The inaugural Global Poker Masters (GPM) was an overwhelming success this weekend, due to its unique format and elite field consisting of 40 of the world’s top players.
Held at the Hilton Hotel in Malta, the two-day event was billed as the “World Cup of Poker” as eight countries sent teams of five each to compete for the title of Champion Nation.
After more than 20 hours of grueling competition, Team Italy, considered an underdog by most bookmakers accepting bets on the event, ended up as the last team standing on Sunday.
The GPM began with a random draw that matched players for a total of 25 eight-person sit-and-go tournaments, giving each player the opportunity to square off against every competitor in the field.
At the conclusion of each heat, players were awarded 9,000 points for winning, 5,000 for second, 2,000 for third, and 1,000 for fourth. Team Italy members Mustapha Kanit, Rocco Palumbo, Dario Sammartino, Andrea Dato, and Giuliano Bendinelli secured a total of 62,000 points, good for third just behind Team USA and Team Germany.
For its win, Team USA earned a bye to the semifinal table and got a 50K chip bonus, while Team UK was eliminated from the competition for coming in last.
The six remaining teams entered the heads-up quarterfinals based on their Day One performance. Being the 3rd seed, Italy was paired with Team Ukraine for three heads-up matches. Teams chose a different player for each match, and after a total of nine heads-up matches were completed, the team with the lowest combined playoff and quarterfinal point total was eliminated.
Team Italia chose Bendinelli, Dato, and Sammartino to battle Ukraine, a team who entered the day with 12,000 fewer points. Though Ukraine would take two of the three matches from Italy, its two-day chip count was enough to continue on to the semifinals. Team France, whose trio failed to win one match against Team Russia, was ultimately eliminated with just 52,000 points.
Heading into the semifinals, Team USA had the lead with 118,000 points, followed by Russia (111K), Germany (101K), Ukraine (84K), Italy (79K), and Canada (60K). For the semifinal round, each country chose one player, with the option of tagging in and out. As the second shortest stack, the odds didn’t seem to be in Italy’s favor.
That would all change deep into the six-max round, when the Italians took back-to-back all-in pots from Germany. Ole Schemion pushed pocket nines on consecutive hands, only to be defeated by Bendinelli’s AK that turned into a pair of aces on the turn, and pocket KQ that resulted in another win following two aces being dealt and a king river kicker that once again gave the pot to Bendinelli.
With its standing increasing, hand #62 became the defining moment in the tournament when Team USA’s Dan Smith three-bet Sammartino’s raise on pocket sevens, only to find out the Italian held pocket aces, busting USA in third place.
Italy entered the final against Russia with a big advantage of 404,900 chips versus 148,100. The finale consisted of five heads-up matches, with all players returning.
Italy went on to win the World Cup of Poker in style, completing a five-match sweep over the Russians and claiming the title of Global Poker Masters Champion Nation.
Final GPM Standings:
1. Team Italy
2. Team Russia
3. Team US
4. Team Germany
5. Team Canada
6. Team Ukraine
7. Team France
8. Team UK