PCA 2015: Mexico begins defense of Americas Cup of Poker title

As the PCA Main Event sorts out its bubble and starts getting to work on how to divide the prize pool among the top 119 finishers, another international event is playing out in the corner of the Imperial Ballroom -- the first day of the two-day Americas Cup of Poker.

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The 2015 Americas Cup of Poker is underway

Thirty players are here, all primarily players of micro- and low-stakes games who have earned their way to the Bahamas via qualifying tournaments on PokerStars.

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The 2015 Americas Cup of Poker teams

How it works

Six countries are represented in this year's America's Cup of Poker -- Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, and Uruguay -- with each team comprised of five players and a coach. The countries qualified after a series of tournaments played on PokerStars from October to December, with the players earning their spots by being the top five from their respective countries in the America's Cup player rankings as described here.

Today's play features five tables' worth of six-handed sit-n-gos, with all of the top-ranked players from the six countries at one table, all of the second-ranked players at the next, and so on. Here's a rundown of both the players and coaches for each of the teams.

Argentina -- Abel Dario Marinac, Lucas Sanchez, Daniel Alberto Correges, Manuel Blanco, Cristian Manuel; Team PokerStars Pro Leo Fernandez (coach)

Brazil -- Juliano Medeiros, Marcel Carli, Matheus Adrian, Lucas Penitente Sfalsin, Daniel Hugo Silva; Team PokerStars Pro Andre Akkari (coach)

Ecuador -- Kein Isidoro Chavez Lopez, Darwin Andrade Cevallos, Aldo Maurice Sánchez López, Andrés Santiago Melo Romero, Luis Alberto Guaraca Tenesaca; Amos Ben (coach)

Mexico -- Mauricio Gomez Forcadell, Carlos Rafael Lopez Portillo, Rafael Armando Gonzalez Felix, Juventino Gerardo Cantu Garcia, Jorge Alberto Arreola Luna; Jorge Limon (coach)

Peru -- Afraoc Oré Gstir, Stefano Ricardo Calenzani Prieto, Ray Montes Rivera, Diego Yonashiro Yza, Carlos Jair Benavides Acajima; Diego Ventura (coach)

Uruguay -- Diego Alcides Echevarria Morales, Santiago Hernandez, Lisandro Agustin Clavijo Bentancor, Gustavo Schol Rios, Guillermo Schol Rios; Francisco García (coach)

Each of the five tables will play down to winners today, with points awarded in each case according to the following formula: 1st = 10 points; 2nd = 8 points; 3rd = 7 points; 4th = 5 points; 5th = 3 points; 6th = 1 point. The four countries whose players accumulate the most points will advance to tomorrow's heads-up round, each with a chance to win this year's top prize. Meanwhile the fifth- and sixth-place teams will play each other tomorrow to determine their finishes.

Tomorrow's heads-up battles will involve countries pitted versus each other with the No. 1 seeded team (the one earning the most points today) playing No. 4, and No. 2 playing No. 3. In each case the higher-seeded team will get to choose the heads-up matches, a distinct advantage. Five heads-up matches then play out with the first team winning three advancing to the finals and the losing teams moving over for a third-place match.

The team that wins gets $32,500 ($6,500 per player), the second-place team $25,000 ($5,000 per player), third $17,500 ($3,500 per player), fourth $12,500 ($2,500 per player), fifth $7,500 ($1,500 per player), and sixth $5,000 ($1,000 per player).

Coaching and strategy

While watching the early action play out, we asked Team PokerStars Pro Online member Jorge "Baalim" Limon for his thoughts about both about his Mexican squad and some of the overall strategy to be employed in this event.

"We have a pretty decent team, everybody is pretty solid," says Limon. "They've been practicing a lot, playing heads-up nonstop just to up their games."

Limon coached the Mexican team two years ago (and played as well following the format used that year), but last year stepped aside while Team PokerStars Pro Christian de Leon led the team to victory. That win a year ago means expectations are high for Mexico in 2015.

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Team PokerStars Pro Online member Jorge "Baalim" Limon and Mexico's coach watches one of his players

"As far as strategy goes, we're going to see who goes out first and adjust from there," continues Limon. "I told them to play standard here at the start, and when the stacks start changing they can either play more aggressive or more conservative, depending on the situation. Then near the end if a team just needs a couple of points to make the top four and get to the next stage, there's a chance to put on pressure and exploit that team's players -- just raise, raise, raise."

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Uruguayan coach Francisco "paulwiter" Garcia looks on

How might Limon handle the business of picking opponents for tomorrow's heads-up matches, should his team claim one of the top two spots today?

"If we get that chance, we'll probably together rank the other players to work out who plays who. We also have to be honest when ranking ourselves. And I'll be giving them some basic pointers for heads-up play, too. Usually the biggest mistake most make when playing heads-up is to play too tight or too weak, so I'll advise them to keep pushing and be aggressive."

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Argentina's coach and Team PokerStars Pro Leo Fernandez examines the situation

It's a great opportunity for the players to come play in one of poker's most desirable locations alongside the world's best players. And they're all already winners, having won their packages here as well as already been given the $1,000 prize money due players on the sixth-place team.

Limon agrees it's kind of a poker player's dream.

"In the past we've had it in Panama and Peru and elsewhere -- all great destinations -- but it's very nice for them to come here to the Bahamas. It's not just getting to represent your country, but it's a nice vacation, too. They're probably all pretty ecstatic about it."

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The "captains" table where the top-ranked players are battling

So far the early action has been quite tight as players understandably are in no hurry to lose the seats too soon that they worked so hard to win. We'll be watching how things play out today, and pick up the action again tomorrow to see if Mexico can defend their title or if another country supplants them as this year's Americas Cup of Poker champions.

Follow all the action from the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure on PokerStars Blog. Everything from the Main Event is on the Main Event page and on EPT Live.

Martin Harris is Freelance Contributor to the PokerStars Blog.

Martin Harris
@hardboiledpoker in Americas Cup