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Team Europe takes inaugural Caesars Cup

28 Sep 2009

Caesars Cup

1. Team Europe Wins Inaugural Caesars Cup

2. "Team Europe" Crushes "Team Americas" 4-1 in Match Play, Wins Caesars Cup I and Bragging Rights

3. Caesars Cup Now Destined to Become Poker's Version of the Ryder Cup

2009 Caesars Cup -- Team Americas

• "Team Americas" was comprised of the following players:

Daniel Negreanu – Team Captain
Doyle Brunson
Phil Hellmuth, Jr.
Phil Ivey
Huck Seed
John Juanda
Jennifer Harman
Barry Greenstein

• Team captains selected all of their team members. As expected, there was some discussion and even controversy surrounding the selections. Given the great honor of being included on the inaugural Americas team, many players throughout North America and beyond were eager to get a place on the rooster. However, since only seven rooster spots were open, team captain Daniel Negreanu had a difficult time and was faced with the arduous task of selecting his team members.

• Barry Greenstein was a late replacement for Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, who did not participate.

• Team Americas may technically include players from anywhere in North, Central, or South America. However this year, there were seven Americans and one Canadian. Six of the eight players live in Las Vegas, with Phil Hellmuth and Barry Greenstein being the exceptions. They live in California.

• The composition of team members provided a stark contrast in personalities, styles, and backgrounds. The Americans and Canadians were generally older, far more experienced, and enjoyed a massive advantage in terms of accomplishments. The members of Team Americas hold a total of 45 WSOP gold bracelets combined, more than 12 times the number of wins by the Europeans. Reported tournament career winnings by the team totaled more than $52 million.

2009 Caesars Cup -- Team Europe

• 2009 Team Europe was comprised of the following players:

Annette Obrestad – Team Captain
Peter Eastgate
Dario Minieri
Bertrand "Elky" Grospellier
Ilari "Ziigmund" Sahamies
Patrik Antonius
Gus Hansen
John Harvey – Betfair Qualifier

• John Harvey will most certainly come away as the player with the fondest memories of the Caesars Cup. He ended up busting Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth on a thrilling hand. Harvey is a 47-year-old unemployed pipe inspector from Edinburgh, Scotland. He qualified to be a member of Team Europe after winning and series of online qualifying tournaments held at

• There was far less controversy surrounding the selections of the European team. However, team captain Annette Obrestad's task of picking just seven players from amongst so much great European talent was no less difficult.

• Team Europe may technically include players from any nation in Europe. This year, the following countries were represented – Norway, Finland, Sweden, Italy, Denmark, and Scotland.

• As stated earlier, the composition of team members provided a stark contrast in personalities, styles, and backgrounds. The Europeans were generally younger and far more accomplished in the world of online poker rather than live tournaments. The eight team members had only three WSOP wins between them, although several had big tournament wins elsewhere in Europe. The average age of the European team member was 15 years less than the Americas team. Combined career tournament winnings by the European team totaled more than $23 million, one-third of the amount won by 2008 WSOP Main Event Champion Peter Eastgate.

• Oddly enough, although some players have ties to the host city of London, no English players played at the inaugural Caesars Cup.

Players Thoughts on Caesars Cup I –

• Prior to the start of the tournament, WSOP President and Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack stated: "The Caesars Cup is a tournament that brings together some of the most elite players from Europe and the Americas, who will all compete for national pride, international bragging rights, and a new trophy called the Caesars Cup."

• Daniel Negreanu stated: "My view of the Caesars Cup is similar to what is going on in golf with the Ryder Cup. There are players representing their country on each team. And that helps to create a very special event that people will care about. So far, it has gone that way. Everybody is really into it. It is lots of fun. The format and matchups are great. I mean, Huck Seed and Phil Hellmuth on the same side? That's exciting for me to watch. As for being the captain, it's fun for me. I do not look at it anything other than they will all look to me as someone to be the glue that can hold it all together and be the strategist, which is what I love to do. I am really honored to be the captain, for sure."

• Annette Obrestad stated: "I think the Caesars Cup is a really cool concept. It is something that has never been done before. I hope the Caesars Cup goes on for every year, from now on. It's really cool to be the captain of Team Europe and I hope that since I got this chance I can do my team a lot of good and lead us to victory."

• John Henry (who qualified online at Betfair to play on Team Europe) stated: "I still can't believe it. It was a great honor to play with this group. That's all I can say."

The Rules --

• The game was No-Limit Hold'em.

• Each team had eight members.

• The format was a best four-of-seven series. The first team to win four matches was declared the winner.

• The first four matches were comprised competitions between of two-member teams. Two players sat at the end of each table. Each team was dealt out one hold'em hand. Before the flop, Player 1 acted on his/her own. After the flop, the two hole cards were passed face down over to Player 2, who played the next street. On the turn, the cards were passed back to Player 1. On the river, was on Player 2. So, each player would either play a combination of pre-flop and the turn, or post-flop and the river.

• There were 50 big blinds in chips at the start of each match. This mandated an aggressive style and lots of betting action. Blinds increased every ten minutes. This meant each match was completed within about 45 minutes, or less.

• The next round of matches changed the format. Instead of two-player teams, single heads-up matches were held. Given the best-of-seven format, this guaranteed the Caesars Cup winner would be decided during single heads-up play.

• Players were encouraged to crowd around the feature table and cheer (or jeer) their peers and adversaries. With each all in situation, team members surrounded the table, strategized, and made comments about the hands. To be expected, Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu were the more vocal and most critical of the way not only their opponents played, but some of their teammates, as well. The format guaranteed lots of table talk raw emotion by winners and losers.

• There was no entry fee, nor was any prize money awarded. However, the winning team was awarded the first-ever silver Caesars Cup, declared the inaugural champion, and enjoyed global bragging rights as the victors in what perhaps will be a greatly-anticipated, history-making poker event held every year.

The Matches --

• The first match saw Phil Ivey and Huck Seed from Team Americas competing against Patrik Antonius and Ilari "Ziigmund" Sahamies from Team Europe. Play lasted about an hour, during which the hyper-aggressiveness of the Europeans allowed them to seize the chip lead. Non-WSOP event winners to date, Antonius and Sahamies – both highly-respected cash-game players – ultimately defeated the two American poker greats, who hold a combined 11 gold bracelets between them. Europe led 1-0.

• Fireworks were expected in the second match, given the combustible personalities of Team Americas members Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth. The pair did not disappoint. However, Euro-superstar Bertrad "Elky" Grospellier and Betfair's online qualifier John Harvey, stole the show and ended up with the win. After taking an early beat for more than half their chips, Team Americas was short-stacked. Then, about 30 minutes into play, Caesar Cup's most exciting hand occurred when the Europeans put a horrific beat on Negreanu and Hellmuth. John Harvey pushed all in pre-flop with A-3. Phil Hellmuth looked down and saw an ace, and immediately announced "I call." He then added, "I saw the ace of clubs and that's all I need to call." Incredibly, Hellmuth flipped over his second card -- another ace. It appeared Team America's would get a much-needed win holding such a dominant lead, which was A-A versus A-3. Then, disaster struck for Team Americas. The flop came K-4-2, giving Team Europe four cards to a straight. With all minds focused on a five, both team members rushed to the table. Kaboom! The five of diamonds rained down on the turn from the poker heavens, crushing Team Americas' chances of getting even, and temporarily muzzling two of poker's biggest yappers, Negreanu and Hellmuth. Europe led 2-0.

• Later, when asked to comment about what was indisputably the most decisive hand of Caesars Cup, John Henry replied with his thick Scottish accent: "I quite like A-3 as a hand, yes I do. Of course, I had no idea I was facing up against (pocket) aces. When it come with a five, I said 'gee."

• Winning the third match was critical for Team Americas, which seated poker legend Doyle "Texas Dolly" Brunson with Jennifer Harman. Team Europe sat Dario Minieri alongside Annette Obrestad. Despite the change of players, early on, it appeared Team Europe would take a decisive 3-0 edge when Minieri and Obrestad won a big pot holding A-8 versus A-6. But a short time later, the poker gods smiled and dealt out a massive apology to Team Americas following the pocket aces debacle which took place the previous match. This time, Brunson and Harman were dealt A-A. Their all-in raise was called and Team Americas ended up making quad-aces on a monster hand. The Europeans went bust a few hands later, making the score 2-1 still in their favor.

• Match four bestowed yet another intriguing face off. John Juanda teamed with Barry Greenstein, representing Team Americas. Gus Hansen and Peter Eastgate provided a formidable obstacle as the European contingent. This ended up being a short match, ending in just 18 minutes. Outchipped, Barry Greenstein made a raise with K-Q. Gus Hansen moved all-in with A-8. Greenstein made a crying call. Neither player improved, which meant the ace-high played. Chalk up another victory for Team Europe, which lead 3-1.

• The format was changed for the fifth match. Single-player heads-up play replaced the two-players to a hand format. Team Americas picked 1996 world champion Huck Seed to face 2007 WSOPE Main Event winner Annette Obrestad. It took only nine minutes for Team Europe to pound the final nail in Team Americas' coffin. After Obrestad took most of Seed's chips holding top pair (Seed had a pair with a flush draw, which missed), on the final hand Obrestad was dealt A-7 against Seed's A-3. Obrestad hit a seven and made nines-full-of sevens on the river to scoop the final pot of the match and lock up an impressive victory. Final score: Team Europe 4, Team Americas 1.

• The members of Team Europe were jubilant afterward, in contrast to Team America, which was visibly shocked and disappointed. The visitors were not only dissatisfied with the results. They were stunned by the lopsided score and relative ease by which the Europeans achieved their victory.

• The early buzz following the result is a mix of conjecture suggesting many young online and cash game specialists are indeed the world's best poker players. Many of these players may not be as well-known to the poker community nor have the achieved proper name recognition of players like Brunson, Hellmuth, Negreanu, and so forth. Nonetheless, Team Europe's Caesars Cup victory is a testament to the fact that poker continues to change towards a much younger demographic. And one thing is for certain: It's not just an American game anymore.

• Members of Team Europe were presented with the inaugural Caesars Cup, a large flashy silver-plated trophy which promises to become a coveted keepsake for winning teams in the future.

• There is no official word on the future of Caesars Cup. However, based on the turnout in London, and overwhelmingly positive player and fan reactions to the format, one expects to see more discussion about the Caesars Cup as an annual event.

More About the Caesars Cup –

• The Caesars Cup was conceived in a London bar. During last year's WSOP Europe, several poker pros, including Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth, and John Juanda met up in a sports bar. They were watching golf's Ryder Cup, which taking place during the WSOP Europe tournament series. The trio hypothesized that holding a poker event very similar to the Ryder Cup would not only be fun, but would be a popular viewing attraction, as well. WSOP Vice President Ty Stewart was consulted and fully agreed. ESPN also agreed the format could be a popular viewing attraction and decided to film the competition. Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack ultimately green lighted the idea. Accordingly, the inaugural Caesars Cup debuted at 2009 WSOP Europe.

• Caesars Cup I took place at Casino at the Empire, located in Leicester Square, in Central London. Leicester Square is best known as the theatre district of the city. Casino at the Empire is part of London Clubs International, which is owned by Harrah's Entertainment.

• The event was filmed entirely by Poker Productions. The two-hour program will air on ESPN in North America and ESPN International elsewhere. The first broadcast date is expected to be 7 February 2010. The show will be a two-hour broadcast.

Humorous Moments –

• When team players were picked for the second match, Team Europe took their seats with Bertrand "Elky" Grospellier (France) alongside with John Harvey (Great Britain). Team Americas Captain Daniel Negreanu, knowing full well that the two players were from Western Europe couldn't resist the temptation to remind everyone of Phil Hellmuth's faux pas at the 2008 WSOP when he derided an opponent from Eastern Europe as an "Idiot from Northern Europe." When later broadcast on ESPN, the classic Hellmuth meltdown was even more humorous within Europe where Using the backstory, Negreanu announced: "Since you picked two players from Northern Europe, we'll go with Phil Hellmuth."

• Six-time WSOP gold bracelet winner and pseudo-philosopher Layne Flack provided a mix of wisdom and comedic relief near tableside: "I don't answer questions, I question the answers," the erratic, half-shaven, poker pro mused like the village idiot to no one in particular. "Stay sharp, my friends." When asked for a comment on the proceedings whilst Team Americas was getting humiliated on the felt, he snapped, "The skill of the Americans is being outdone by the heart of the Europeans. See, I told you the Europeans would win!" One can only speculate on whether Flack's obvious disdain for the performance of Team Americas was sparked by his omission from the team.

• Following the conclusion of Caesars Cup, poker superstars Doyle Brunson and Gus Hansen took two seats at the feature table. As television cameras went dark and the elaborate production set was being dismantled, they decided to play a friendly game of Chinese Poker. No cash was on the table. However, according to at least one reliable source, Brunson and Hansen may have had some financial stake in the outcome.

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