Aussies Battle Away At World Team Poker

Posted at 20:09 2010-05-20

Team Poker has grown in popularity in recent years. So much so, that it is now being looked at as a legitimate tournament format, and not just a side-carnival during one of the tournament schedules.

Eight teams consisting of varying numbers of players anted up for a team event in the true sense of the word. Regardless of number of team members each country had five stacks in play, across five separate tables. At any time one team member could be in charge of the stack, but were allowed to take on advice from other team mates who were not involved in play at the time. The other interesting rule was substitutions, with teams allowed to have any member manning any particular stack, and the ability to change that person in between hands.

There is no better evidence of this point, than the World Team Poker Championship thrashed out today on the felt at the Golden Nugget Casino in Las Vegas.


The tournament was played in a mixed game format, consisting of a rotation of Limit Hold'em, No Limit Hold'em and Pot Limit Omaha. The Hold'em rounds were 30 minutes each; the Omaha rounds went for 45 minutes.

The final table of the format would consist of the top two stacks from each table. If a country was lucky enough to get more than one final table entrant they would combine all of their surviving stacks into one on the final table.

The double shootout had a prizepool of $400,000 and a combination of the juicy payout, an opportunity to be on a televised poker event, and a sense of national pride, meant that some of poker’s biggest names were drafted into their national teams.

The eight countries and their chosen line-ups:

Australia: Tony G (co-captain), Jeffrey Lisandro (co-captain), Gary Benson, Mel Judah, David Saab, Steve Topakas, Marsha Waggoner


Brazil: Juliano Maesano (captain), Christian Kruel, Leandro "Brasa" Pimentel, Rodrigo "Zidane" Caprioli, Felipe "Mojave" Ramos


China: Johnny Chan (co-captain), David Chiu (co-captain), Maria Ho, Rich Zhu, Chau Giang, Winfred Yu, Derek Cheung


England: Ben Roberts (captain), Joe Beevers, David "Devilfish" Ulliot, David Colclough, Peter Costa, Surinder Sunar


Greece: George Theofanopoulos (captain), Georgios Kapalas (co-captain), Alex Zervos, Stavros "IDOLLS" Kalfas, Dimitris Lyritsis, Dimitris "lentis" Chatziriotis


Israel: Eli Elezra (captain), Josh Arieh, David Levi, Robert Mizrachi, Michael Mizrachi, Abe Mosseri


Team Vietnam: Men Nguyen (captain), Van Nguyen, Scotty Nguyen, John Phan, Kenny Tran, Karina Jett


USA: Doyle Brunson (captain), Phil Hellmuth, Erik Seidel, Chris Ferguson, Jennifer Harman, Howard Lederer, Mike Matusow


Tony G got right into the team spirit and the mental aspect, just like any seasoned veteran captain, declaring Australia the underdogs of the competition, and for a good while it looked like the captain was on the money.


An early outdraw saw Tony G playing from behind on the one of the stacks and with a little bit of bad luck across the tables, Australia’s dominoes started to fall in a row. In rapid succession Australia lost three of its stacks, to leave just two of the original five stacks in play an hour into the tournament.

Shortly after subbing in for Steve Topakas, David Saab fell foul on some horrible luck. All in with essentially the same hand, Saab was outdrawn by his opponent David Chiu from China, who freerolled some river straight and flush outs.

Mel Judah got dropped by Mike Matusow in PLO just minutes later. The two got the chips in the middle preflop, with Judah’s {Qh}{8h}{9d}{js} going up against “The Mouth’s” {kx}{kx}{qx}{4x}. The flop brought a {kx} and the river brought with it the second Australian elimination of the day.

Jeff Lisandro got the chips in with {9x}{9x} racing {Ax}{kx}, but the turn spiked a King, leaving Australia down to two stacks, while all seven of their opponents had all five of their original stacks in play.

Things definitely got worse before they got better. “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, GONE, GONE, GONE,” jabbed David “Devilfish” Ulliot, as Steve Topakas dropped Australia’s fourth stack of the day. Topakas got the nut flush draw in with an overcard against Brazil. The turn and river blanked, leaving Australia with one final stack for the championship.

The chances of making the ten stack final table were looking in the realm of slim and none. There would be but one advantage to having a lone stack in the game, and that was the extra-depth Australia would have using the substitute system.

Under the rules Australia could use all nine members at various points to control the team’s stack, and so made various changes during the day where other team’s had to split their resources between multiple stacks.

The day was not easy though. After steering the stack up to a decent size they suffered outdraws and bizarre beats to drop it back down to the danger zone. Still the green and gold fought it out and Israel surprised everyone by becoming the first team to bust all of their stacks.

It was with more shock that Australia outlast six of its opponents on the lone table in play for the Aussies to make it to the final table. They would go through with Brazil from table two. The other tables sent China, and multiple stacks from Vietnam and Greece through to the final.

World Team Poker Championship Final Table Draw and Chip Stacks:

Seat 1: Team Brazil (45,350)
Seat 2: Team Australia (34,650)
Seat 3: Team China (142,550)
Seat 4: Team Vietnam (75,650)
Seat 5: Team Greece (101,800)

The final table started with Limit Hold’em and Jeff Lisandro took control, not just of the Aussie team stack, but the final table, pushing the battlers back into the contest. Gary Benson subbed in for PLO and Australia’s move up the counts continued.

Controversy would ultimately rule the day though. Just as it seemed that the Australian team was shaping to contend for the title PokerNews reported that the Australian team took issue with the live webcast of the event.

World Team Poker had been running a slightly delayed web stream of the tournament online with hole cards available to the general public, and although Australia’s issue with the webcast is unclear, it is suspected that other teams were utilising this for scouting purposes during the tournament.

The web stream was shutdown, but unfortunately it didn’t save the Australian team, who bowed out with Tony G in charge of the stack. Australia’s captain courageous took a heads up PLO flop against an opponent from Greece. A check-call from Greece on the {9h}{6h}{6d} flop, led Tony G push all in over another Greek check on the turn.

It was at that moment that he realised he’d been trapped, with team Greece snap-calling and tabling {9c}{9s}{Qd}{jh} for a flopped full house. Tony G rolled {Ah}{Ac}{6c}{2c} for trip sixes, needing one of two Aces or the case Six to stay alive.

The river was none of those, and that would be all she wrote for the Australian team who battled hard and did the country proud throughout a testing of team poker. They can hold their heads high with their fourth place finish on a day when not a lot went their way.

Currently three teams remain with Greece leading well, and China and Brazil the other two contenders for the title. You can follow the entire action live over at PokerNews as they continue to play out for the title. 

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Tony G in the green and gold of Australia at the World Team Poker Championship Tony G in the green and gold of Australia at the World Team Poker Championship

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