If you ever want to get yourself on a poker-related beano -- and who doesn't -- try to get qualified for the PokerStars World Cup of Poker. Running every year and open only to PokerStars qualifiers, this team event takes place over one week in the Gran Casino, Barcelona, and is responsible for arguably more joie de vivre than the rest of the poker calendar put together. There's real money at stake -- last year's winning team split $100,000 between them -- but the way the event is organised, with results from sit and go heats contributing to a team total, means a real spirit of camaraderie develops in the country's camps, which translates into healthy competition among the nations.
Last year, Team USA came out on top and it was no real surprise with a line-up featuring Team PokerStars Pro Greg Raymer, in addition to online superstars Tyler "tnetter" Netter and Shaun "shaundeeb" Deeb. Deeb is in today's World Series line-up, looking as focused as ever, but it is actually another World Cup player who is hogging the headlines as we entered the day 1B dinner break.
Michael Watson, who plays on PokerStars as SirWatts, rose steadily to near the summit of today's fledgling leaderboard, profiting from, in his own understated words "winning a few big pots". As simple as that, to take him to 80,000.
Michael "SirWatts" Watson
Another player at table 11 attempted to goad Watson into sledging his opponents: "Ask him what he thinks of the players at this table," the other player prompted me. "And if he thinks any in particular are donks."
The good natured Canadian refused to take the bait, instead turning the tables on the provocateur: "We had this terrible player in the six seat," Watson said. "And when he left, we got someone even worse." (His sparring partner, of course, occupied that very seat.)
Watson is now based in Toronto and plays poker full time. And although the simple factor of Canada's vast expanse means he doesn't catch up with his former World Cup team-mates very often, he still speaks to them online, and was happy with the television edit of the event that made his face almost as well known as his online handle, SirWatts. He's also been having a pretty good World Series, and has cashed twice.
Currently he's bossing a table that also features former World Champion Robert Varkoni, and is worth watching all the way into the deep stages of this tournament as this joust continues for several days to come.
Our video blog team caught up with Ryan Hall, another PokerStars qualifier, who seems to be a big fan of PokerStars blog. We're flattered.
Watch WSOP 08: Ryan Hall Online Qualifier on PokerStars.tv
Don't forget, watch the clip in its entirety to learn the password for the daily PokerStars.tv freeroll tournament, and check into PokerStars.tv for the latest video coverage and an archive of previous clips.