The first edition of the Global Poker Masters World Cup took place over the weekend at the Hilton Portomaso in Malta, pitting the top eight GPI ranked teams against each other. After two days of play, sixth ranked Team Italy, represented by Mustapha Kanit, Rocco Palumbo, Dario Sammartino, Andrea Dato, and Giuliano Bendinelli, defied the odds and were crowned the first champions of the event.
GPI scheduled the Global Poker Masters World Cup to coincide with the European Poker Tour’s stop in Malta, which kicked off Day 1A of its Main Event on Sunday at the neighboring Portomaso Casino. This assured that most of the game’s biggest names were already nearby, increasing the likelihood of the attendance.
The World Cup consisted of four stages, with the Playoffs on March 21 and the Quarterfinals, Semifinals, and Finals all taking place on March 22. The festivities kicked off on Saturday and were available for anyone to watch live via Twitch, PokerStars.tv, and dozens of other outlets.
“The real-time live stream will allow us to cooperate with some bookmakers and give you the opportunity to do live betting on the Masters,” GPI CEO Alex Dreyfus told PokerNews in February. “I believe that the best way to engage more people is actually to allow everyone to follow it live, which is what happens with any other sport.”
The action on the felts began with the Playoff round, where each of the 40 players from the eight teams faced off in eight-max sit and gos. Each round was capped at 2.5 hours, with teams being awarded points based on the finishing positions of each player.
The United Kingdom‘s team, represented by Jack Salter, Simon Deadman, Oliver Price, Sam Tricket, and Louis Salter, was the sole team eliminated in the Playoffs, while the United States‘ team, consisting of Bryn Kenney, Oliver Busquet, Dan Smith, Vanessa Selbst (pictured), and Isaac Haxton, were awarded a bye in the Quarterfinals after finishing in first place in the Playoff round.
The remaining six teams picked their best three players each to face off in heads-up matches in the Quarterfinals. France, represented by Erwann Pecheux, Bertrand Grospeller, Sylvain Loosli, Paul Tedeschi, and Patrick Bruel, was the only team not to make it past this round.
Point totals from the Quarterfinals round were combined with the point totals in the Playoffs round to determine the stack sizes for each team in the Semifinals. This round uniquely featured a single six-max sit and go where players were allowed to tag in and out for each other.
Ukrainewas the first team to bow out in the Quarterfinals. According to PokerNews, Oleksander Gnatenko flopped a set with his pocket sevens, only to be sent to the rail after USA’s Dan Smith hit a set of kings on the river. Canadaalso exited the Global Poker Masters at the hands of the United States when Ami Barer was unable to outrace against Smith’s pocket sevens.
Germanybowed out in fourth place after Ole Schemion lost back-to-back races against Italy’s Bendinelli. The top-ranked US team was the next to exit the Masters, as Smith got into a pre-flop raising war with Italy‘s Sammartino only to find out that his pocket sevens were dominated by his opponent’s pocket aces.
After Italy knocked out USA in a huge pot, they also were able to take a huge chip advantage against Russia, represented by Vladimir Troyanovskiy, Ivan Soshnikov, Anatoly Filatov, Vitaly Lunking, and Alex Bilokur. The finals consisted of a best of five heads-up matches with Italy starting with 404,900 chips to Russia’s 148,100 chips.
Italy was able to use this chip lead to their advantage and won the Global Poker Masters World Cup in style, shutting out Russia 3-0 in heads-up play. Here were the final results:
3. United States of America
8. United Kingdom