It may have the trademark complicated set up, but the World Cup of Poker showed no sign of losing any of the uniqueness and quality when it began in the Bahamas today.
Nine teams met this morning for the first time, quickly forging friendships as they willed each other to success over nine-handed, six-handed and then four-handed sit n gos. Ultimately there's a share of $100,000 up for grabs, but today it was points that were on offer for each finishing position, each player trying their best to keep their team - and their country - on top. But when play ended it was Croatia, led by the professional player Denis Kelemen, who ended the day in front.
That means Croatia are awarded a day off tomorrow - Kelerman, Denis Obadic, Marko Puskadija, Andrija Vujic and Alessandro Grazia - free to sup merrily at the fountain of "free bar" tonight at the reception for World Cup players, while the others keep one eye on the draw for tomorrow.
Croatia deserved it, for their passage through today was not easy.
Leading the Croatians - Denis Kelemen
While Team Captains, including the Team PokerStars Pros Vanessa Rousso (USA), Jan Heitmann (Germany), Luca Pagano (Italy), Johnny Lodden (Sweden) and Darus Suharto (Canada), played the first round, they were only able to offer support from the rail in rounds two and three, leaving the hard work to their countrymen who had won their place in the team after a long process of qualification online.
Watching from the rail, Team Captain of Italy, Luca Pagano
Croatia jumped to a quick lead after round one, held on to that lead after round two and sealed the deal, fending off a relentless Norwegian team in round three. Norway, for their efforts, finished second, which theoretically gives them an advantage tomorrow.
Team captains Jan Heitmann of Germany (left) and Johnny Lodden of Norway (right)
The results tonight:
1st - Croatia - 95 points
2nd - Norway - 93 points
3rd - Canada - 85 points
4th - Chinese Taipei - 84 points
5th - Chile - 83 points
6th - Finland - 82 points
7th - USA - 79 points
8th - Germany - 77 points
9th - Italy - 71 points
So what happens tomorrow?
Tomorrow will be a day of heads-up heats, featuring the team captains again. The draw will look like this:
Croatia - BYE
Norway vs Italy
Canada vs Germany
Chinese Taipei vs USA
Chile vs Finland
Five points will be awarded for each heads-up win, a further ten points for a team victory and another 15 points for a 5-0 clean sweep. Teams will then be ranked first to ninth and be awarded starting stacks for the final. Put simply it goes like this:
1st - $100,000
2nd - $90,000
3rd - $80,000
4th - $70,000
5th - $60,000
6th - $50,000
7th - $40,000
8th - $30,000
9th - $20,000
That's what each team will start with, depending on the points they secure tomorrow. The final table features twists and turns that frankly are sheer voodoo, and we'll bring you details of that tomorrow.
In the meantime you can check back through the three rounds played today at the links below and no, this stuff is not available in Swedish. Photography today came from the trigger finger of Joe Giron.
For now, it's over to the drinks reception ahead of the likely wave of Harrison Gimbel enthusiasts. Till tomorrow at noon.