Few words muster as much anticipation and excitement as "World Cup of Poker". The ninth running of the Cup begins today, a highlight not only of the PCA schedule, but of the poker calendar in general, for few events can compete in levels of sheer unadulterated complication as this innovative favourite.
It's the tournament that defines complexity, bringing together nine national teams in the Bahamas for two days of seat-of-your-pants poker that often eclipses the main event for tension as it goes down to the wire.
The winner of the PCA main event will likely reach the pages of newspapers around the world, but World Cup of Poker winners can enthrall an entire nation. In the streets of Taipei they still talk about the side that won in Season six, the players given hero's welcomes as they hit the tarmac.
What's the appeal in an event dominated by amateurs rather than any high profile names? Well, something in it transcends regular poker tournaments. We've seen grown men laugh, cry and nearly come to blows. Sure, there's money to be won, a full $22,500 each to the winners, with prizes for everyone. There's even a $2,500 for the Most Valuable Player. But no one would say it was a life changing amount. Instead, national pride drives the competition, which is great, because it means people more readily overlook how complicated it sometimes gets.
The World Cup of Poker about to start
Rumour has it, that the rules to the World Cup of Poker were originally the result of an infinite number of monkeys hitting keys at random on an old typewriter for an infinite amount of time. The outcome, printed in black and white, is the format for this year's cup, which today will play out as follows:
Who are those participants? Let's meet the teams:
Team Canada - Captain Adrienne "talonchick" Rowsome
John Schindler, Robert Hordejuk, Bradley E.Marsh and Justin Mackay
Team Brazil - Captain Andre Akkari
Tiago Cecilio, Victor Hugo Cativo, Douglas Ferreira Souza and Pablo Brito Silva
Team Germany - Captain Jan Heitman
Stefan Ludwig, Matthias Frost, Michael Forster and Pascal Hartmann
Team Bulgaria - Captain Svetoslav Yordanov
Stoyan Danailov, Velizar Yordanov, Tonyu Tonew and Mihail Stoykov
Team Belgium - Captain Christophe de Meulder
Kevin Callebaut, Philippe Daemen, Leandro Gaone and Quentin Dellis
Team Russia - Captain Ivan Demidov
Dmitriy Kulikov, Anton Yakuba, Ismael Erkenov and Maksim Tyurin
Team Tajikistan - Captain Maksimov Andrey Dmitrievich
Parvin Sharifovich Majidov, Akmal Sultanov, Firuz Khasanov and Shamshold Niyatbekov
Team Japan - Captain Naoya Kihara
Ippei Nishiyama, Susuma Toge, Yoshiihiko Kanno and Nobuyuki Tanaka
Team France - Captain Julien Brecard
Hugo Roger, Jerome Arnoux, Fabien Flahaut and Matthieu Holveck
The scoring is simple. No it's not. Each player will score points for their team depending on their finishing position. In the heads-up round a win is worth 5 points with 10 points for a team victory. If a team sweeps another it's worth 15 points.
The winner's trophy
In the sit & go rounds points will also be awarded to players according to finishing position, with 10 points to the winner, down to one point for the ninth place finisher. A similar system works in the short handed sit & gos, with levels in each round 15 minutes long and starting stacks of 3,000 chips.
Play will end for the day after each of the three rounds are completed. Players will then return tomorrow to play more rounds which will determine the new champions.
If it sounds fantastic it's because it is fantastic, without anyone being able to nail down why. Either way, it's game on.
Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter