Duplicate Blog2The 12 teams taking part in the first International Federation of Poker Nations Cup on the EDF Energy London Eye will be making poker history. But they’re not the first to try this intriguing form of the game. That was left to the attendees of three trial runs of duplicate poker pioneers who laid the groundwork for what’s planned to take place in London, in November.

Three special events were staged to iron out the duplicate creases with teams of players, made up of students, amateurs and professional players taking to the baize to play hundreds of hands, dealt identically on each table, testing not only the players but the game itself, fixing any teething problems that might be harder to solve while suspended hundreds of feet over the River Thames.

In the first trial, staged in the Victorian debating chamber of the Oxford Union, duplicate poker followed in the footsteps of Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein and even Kermit the Frog, to withstand the cross examination of the nation’s brightest students. The resulting win for Scotland made them the answer to what could become one of poker’s more unusual trivia questions.

Following Oxford there was London, where an extended competition seemed to bolster the argument that duplicate poker allows skilful players to succeed. Barny Boatman, John Duthie and Neil Channing were part of the UK Federation team which went on to finish second behind a team from Imperial College. But all three pros finished best.

Then a third trial, this past Friday, the last before the Nations Cup begins on 17 November. Changes included a switch from no-limit to pot-limit, after consultation with the likes of Boatman and Channing, which encouraged more post-flop play. British pros James Akenhead and Sam Trickett, members of the UK team, had their first attempt at mastering this purist form of the game.

The result? Another win for Imperial College – a duplicate win so to speak.


For many people the most incredible story to emerge from the IFP World Championships was not the performance of Nations Cup winners Germany, or that of Raul Mestre, who would win The Table to become the first official world poker champion. It was instead the story of Team Zynga, seven amateur players thrown into the deep end of international tournament poker and against some of the best players in the world.

Joe Barnard of the UK Poker Federation was with them throughout their incredible London adventure and chronicles their experiences here…


All practice and warm-ups now complete, the team soaked up the atmosphere as top professional players from around the world began arriving at the Park Plaza hotel in central London for the first day of the IFP Nations’ Cup.

As a pre-event surprise for the team we laid on a traditional English afternoon tea in St. James Park, before the teams were then suited up in Team Zynga polo shirts and jackets, ready for action. Then it was over to County Hall.

Along with the 11 other sides, Team Zynga were invited in to the debating chamber to hear tournament director Thomas Kremser run through the event’s procedures, before the time to play finally arrived.

Each player was then escorted to their table in the correct capsule of the EDF Energy London Eye. This is what the trip was all about for Team Zynga – the opportunity to be a part of history.

Zynga are the first “digital nation” to be represented in an international sporting event, and team members Roger Ellis, Maggie Hailey, Brian Turnbull, Geoff Kinnune, Roei Shalev, Ricky Greer plus captain Jennefer Gallenberger, were willing pioneers of this innovative step by the IFP.

Enjoying the views across London, and the formidable opposition at the tables, Team Zynga can be proud of what they have achieved this week. After initially thinking that they had not done enough to progress into the second day of the event, a late announcement came through that in fact, all teams would be returning for Day Two and the conclusion of the Nations’ Cup in County Hall.

The poker gods continue to shine down on Team Zynga!


In the morning the 12 teams were back in action, split into two 36-hand heats. Zynga entered the first heat and, in the words of one onlooker, “totally smashed it!” With the results in Team Zynga had defied the odds, finishing second to send the all-stars of the United States, Ireland and Demark home early.

It was all down to some fantastic individual results: Zynga won the seat two contest and came second in seats four, five and six. Against professional players playing exactly the same cards… it was a truly remarkable achievement.

To add to the pressure, the six-team final was now contested over 72 hands and was streamed live around the world, allowing the now global fan base to follow the action from the virtual rail.

In a fiercely competitive final it was Team Germany who emerged victorious, ahead of Brazil in second place and France in third. In fourth place, ahead of Holland and Spain, was Team Zynga.

What Team Zynga had achieved was incredible. They’ve gone 15 rounds with the heavyweights and could hold their heads high when taking their seats at “The Table” the following day. The world’s first digital nation was a force to be reckoned with!


Seven players with just a smattering of live poker experience between them faced 128 poker professionals in the first ever IFP World Championship of Poker – “The Table”.

Deep end this may have been but a team strategy meeting was arranged, with professional players Gus Hansen (pictured), Mel Judah and Barny Boatman there to offer advice and encouragement. Then it was down to business.

In the beautiful setting of County Hall’s Rotunda, the IFP “The Table” anthem played out and President Anthony Holden proudly asked the dealers to shuffle-up and deal.

With a fast structure in place the field was reduced at a quick pace and Team Zynga lost its first two members (Brian Turnbull and Roger Ellis) within the first few levels. Zynga though were far from done.

In the middle stages Roei Shalev (right) was playing like a hero, making an agonising but correct read with pocket jacks. Roei also made a great laydown with ace-king.

Across the room, Geoff Kinnune and Ricky Greer were drawn in seats next to each other and were keeping afloat against the likes of Mike Sexton and Jennifer Leigh.

Maggie Hailey was sparring with Victoria Coren and took down a nice pot against her when she made a Broadway straight. Jennefer Gallenberger was in good company too – gaining the respect of her table which included recent World Series of Poker Main Event runner-up Martin Staszko.

Soon though the volatile structure – in place to reduce 135 to a final nine in just a day – began to take its toll. Roei and Maggie were the next to fall, and Jennefer joined them just a few hands short of the dinner break. But with 50 players remaining Geoff and Ricky were still in the mix and standing tall.

Television crews and international media were flooding the stage and Team Zynga had their fair share of TV spots, proving to be one of the stories of the week. Could it really be possible that one of its members could make The Table?

Sadly, no.

Geoff was eliminated with about 40 players left and all but Ricky (left), an amateur player from Longview, Texas, were now railing the conclusion of day one. Ricky was refusing to budge, keeping his chances alive with a double-up against countryman Ali Eslami.

By now, with two tables remaining, players were beginning to see themselves reaching The Table. But for Greer it would not be a fairy take ending.
Greer watched as the bulk of his chips went to Igor Trafane, who out-kicked him. Reduced to a handful of chips Greer was able to shove with pocket queens only for his opponent’s nines to make a set. Recording a truly amazing result, Greer was out.


Team Zynga took their seats in the spectator area of County Hall’s rotunda for the epic conclusion to a truly spectacular tournament.

The Table, dominating the room and rigged with cameras, took centre stage before the nine remaining players took their seats to applause, as Thomas Kremser introduced them. The atmosphere was incredible, and Team Zynga simply appreciated being a part of this historic occasion.

The chips were flying and players fell, with great play, bad beats and everything you could hope for in a final table.

Raul Mestre had dominated the table and sat with a huge chip lead. But when Trafane and Victoria Coren got it all-in with each other there was always a chance one of them might be able to tip the tables. But both players showed Ace-Queen, Coren’s in spades.

No one expected what happened next, three spades on the flop leaving Trafane as good as out of the competition.

Using this as a springboard, Coren’s fearless and uber-aggressive heads-up play helped her take a narrow lead. But losing a race with Ace-Jack against Mestre’s pocket-fives left her crippled, and a few hands later Raul’s Ace-Five caught a five on the board, enough to take the title of first official world champion of poker.

Time for one last Team Zynga farewell dinner to sign off an incredible week. Not only had the team achieved the unexpected in poker terms, the players had also become great friends, with plans already in place for a reunion next year.

It’s over and out for now, but you haven’t heard the last of Team Zynga who leave London with their heads held high…


Raul Olympic WebSpain woke up to a new era yesterday, a new leader to steer like-minded people through a new climate of prosperity. We refer of course not to new Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, but of Raul Mestre, the first official IFP World Poker Champion, and new icon of Spanish poker.

To be fair, Mestre (right) was already one of Iberian poker’s leading figures before he stepped onto the threshold of London’s County Hall to “Outskill the World”, winning a first prize of $250,000. His victory though was a reminder of what it takes to count yourself among the best.Since 2005 Mestre has sought to prove just that.Since turning his back on studying the science of chemistry to study the science of poker, Mestre has since not only earned fortunes online, but has helped others to do the same, providing the inspiration and the know-how to new players across the region thanks to the online poker school he co-founded – EducaPoker. Poker’s riches are illusive to but a few, and many Spanish players can credit Mestre for their share.

But in this post-modern poker age real success is measured not in the virtual world but in the public world, where live results maketh the man. Mestre’s result on Sunday does just that.

It was perhaps for those reasons that Mestre’s expression, one of relief and pride, was so obvious in the moments after he collected the The Table trophy (jokingly trying to bite through it). For a professional poker player having a “1st” in your entry in a results database is not just about a big payday, it’s about vindication, in the eyes of both your peers and, for players with the determination and drive of Mestre, for yourself.

He took on the world, and won.


Events NationscupThe IFP Nations Cup is now just days away making it high time we started looking through the teams to ask ourselves we think is going to win.

While you can answer for yourself on the IFP Facebook page today, we’ve decided to start by making it a matter of money. Just which team has earned the most collectively, ahead of their date with duplicate poker history.It’s hardly a great surprise to find that the Americans have won the most. Team USA has won a staggering $22,270,120, with $7.5 million of that earned by team captain Barry Greenstein (who has even given away a large chunk of it to children’s charities). Antonio Esfandiari’s $4.5 million isn’t bad; neither is Vanessa Selbst’s $4.4 million. With that kind of firepower don’t be too surprised to see Team USA triumphant on Friday night.Behind the red, white and blue it’s another team of red, white and blue. The home nation Team UK are second in winnings, with $17,514,378 in the books and Sam Trickett their highest earner with more than $5 million in tournament earnings. Denmark is not far behind with $16,335,969, more than half of that courtesy of Gus Hansen.

Following them are France ($15,115,300), Ireland (13,828,859, Germany (11,174,664), Australia ($10,643,731), Holland (9,598,002), Brazil ($6,087,477), Spain ($5,183,061) and then Japan ($178,468). Find details of all of their players on the IFP Facebook page.
But is money the best indicator? And what about the twelfth Nations Cup team?

Well, that would be Team Zynga.

As the first Digital Federation, Team Zynga have the least in terms of live tournaments winnings, with their amateur line-up yet to score big wins on the world poker arena. But while that may not make them one of the favourites, they have between them some $62,837,742 in Zynga poker chips.

It’s also worth remembering that the students of Imperial College won two of the three duplicate poker trials, beating various professional players in the process.

Only a fool would write off Team Zynga, and what they lack in loot they make up for in team spirit, if the comment function of Facebook is anything to go by.

We’ll find out soon enough when the Nations Cup begins on Thursday.


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.