World Cup of Poker - Down to 2
This weekend saw the tenth annual World Cup of Poker played out its semi-final matches, leaving us with just two teams to fight it out for the title.
In the first match it was a battle of European giants as Italy took on Spain - a match that would not look out of place in the football equivalent of this event. Both nations are regarded as poker powerhouses, but they sit on the periphery of the world stage due to their status as independently licensed poker markets. However in its new Play Money format the World Cup of Poker allowed them the opportunity to show what they can do against the rest of the planet - and neither country has disappointed.
Italy would have approached the match thinking themselves favourites, as they are past winners of this event (2011) and are the most mature of the regulated European markets. However when the teams lined up to start, they were outnumbered by their Iberian counterparts 2 to 1.
The Spanish made their advantage count for much of the tournament, but with two of the quarter final games unfinished the numbers had drawn level with three players left for each side. The Spanish players were determined not to let their advantage slip though and sent the two active Italians to the rail - leaving just one to fight the cause.
With the fourth place elimination, it was all over - all three remaining players were Spanish. It fell to 'julio22232' to close out the tournament against his compatriots, booking his country a place in the competition's final.
The second match would see Canada, the last remaining team from the Americas; take on Asia's last surviving hope, Kazakhstan - a match that would look completely out of place in the football equivalent of this event.
It has been a fairy tale run for Kazakhstan to come this far. Their progress has been the result of excellent player turnout, solid play and a favourable path through the bracket. They advanced from one of the weaker groups and have seen off Australia and Switzerland in the knockout stage thus far. Canada's group was a little stronger (with Brazil posing a major threat), and they have certainly had to work harder in the knockout phase with victories over former champions Poland and the USA.
The match began with a strong advantage for Canada, as their players outnumbered the Kazakhstanis 4 to 1. By the time the tournament had played down to the money Kazakhstan had fallen yet further behind, represented by just two players of the sixteen left standing. This World Cup of Poker has witnessed some great underdog stories and tremendous fight backs but this time it wasn't to be.
The Canadians saw off their last two opponents in that very round, locking the match up by the quarter final stage. The Canucks gamely played out the remaining matches, taking home the lion's share of the tourney's 50M added play chips. Ultimately it was 'pokenan' that closed out the match for his team.
So the final sees Spain take on Canada - both of whom will be vying for their first ever World Cup of Poker Crown. The match will take place at 14:00 ET on Saturday, which should not overly favour either team. Based on the player attendance in the knockout phase to date, it's the Canadians that will go into the match as favourites. In addition to the title, the individual players will be competing for a prize pool with 200M chips added.
Just two hours earlier at 12:00 ET, Italy will take on Kazakhstan to determine the third place finisher in the competition. Both teams will be bitterly disappointed to miss out on a place in the showpiece match, but there are still 50M in added chips to play for, plus the chance to end the competition a high.
To find out more about the World Cup of Poker please visit the dedicated web page.