Montreal Nationals, Berlin Bears Reach GPL Championship
It hasn’t exactly been the mind-blowing “sportification” of poker that people were hoping for, but the Global Poker League (GPL) has run through its inaugural season and is set to crown a championship team today. Eight of the twelve GPL teams made this week’s playoffs – four each from the Americas and Eurasia Conferences – and now it is down to the Montreal Nationals versus the Berlin Bears for the first GPL title and the $100,000 team prize.
Let’s first take a look at the final standings for the regular season (playoff qualifiers in italics):
GPL Americas Conference
1. Montreal Nationals – 206 points
2. LA Sunset – 194 points
3. Sao Paolo Mets – 186 points
4. San Francisco Rush – 164 points
5. New York Rounders – 158 points
6. Las Vegas Moneymakers – 140 points
GPL Eurasia Conference
1. Moscow Wolverines – 178 points
2. Berlin Bears – 168 points
3. Hong Kong Stars – 166 points
4. London Royals – 157 points
5. Paris Aviators – 156 points
6. Rome Emperors – 154 points
Thus, the Montreal Nationals finished as the regular-season champs. As you can see, the battle for the final playoff spot was intense, with Paris missing a tie for fourth place by a single point and Rome, the last place team in the conference, missing out by just three points.
The playoffs were laid out in a standard, bracket-style tournament, with teams seeded according to regular-season finish. As team poker is a little different than other sports in that at this level of play, there isn’t that much of a difference between the quality of teams (despite the gaps in point totals). Thus, playoff seeds don’t inherently come with much of an advantage. It’s not like in the NCAA basketball tournament, where being the number one seed gives you significantly more favorable first and second round matchups than does being the number four seed in a region.
Therefore, in order to reward the teams with the best regular season points totals, the GPL gave teams more starting chips based on seeding. The top seed in each conference started each quarterfinal match with 130,000 chips, the second seed started with 120,000, third got 110,000, and the fourth seed began with an even 100,000 chips. Those chip totals were doubled for the semifinals.
For today’s final, both Montreal and Berlin will begin with even chip stacks. The quarterfinal and semifinal rounds are best of seven, while the finals are best of 11.
Prior to the quarterfinals, team managers were required to set their lineups of three players. Nobody can play a second time until all three players have competed. If a team plays someone out of turn, they lose their chip bonus for that game (this actually happened to Montreal in the very first game, as Pascal Lefrançois was supposed to go first, but was still on a plane flying into Las Vegas, so Mike McDonald took his place.
Americas Conference Bracket
Tuesday’s first playoff match was between Montreal and San Francisco and early on, it looked bad for the regular season champs, as Jonathan Jaffe beat Mike McDonald and Phil Galfond beat Marc-Andre Ladouceur to give the number four seed a 2-0 lead. Montreal stormed back, though, as McDonald beat Faraz Jaka and Galfond while Pascal Lefrançois, who had finally arrived, beat Jaffe. Jaka defeated Ladouceur to tie it at 3-3, but McDonald got revenge on Jaffe, winning the clinching seventh game.
On the bottom half of the bracket, it was back-and-forth early between Sao Paolo and LA. Sao Paolo’s Darren Elias beat LA’s Olivier Busquet in game one, LA’s Chance Kornuth evened it up by beating João Bauer, and then Sao Paolo’s Thiago Nishijima defeated Maria Ho. Busquet bested Elias in game four and Kornuth defeated Bauer again in game five to give LA a 3-2 lead. Nishijima then beat Ho again to even the series at three games a piece, but he couldn’t win the final game, falling to Busquet. Thus, the LA Sunset moved on to the semifinals.
That same day, Montreal took on LA for a trip to the GPL Championship. This was the first match to not go to seven games. McDonald beat Kornuth and Pascal Lefrançois beat Busquet to give the Nationals a 2-0 edge, but Ho beat Ladouceur and Kornuth defeated McDonald to even things up. The two game streak pattern continued after that, as Lefrançois topped Busquet in game five and Ladouceur defeated Ho to give Montreal a 4-2 semifinal win and advance to the GPL Championship.
Eurasia Conference Bracket
On Wednesday, it was the Eurasia Conference’s turn, starting with the top seeded Moscow Wolverines against the London Royals. This one was quick. Anatoly Filatov beat Royals’ manager Liv Boeree to open things up and Igor Yaroshevsky defeated Justin Bonomo in game two. Igor Kurganov of the Royals beat Moscow’s Andrey Pateychuk to allow London to get on the board, but that was all London could muster. Yaroshevsky took down Kurganov in game four and Pateychuk beat Bonomo in game five to allow Moscow to advance.
Next up were the Hong Kong Stars against the Berlin Bears. Brian Rast got Berlin off to a good start, beating Guo Dong, but Randy Lew defeated Sorel Mizzi and Hong Kong manager Celina Lin bested Bill Perkins to put her team in the lead. Rast, Mizzi, and Perkins swept the next three matches, though, to setup the semifinal match against Moscow.
The Eurasia conference final was pretty much all you could want from such an important round. Rast continued his dominance for Berlin, beating Moscow’s Pateychuk in the first game. Yaroshevsky and Filatov gave Moscow the next two games, but then Rast beat Pateychuk again and Mizzi defeated Yaroshevsky to put Berlin in the lead, 3-2. Filatov tied it up by besting Perkins, so it all came down to one final game. Both teams put out their most recently successful players, Filatov and Rast, to battle it out and it was Brian Rast who came out on top to put Berlin in the championship.
The Global Poker League best-of-eleven Championship round is now underway. Either Montreal or Berlin will emerge as the first-ever champion of the GPL and the winning players will split $100,000.