World Cup of Poker returns to PokerStars

This weekend the World Cup of Poker (WCP) kicks off its tenth annual event - and this time around it looks a little different...

In 2014 the world's premier team poker event is taking place in a format that brings all of the world's biggest poker nations together for the first time in years. It's all online, it's all heads-up No Limit Hold'em and it's all in Play Money.

Starting way back in 2004 the World Cup of Poker debuted with repeat wins for Costa Rica - one of the early hotbeds for the growth of the game. In the years since the game has grown and the list of winners has become more diverse, with no nation managing to emulate the inaugural champions. Winners have varied from poker powerhouses such as the US (2007), Germany (2009) and current champions Russia, to smaller more surprising countries such as Poland (2006), Taiwan (2010) and Peru (2012).

This time around anything can happen in a format that enables absolutely anyone to play.

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There are 96 countries (split across eight groups) lining up at the start line for the qualifying matches on Saturday and Sunday. All you need to represent your country is the 1K chips to buy in. If you or one of your countrymen wins either of the qualifying tourneys this weekend your nation will make it to the knockout stages - starting with the Round of 16 on Saturday, November 29.

Once in the knockout stages there are over 500M in added play chips to be won. But be warned, as the competition progresses through the rounds the buy-ins increase. The World Cup of Poker Final on December 20 features a buy-in of 100K chips but with 200M added chips!

Here's how the groups shape up for the weekend's action:

Group A (Asia Pacific): Matches at 04:00 ET
Favourite - Australia
Main contenders - Taiwan (former champions), China, New Zealand
Underdogs - Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam

Group B (Central Asia): Matches at 08:00 ET
Favourite - Russia (reigning champions)
Main Contenders - Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, India
Underdogs - Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates

Group C (Europe & Africa 1) - Matches at 12:00 ET
Favourite - Italy (former champions)
Main Contenders - France, Denmark, Hungary
Underdogs - Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Israel, Lebanon, Morocco, Slovenia, Tunisia

Group D (Europe & Africa 2) - Matches at 12:00 ET
Favourite - United Kingdom
Main Contenders - Belgium, Austria, Ukraine
Underdogs - Algeria, Belarus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Cyrpus, Ireland, Montenegro, Switzerland, Turkey

Group E (Europe & Africa 3) - Matches at 12:00 ET
Favourite - Germany (former champions)
Main Contenders - Poland (former champions), Romania, Lithuania
Underdogs - Armenia, Egypt, Finland, Greece, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Moldova, Serbia

Group F (Europe & Africa 4) - Matches at 12:00 ET
Favourite - Spain
Main Contenders - Netherlands, Sweden, Norway
Underdogs - Albania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Latvia, Malta, Portugal, Slovakia, South Africa

Group G (Americas 1) - Matches at 18:00 ET
Favourite - United States (former champions)
Main Contenders - Costa Rica (2 x former champions), Mexico, Argentina
Underdogs - Bahamas, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela

Group H (Americas 2) - Matches at 18:00 ET
Favourite - Brazil
Main Contenders - Canada, Peru (former champions), Colombia
Underdogs - Bolivia, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Guyana, Panama, Trinidad & Tobago

To find out more about the World Cup of Poker please visit the dedicated web page.

Bob Dix
@PokerStars in World Cup of Poker