The Global Poker Masters, an event which is being hailed as the “World Cup of Poker,” will start this Saturday, March 21, with many of the world’s top players taking part over the weekend in an attempt to prove their nation has the world’s top poker team.
The eight-team international tournament is taking place at the Hilton Hotel in St. Julians, Malta.
The tournament is deeply tied to the Global Poker Index (GPI), with GPI CEO Alex Dreyfus seeing it as a good way to help “sportify” poker. The participating nations (the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and Ukraine) were chosen based on their GPI rankings, and four of the five players on each team were chosen exclusively based on their rankings in the 2014 GPI Player of the Year race.
That means that poker fans around the world can expect to see some of the world’s best on display against each other across the felt this weekend. Team USA features several familiar names, including Vanessa Selbst, Isaac Haxton, Olivier Busquet and Dan Smith. Team Canada is nearly as star-studded, with Jonathan Duhamel, Sorel Mizzi and Andrew Chen leading the way.
The Germans were always expected to produce a big name team as well, and come loaded with Marvin Rettenmaier, Ole Schemion and George Danzer on the squad. Other notables include Sam Trickett (UK), Bertrand Grospellier (France), and Eugene Katchalov (Ukraine).
That star power has made Team Canada and Team USA the early favorites according to at least one online bookmaker that took odds on the championship. At Bet365, Canada has been installed as a 5-2 favorite, just ahead of Team USA at 3-1 and Germany at 7/2.
That puts those three in a class of their own, though since this is still poker, nobody is considered too much of a longshot: Team UK and Team Russia are both offered at 6-1 odds, while Team Italy is 8-1, Ukraine 9-1, and France is listed as the least likely to win at 10-1.
Despite being played out over just two days, the format of the Global Poker Masters should leave plenty of opportunities for teams to demonstrate a skill edge, especially in the early going. On the first day, there will be five rounds of 8-player sit-and-go tournaments, with each of five tables in each round featuring one player from each nation. Eventually, this means that every player should face off against every possible opponent once over the course of the five rounds.
Based on where players finish in each sit-and-go, they will earn points. The team that finishes in last place will be eliminated from the competition, while the team that finishes in first place will get a bye to the semifinal round. The remaining teams will head to the quarterfinals, where they’ll have to select three players to play in heads-up matches against another nation. Once again, at the end of the quarterfinals, one team will be eliminated.
The semifinals will see the six remaining nations each pick one player for a six-player sit-and-go. The chip stacks for each player will be determined on how well their nation did in earlier rounds. Once the tournament is down to two remaining nations, all five members will engage in heads-up matches for the final round, with the team that wins three of the five matches being declared the Global Poker Masters champion.
While the format might be a bit much to swallow, fans should have no trouble following the action. The Global Poker Masters will be streamed nearly live on Twitch, and other outlets such as PokerStars.tv will also have streaming coverage.