London Eye MedAmong a cast of poker’s most notable champions, bracelet winners and personalities are a team jumping into the deep end of tournament poker. But having travelled half way across the world, what they lack in experience Team Zynga make up for in enthusiasm, and the all-round sense that at the very least it’s a trip worth savoring.

Volunteering to be the team’s unofficial guide for their stay in London, Joe Bernard of the UK Poker Federation reports on the team’s arrival (which very nearly didn’t happen), their first taste of live poker and the final preparations, albeit at the England v Sweden match at Wembley, ahead of their Nations Cup debut on Thursday…Day One – Team Zynga has landed

“The team has travelled a combined distance of over 29,000 miles (47,000 km) to be here in London this week, and their journeys were not without their fair share of incidents.

Poor Roger was on the phone with us at 2am (his time) double-checking and triple-checking exactly which flight he was on out of Whitehorse, southern Yukon (Canada). Roei flew in early to avoid national strikes in Israel, and more than one member of the team admitted to running to their flight connections.

LondonThe most heart-breaking story is surely Ricky’s from Longview, Texas. Missing his flight by a matter of minutes, he then drove four hours to Houston to make his connection. Despite just getting to the gate in time they would not let him board (since he hadn’t been at the airport for over an hour). Still, by 10am Sunday morning, all seven members of the team had safely arrived at London Heathrow Airport and were ready to begin the poker adventure of a lifetime.

The team united for the first time over a welcome lunch at Locale (an Italian near the Park Plaza Hotel), where Roei very kindly gave everybody an Israeli luck charm. Derren Brown’s line of reasoning (from his recent experiment) is that it is how you capitalize on opportunities that make your own luck. This seems somewhat justified in Team Zynga’s case at least…

We heard from Jennefer that quite a number of people were informed that they had won this trip to London (ahead of our current team of seven) and simply didn’t believe it to be true!

On Sunday evening the team got to meet Anthony Holden, Don Morris and Patrick Nally for drinks as well as a number of the Brazilian delegation in town for the Mind Sports Festival this week.

The team spirit is certainly there and so far Team Zynga are having a ball!”

Day Two – Team Zynga Playing It Cool

Canon“Day two started with a group outing to the Tower of London. Armed with their new Oyster cards and bags of enthusiasm, the team enjoyed their first London Underground ride (carefully timed to miss rush hour), although most admitted to being a little bamboozled by London’s famous tube map.

BeefeaterA guided tour around London’s historic fortress was preceded by ceremonious cannon firing on the bank of the Thames. Then it was down to business – the team’s first warm-up session at the Loose Cannon club on Allhallow’s Lane.

By this stage everybody was dying to play some poker, and boy, did they battle it out. Some four hours and “fish and fries” later, Geoff and Brian seemed to have amassed the lion’s share of all the chips.

Roei’s lucky charms were being sported en-mass, and you may well see these later in the week as the team’s card protectors, although as short-stacked Maggie pointed out, they weren’t working for everybody. But in general the team loved the table banter (“you don’t get sarcasm over the computer”).

Cool Hand Luke 2After work, Team Zynga continued the poker theme with a trip to the Aldwych Theatre to see Mark Warren as “Cool Hand Luke”. A great adaptation and even die-hard fans of the original movie with Paul Newman will not be disappointed.

‘Wherever you go and whatever you do, always play a real cool hand’.

So far so good for Team Zynga in that regard.”

Day Three – Time to get in the zone…

Fox Poker Club Chip“Team Zynga’s poker warm-up continued at The Fox poker club on Shaftsbury Avenue, in the heart of London’s West End. Our dealer, Daniel, kindly dealt numerous sit n’ gos, where the team focused on protecting their stacks, and adjusting their bet sizes and aggression with the increasing blinds. All the while Daniel threw in a few jokes, some advice and lessons in the all-important art of riffling chips.

The shoot-out that counted may not have been for $500,000 chips (as on Zynga) but was still fiercely contested. The winner received a bottle of wine and the runner-up a miniature London bus. Now if that doesn’t get you playing your ‘A Game’ I don’t know what will.

RiffleAfter a big three-way all-in that ended in a split pot, the feeling shared by the team was that “the poker gods clearly want us to keep playing”.
Heads-up only Geoff and Suzanne remained. After Daniel pointed out that the toy bus had moving wheels it was almost a race for the runner-up spot, but it was Geoff who took it down.

Goal 1After dinner the team headed to Wembley Stadium for the England v Sweden game and hooked up with the Brazilian delegation. Luck was on our side once again, with the team witnessing England’s 2,000th goal after 23 minutes (later declared an own goal – Ed).

Zynga In The ZoneAfter a final debrief back at the hotel, Jennefer handed out Zynga shirts ahead of Thursday’s date with destiny. Come the start of the Nations Cup the team will certainly look the part.”

The Nations Cup begins on Thursday with day one taking place in 12 capsules of the EDF Energy London Eye. Live coverage of the event, as well as that of The Table starting on Saturday, will be found on the IFP Blog. Check back on Thursday for more details.