Friday, March 20, 2015

Global Poker Masters Plays Out This Weekend

The two-day Global Poker Masters kicks off tomorrow in Malta. The European Poker Tour is there now, too, the first visit for the EPT to the island just south of Italy. They’ve got a huge series going there, with 69 events total (I believe) and the Main Event getting started tomorrow.

As far as the GPM is concerned -- a.k.a., poker’s “World Cup” (as the GPI is dubbing it) -- on Saturday there will be five rounds of play scheduled starting at 12 noon Malta time (GMT+1, or five hours ahead of me in the ET zone). Then on Sunday comes the quarterfinals, semis, and finals, again starting at 12 noon.

Each of the five rounds on Saturday is comprised of eight-handed sit-n-gos with one representative from each of the eight national teams -- Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and United States -- at each table. The structures will be fast, with every SNG due to finish within two-and-a-half hours. There will be a 30-second “shot clock,” too, to speed things up.

The players’ finishes for the day (with points given for each place) will all be tabulated with the eight teams being ranked accordingly, then the eighth-place team will be eliminated from the competition -- kind of an interesting idea which at a glance appears to make the Saturday SNGs more meaningful since not everyone automatically gets through to the “tournament” on Sunday.

But even though they start out Sunday playing something called the “quarterfinals,” it isn’t really that.

Teams are seeded according to their finishes on Saturday, then on Sunday will start with the five-person teams playing heads-up matches against each other. The top-ranked team gets a bye in the quarterfinals, with the other six remaining teams playing No. 2 vs. No. 7, No. 3 vs. No. 6, and No. 4 vs. No. 5.

Rather than just have the team winning the most heads-up matches advance from each of those three contests, they’ll again tally points, rank the six teams, then eliminate the one with the lowest points. That means six teams survive the “quarterfinals” to go on to the “semifinals.”

The six teams then pick one player from each to play a relatively deeper-stacked SNG (as the “semis”). Sounds like they can “tag” players in and out, too, if desired. I believe the starting stacks will be different, too, for this SNG, corresponding to how the six teams fared in the “quarterfinals.” (Not sure how the stack of the team with a bye will be determined.)

Once this SNG gets to heads-up, the five players from the two players’ teams then all sit down to play heads-up matches, with each match starting with stacks that equal the stacks of the two players in the SNG. Think of the heads-up match suddenly being cloned four times over. The five matches are then played out, with the team winning three or more winning the title.

It resembles in part the “Americas Cup of Poker” I had a chance to cover at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure this year (for the PokerStars blog here and here), although throws in some extra twists on the second day to divert from that formula. The whole sucker will be streamed over on Twitch, and it’ll be hard to resist dipping in over there this weekend from time to time just to see what it’s all about (while I have the NCAA on the teevee, of course).

I’m wondering what kind of stories might be produced by the GPM, aside from who wins (which I think isn’t necessarily the most compelling part of it). The number viewing the Twitch channel will be of interest, probably. So, too, might some especially compelling hands, if they arise. There could be other, unexpected stories, perhaps even including some related to this whole campaign to “sportify” poker the event is intended to highlight.

Anyhow, even if there will be a more compelling team game to keep my attention this weekend (for me, anyway), I am nonetheless curious to see what happens with the GPM the next couple of days.

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