World Cup of Poker advances to final four
The day began with a clash of two former World Cup of Poker winners - the 2011 victor Italy and reigning champions Russia. With the elimination of Germany and the United States in the Round of 16, Russia also wore the mantle of competition favourites, so the pressure was on to repeat their success.
As expected the Russians held a strong advantage from the outset making up more than 80% of the field. The Italians hung in there with sixteen players left but had a disastrous round to leave just one man standing with three games to go. However it wasn't just any player - the remaining Italian was 'jr.aventador', the same player that produced nine straight wins to get Italy through the group stage.
True to the fairytale script he saw off his first two opponents and just had to defeat 'luntik959' in the heads-up to complete a big upset and create another story of individual brilliance. The two players battled for over 70 hands with the match remaining cagey and close throughout. They were finally separated out when both players flopped an ace and got their chips in. Russian 'luntik959' had the better kicker and a slight chip advantage but luck was not with him as a backdoor flush rescued the Italian and gifted him a 9:1 chip lead. Two hands later it was over and the reigning champions were out.
The second match saw Spain take on Venezuela in a match that looked to be almost a formality for the European team, but as the cards went in the air it quickly became clear that it would not be a straightforward victory. The Venezuelans had only a slight disadvantage in numbers with over 40% of the field coming from the South American nation.
As the tournament reached the money it was a straight four-on-four shootout for the right to take on Italy in Saturday's semi-final. There were two wins for each team, keeping it all locked up. The honours were also even in the penultimate round, bringing it down to just Spain's 'lahera1977' and Venezuela's 'chitarina'.
This time it took just 21 hands to bring it to a conclusion. 'chitarina' bet out with a flush draw and was put all in by 'lahera1977' who had flopped top pair. The Venezuelan found a call but the board ran out without bringing him the club or king he needed putting the Spain team through.
Match three was the battle of the underdogs with Switzerland taking on Kazakhstan - two teams that had not been particularly favoured to make it out of their respective groups. Swtizerland owed all of their success to the heroics of double tournament winner 'and73' where Kazakhstan has simply surprised everyone with their strong turnout and tenacious play.
The Kazakhstani players kicked off with a 3:1 player advantage and maintained that ratio going into the last sixteen. When 'and73' fell in 13th place after an incredible sixteen straight victories in the competition victory looked almost assured. The Swiss though stayed true to their form and one player 'heyeeeh' did enough to make it down to the last match where he would have to overcome Kazakhstan's 'SLAVA1612'.
The match would last almost forty hands, but it was a one-sided affair. 'SLAVA1612' got ahead early and continually applied pressure to steadily build a stronger and stronger position. Eventually the Swiss player had to take a stand and found a semi-bluff all-in with a flopped flush draw. The Kazakh had caught middle pair and could afford to take the risk for a place in the World Cup of Poker semi-finals. The hand held and the central Asian team moved through.
The final match saw Canada take on the other former champion left in the contest - 2006 winner Poland. The Canadians have had a tough route to the quarter finals, firstly having to see off Brazil in the group stage followed by a Round of 16 win over the USA. Any hopes that they would now go into a match with a player advantage were soon shattered as the well-organised Poles outnumbered their North American counterparts around nine to seven in the biggest of the four quarter final fields.
Nonetheless it was a relatively even split, and so the match played out - with eight players apiece remaining by the time the tourney reached the money. It would ultimately come down to Canada's 'wesman53' and Poland's 'Leokacy' for the last remaining berth in the competition's last four.
The two players battled it out for over sixty hands, mainly due to incredibly determined play from 'Leokacy' who took a big hit in just the third hand of the match. Despite the dogged performance it was a blow from which he would never recover, finally succumbing to 'wesman53's straight after moving all in pre-flop when short-stacked with a weak king. Canada will take on Kazakhstan in the second semi-final.
You can follow all the action live in the PokerStars software from noon ET on December 12. Or alternatively come back to the blog where we'll recap all the action and preview the World Cup of Poker final which takes place on December 20.
To find out more about the World Cup of Poker please visit the dedicated web page.