Cup of Poker