World Cup is a winning hand for Poker

Vanessa Rousso: Captain America
Vanessa Rousso: Captain America

And there was I thinking that the World Cup started in South Africa in June. But apparently not. By all accounts it kicked off yesterday, is taking place in the Bahamas and England are nowhere to be seen. Just pre-empting the inevitable, I suppose.

I am, of course, talking about the World Cup of Poker, the PokerStars sponsored event that got under way this weekend for its fifth edition.

Unlike the 32-team, month-long extravaganza that is the football World Cup its poker equivalent features nine teams and lasts just three days. Short but sweet then, unlike the rules.

The WCP’s format sees the five-player teams embark on a series of Sit n Go’s playing for points based on their finishing position. They compete in nine player full table Sit n-Go’s (for five points), six player shorthanded Sit n Go’s (six) and four player super shorthanded Sit n Go’s (nine).

At the end of the first day the leading side, in yesterday’s case Croatia, is given a bye to the final table, while all the others ranked from second through to ninth face off in the live heads-up preliminary events on day 1, which is today.

Then they play alternate blind hands of Omaha Hi-Low, rummy and bridge, get to nominate a joker and use team members to peak at their opponents’ cards when they’re not looking. OK, maybe not that last bit.

Admittedly, while the rules might take a bit of getting used to, these sorts of events have got to be applauded. I was never particularly into golf until I discovered the Ryder Cup but uniting a country under one flag at anything is good for its popularity – unless you count the War in Iraq.

The WCP has turned a very individual game into an inclusive team event but the best part about it is that you or I could be out their representing our country in the Bahamas, as the teams are made up of online qualifiers, who as we speak are playing for both national pride and a $100,000 first prize alongside illustrious team captains like Vanessa Rousso or Luca Pagano.

There will clearly be those who scorn this sort of event as a gimmick, in the way Test cricket fans pooh-pooh 20/20 cricket – but poker is a growing global phenomenon and the WCP can only serve to heighten interest, strengthen acceptibility and help drive home the message that poker is not one of the world’s greatest evils – as some would have us believe.

Back in the Bahamas, it comes as no surprise to see that Germany are the reigning world champions. Their ruthless efficiency always seems to get them to the business end of World Cups and clearly this cast-iron mentality translates well to the card tables.

It’s only a shame that England failed to qualify. But then again maybe not. They’d still somehow manage to get knocked out on penalties.