In order for poker to continue and grow it needs to evolve and appeal to a wider audience. World Team Poker plans to do just that by creating a league that features the biggest names in poker. Love them or hate them, these are the players who will take poker to the next level, if poker is ever to become as commonplace as other major sports leagues. People will tune in for the story and drama, even if they only have a basic understanding of the game. People will wear a Phil Hellmuth or Johnny Chan jersey as proudly as they do a Kobe Bryant or David Beckham jersey.
Poker is as popular as ever. According to Card Player, over 100 million people in the U.S. have played poker, and 40 to 50 million Americans play poker regularly. However, unless you are a poker junkie (and if you are reading this, you are a poker junkie), to the uninitiated, watching poker is as about as exciting as watching paint dry. There is no denying that when Chris Moneymaker, an unknown amateur at the time, won the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event a whole new audience was reached – but after seven years of unknowns winning the WSOP Main Event, the rags to riches story has been played out. Poker needs a new story.
That is where World Team Poker steps in. World Team Poker has signed the best players from countries from around the world to act as Team Captains for their respective countries. Each Team Captain then chooses his team, which must consist of professional poker players. The Teams will play in up to four league matches a year, culminating in an annual Championship Event, in the tradition of the Superbowl or NBA Finals, where the teams battle it out for “Pride, Passion, Country.”
While there have been poker team events in the past, those events have had an ever changing roster of both poker pros and unknowns, and to date none of these team events have attracted any kind of a fan base.
In any sport, people tune in to watch the best in the world play. Look at what has happened to golf. Without Tiger Woods playing, golf ratings plummeted. No matter what your opinion is of Tiger Woods, you can bet that when he plays the Masters viewership will soar. People take notice and watch when Tiger Woods or Kobe Bryant is playing.
Poker is no different. With Phil Ivey at the final table of the 2009 World Series of Poker there was a media buzz about the final table unlike any before.
In addition, World Team Poker brings exciting, unique elements to the game of poker that are seen in professional team sports. Coaching and substitutions are new to poker. Imagine watching Phil, Johnny and Men coaching their teams…this is not only an exciting poker event, but the story and drama provides for great reality entertainment that is certain to draw in viewers.
World Team Poker’s internet broadcasts will be live with a short time delay, so viewers will witness the action as it unfolds. The tournament web casts will make use of hole cam technology, allowing the audience to see the players' hole cards. The internet broadcasts will also feature interactive chat, where selected viewer questions will be answered live on the broadcast.
The broadcasts will be accompanied by commentary as well as interviews with the players and coaches.
Each of the tournaments will be edited for up to four hours broadcast on television.
Here are the Teams and some of the Players that will be playing in the Inaugural Event.
Team USA is captained by the poker brat himself, Phil Hellmuth, Jr. There is no denying Phil’s star power or his poker accomplishments, which includes 11 WSOP bracelets. Love him or hate him, Phil is great for poker. Off the felt, Phil is one of the nicest guys you could meet, but on the felt the game is on. Phil is putting together a stellar poker team, which includes Team Full Tilt’s Allen Cunningham, Chris Ferguson, Mike Matusow and Eric Seidel. With a combined 32 bracelets between then, Team USA looks like the team to beat. To quote Phil “this is going to be a massive competition… it’s pretty exciting.”
Two time back-to-back WSOP Main Event winner Johnny Chan, who holds 10 WSOP bracelets, is co-captain of Team China along with 4 time WSOP bracelet winner David Chiu. Expect the rivalry between Chan and Hellmuth to heat up (Hellmuth beat Chan out of a chance to win his third consecutive WSOP Main Event bracelet in 1989). Full Tilt Pro David Chiu, considered one of the best limit players in the world will be a great anchor for the team during the limit games. Rounding out the team will be Zelong Dong, Maria Ho, Winfred Yu and Rich Zhu.
Known for his catch phrase “All you can eat, baby” Team Captain Men “The Master” Nguyen, winner of 6 WSOP bracelets, has promised to make Phil Hellmuth “cry like a baby”. Take that Phil! Men is assembling some of the best and most aggressive Vietnamese players for his team, including 5 time WSOP bracelet winner Scotty Nguyen, and Full Tilt Pro Karina Jett. Team Vietnam will be a force to be reckoned with.
Team Australia is co-captained by Jeff Lisandro, winner of 4 WSOP bracelets and 2009 WSOP player of the year, along with Tony Guoga, the bad boy of poker. Jeff is undeniably one of the best all around poker players in the world. Combine that with Tony G’s outlandish table talk, aggressive play and intimidation of players on the felt, Team Australia is packing a one - two punch that could take it down. Steve Topakas, David Saab and WSOP bracelet winner Gary Benson will also be playing for the team.
Ben Roberts is Captain for Team England. “Gentleman Ben” keeps his emotions in check at the table. However, the Full Tilt Pro’s understated demeanor should not be overlooked. Ben is well versed in all poker games, and is a very successful tournament and cash game player. Expect the otherwise staid Englishman to pull out all the stops, along with his cohorts, WSOP bracelet winner David “Devilfish” Ulliot, Peter Costa, fellow Full Tilt Pro David Colclough, Surinder Sunar and Hendon Mob member Joe Beevers.
Eli Elezra is Captain for Team Israel. Eli is a regular at the high stakes games in Las Vegas. He has 1 WSOP bracelet and a World Poker Tour title under his belt. Eli is very congenial and modest about his poker abilities, but he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The Full Tilt Pro has a command of all poker games and is likely to tear his opponents to shreds, along with brothers Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi and WSOP bracelet winner Robert Mizrachi, David Levi and Moshe Elazar.
Poker in Brazil is exploding right now. Team Captain Juliano Maesano has been a pioneer for poker in Brazil. He created Flop magazine and the Flop Awards, which has changed how the game is seen in Brazilian society. Juliano also founded the Brazilian Tournament Director’s Association (ADTP) and has also been a television commentator for poker broadcasts. Juliano excels at mixed games, leading Brazil’s national H.O.R.S.E. ranking, and was voted by his peers as the Best Mixed Games Player in 2008, and finished 10th place at the 2007 WSOP S.H.O.E. event.
Juliano has put together a strong team, made up of seasoned players from Brazil, including Rodrigo “Zidane” Caprioli, Humberto “Kima” Kim, and Full Tilt Pros Christian Kruel, Raul Oliviera and Leandro “Brasa” Pimentel. While Team Brazil may not have veteran poker players on its roster, Team Brazil is likely to be the breakout stars of this event.
George Kapalas and George Theofanopoulos are co-captains for Team Greece. George Kapalos is a fairly new face on the live international poker scene, and so far the young gun has taken down the Greek Poker Tour, and final tabled at both the European Poker Tour and the World Series of Poker. George Theofanopoulos is a poker columnist and commentator in Greece, and is an accomplished limit hold’em player. The young up and comer Alexis Zervos, a strong mixed game specialist, will also play for the team.
While poker is not legal in Greek casinos, the co-captains look forward to representing Greece and in the process open up Greece to poker. Look to these young guns to pull out a few surprises against the more veteran pros.
These Teams will undoubtedly create some of the most exciting that will play for World Team Poker.
The event will be held at the Golden Nugget on May 19, 2010. A press party will be held the night before at the Golden Nugget’s Gold Digger nightclub.
In order to watch the tournament for free, viewers can register for free up until May 18, 2010 at www.worldteampoker.com. U.S. viewers who register before May 1, 2010 will be entered into a drawing for a free trip to see the event at the Golden Nugget. See the Official Sweepstakes Rules on the website for details.