2013 European Nations Cup: Day 1 underway

Check back to this page throughout the day for regular updates, the latest of which will appear at the top of the page.

Play ends in the first session

That concludes the first session of play, with a revised number of 66 hands played rather than the originally scheduled 100.

As you can see from the chart below, France leads by 40 points over second placed Serbia, having scored 205 points, the most of any team in the second half of the session. Serbia’s 191.5 points was enough to move them into second place, making it the most improved team in the second half of the session, climbing seven places.

It’s the top six where teams want to be and the United Kingdom, led by Barny Boatman, can claim to be entrenched in the middle of it, never having slipped further down than fourth and resting in third place at the break.

Bosnia and Herzegovina which, let’s not forget, features not a single player with a live tournament cash, holds on to fourth place after leading earlier today. Denmark, who moved up four places, and Ireland who moved up an impressive five places, make up the rest of the top six.

Other teams are making moves, although not necessarily in the right direction.

Poland moved up three places but that was not the case for Hungary, down five places, Spain down six places and Russia — a team made up of bracelet winners, EPT and WPT champions and which collectively tops the list in terms of earnings — are currently rock bottom in 14th place, 154 points off the pace.

With the first session now complete it’s time for a break. Players are pausing for lunch and so are we before the next session begins shortly. When it does you can find all the action in a brand new post on the Pokerfed.org website.

The scores after 66:

PositionNationScoreNew PointsChange
2ndSerbia423191.5▲ 7
3rdUnited Kingdom422179▲ 1
4thBosnia & Herzegovina400.5147.5▼ 2
5thDenmark400.5172.5▲ 4
6thIreland400.5196▲ 5
7thLithuania394.5154▼ 1
8thHungarian390.5141.5▼ 5
9thCyprus372132.5▼ 2
10thPoland353170▲ 3
11thSpain353110.5▼ 6
13thNetherlands330.5164▲ 1
14thRussia30995.5▼ 4
Photo gallery

The movers and shakers

3.10pm: After ten more hands the lead has slipped away from Bosnia and Herzegovina and switched to France. The French team scored 88 points in the past ten hands, 21 more than Bosnia and more than another other team.

Also performing well is Hungary, which scored 87 points in the past ten levels, up five spots into third place. The hosts Cyprus move up two places, scoring 80 points while the biggest fallers are Denmark, who dropped from third place down to ninth place having managed to tally just 55.5 points in the past ten hands.

Worst though were the Netherlands which managed only 49.5 points, dropping into last place as Poland, which has begun to turn things around, moved off the bottom into 13th place.

The scores after 30 hands:

PositionNationScoreNew PointsChange
1stFrance25888▲ 4
2ndBosnia & Herzegovina25367▼ 1
3rdHungary24987▲ 5
4thUnited Kingdom24371=
5thSpain242.562.5▼ 3
7thCyprus239.580▲ 5
8thSerbia231.562.5▼ 1
9thDenmark22855.5▼ 6
13thPoland18375▲ 1
14thNetherlands166.549.5▼ 1

If it was all about the money

2.30pm: One thing that the European Nations Cup has demonstrated is that it’s not always about the money. Some of the best players in the world have gathered here for nothing more than national pride and the honour of representing their team.

But what if it was about the money? Which team has won the most and earned the most? Here’s how the top six should stand it if was all about the money.

1st. Russia – $12.3 million

2nd. UK – $11.3 million

3rd. Ireland – $7.3 million

4th. Denmark – $6.27 million

5th. Holland – $4.5 million

6th. Serbia – $340,000

For information, it’s worth pointing out that current leaders Bosnia and Herzegovina have no combined live tournament prize money. The same goes for bottom of the table Poland.

Bosnia and Herzegovina on top after 20

2.20pm: The surprise to everyone outside the borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina is that it is Bosnia and Herzegovina who lead in the early stages, after 21 hands of play.

The Bosnian side, consisting of Alija Sabanovic, Adnam Subasic Kepac, Danijel Kucurski, Igor Tapic, Stojan Prodanovic, Nela Rudovic and Dorde Lovric are unlikely to be heard of on the bigger poker stage have stunned everyone to top the table with 186 points, ahead of Spain, featuring the likes tournament big hitters Juan Maceiras, Ana Marquez and Juan Manuel Pastor, in second place with 180 points.

Denmark and the UK, both featuring players who you would expect to thrive in this competition, are in third and fourth with. At the other end of the counts is Poland, bringing up the rear with 108 points.

Of course, it’s still early, a third of the way through what is only the first of four sessions.

The scores after 21 hands:

 1st Bosnia and Herzegovina 186
 2nd Spain 180
 3rd Denmark 172.5
 4th United Kingdom 172
 5th France 170
 6th Lithuania 169.5
 7th Serbia 169
 8th Hungary 162
 9th Cyprus 159.5
 10th Russia 152
 11th Ireland 149
 12th Estonia 138.5
 13th Netherlands 117
 14th Poland 108

Making sense of the table draw

1.50pm: A look through the seat draw shows the number of big name players representing their countries today.

Andrey Pateychuk of Team Russia

Andrey Pateychuk of Team Russia

Looking at the field in the traditional way there are a few interesting combinations. Lars Bonding and Dara O’Kearney share a table, as do Jorryt van Hoof and Jerome Bradpiece. Ana Marquez and Konstantin Puchkov face off against each other, so too Ben Roberts and former World Series of Poker main event runner-up Ivan Demidov.

Perhaps the most enticing match up features Jesper Hougaard, a double WSOP bracelet winner, Dermot Blain who has an APPT title to his name, and Russian pro Andrey Pateychuk, one of the most successful players in the competition as a former European and World Poker Tour title holder.

However, all is not as it seems. In Match Poker it is about taking on unseen opponents, playing in the same seat at different tables. When you look at the seat draw in this way you notice some pretty fearsome seats.

Seat one includes Ana Marquez, Ben Roberts, Cat Taylor and Rob Hollink. Seat three features Lars Bonding, Andrey Pateychuk and Barny Boatman. Barny’s brother Ross is in seat four, with Jorryt van Hood, Simon Ravnsbaek, Ivan Demidov and Eoghan O’Dea. And a seat along the likes of Juan Maceiras, Dara O’Kearney, Konstantin Puchkov, Jesper Hougaard and Koen de Bakker fill seat five.

These are the matches that will prove fascinating when the details are published later on. It’s all very well beating the players at your table, but a bigger threat lurks just around the corner.

European Nations Cup: Live

view-live-stream1.15pm: A reminder to those not content with just words, the live stream from the European Nations Cup is now available to watch online.

Joining Jesse May in the commentary box is Team Ireland captain Padraig Parkinson, who played in the last Nations Cup in 2011, with the feature table taking place out on the balcony.


Making it official

Introductions complete, time to play

1pm: Most players arrived in Paphos yesterday, undergoing an introductory session before enjoying drinks and canapés at a welcome reception on the deck of the Annabelle Hotel. As the sun set over the Mediterranean players were greeted by the mayor of Paphos, Savvas Vergas, who expressed his pleasure that an event like this, the first of its kind, was taking place in Paphos which will be a European City of Culture in 2017.

Mayor Savvas Vergas

Mayor Savvas Vergas

Mr Vergas was followed by Tony Theo, vice president of the Cypriot Poker Association who expressed his joy that Cyprus, one of the newest members of the IFP, was now the centre of the poker world. Also saying a few words were President of the IFP Anthony Holden and Director of IFP Patrick Nally, who made a stirring reference to “the Grannies”, the group of elderly poker players who were famously arrested last year for playing a small stakes private poker game. It made Cyprus an even more fitting destination.

There were more speeches this morning as players finally settled down to play. “At last it happens,” said Holden, who welcomed the players, all eager to take their seats after the build-up. He refrained from wishing them good luck, pointing out once again that poker is a mind sport, dependent on extreme skill. “So I wish you ‘good extreme skill’”. Awkward perhaps, but fitting.

Holden, a journalist by trade, was forced to coin more text for the poker lexicon. He famously opened play at the last Nations Cup in 2011 with the order “Whatever you do don’t shuffle up and deal”. This time things were different again and, after much deliberation, he instructed players to “Boot up your devices, and proceed.” What it lacks in finesse it makes up with precision. Most importantly, play is under way.

Who’s that guy?

12.30pm: As players take their seats (remember this is based on the liver stream) check out the seat draw here.

For those keeping score at home

11.55am: Play is about to start on the live stream. A reminder that you can watch all the action yourself on our live stream, which you can find at this link, and by clicking on any of the live stream icons dotted throughout this (and future) posts.

For those keeping score at home you can also find a detailed explanation how that side of things works by visiting the Pokerfed.org website. There you’ll find all the finer points of how it’s all calculated –automatically – which will ultimately determine which six teams advance to the grand final later this year.

Dealers wanted: I.T. experience preferred

11.45am: It takes a variety of talents to be a poker dealer: dedication, attention to detail and a thick skin. At the Nations Cup the dealers require something else though, and that’s a little I.T. knowledge.

Much of what makes the European Nations Cup so fascinating takes place behind the scenes. It’s not just the hands that are played and the players that play them which are worthy of note, a hat tip ought to go to the dealers who yesterday attended an introductory session to how the Nations Cup will be played.


Chip and a chair (and a handset)

The most obvious difference is what makes this event so unique. It’s poker, but there are no cards. Instead, all cards appear electronically. Each player is seated with a hand held device on which their cards will appear for each hand. By simply tapping on the screen players can glimpse their hand. IF they fold they simply push their device forward.

The flop, turn and river is not dealt into the middle of the table, instead it appears on a screen alongside the dealer, who enters all the action on another hand held device, which records every move every players makes.

All of this was of course new to the dealers who had their introduction to the new system yesterday. There are 14 dealers in total, from Cyprus and across Europe, and tournament director Robert Huxley took them through the details of what is likely to be the most unusual event they’ve ever worked. “Hux” eased them in gently.

“You don’t need to do much as a dealer,” he said. “This is a vacation.” Somehow all the paraphernalia on view was enough to deter much smiling.

The "Hux" in action

The “Hux” in action

Hux, a tall Australian with spikey hair that makes him look a little like actor Matt LeBlanc, first talked through the specifics, explaining the intricacies of dealing match poker. Essentially the dealers will play the exact same role they would in any conventional tournament. They are in charge and must keep the action flowing. Crucially rather than handling chips and cards they will be pressing buttons.

Fool proof, right? Well, nearly. Hux has only one major concern. If a dealer “deals” a flop, turn or river before the betting action is complete there is no way back and the hand at that table, as well as at every other table, is in effect ruined.

Maris Naglis (right) handling the situation

Maris Naglis (right) handling the situation

But Hux seemed sure the dealers would be ready for it. There may be no cards but they will still “rap and tap” the table prior to each street (or pushing the button on the next street to be more accurate). Overnight the technical people also inserted another button on the console, adding another layer of confirmation just to be sure. A reserve chute if you like. That moment’s pause should give players time to sound the alarm if action is still live.

That technical mastermind is Maris Naglis, from Latvia, whose infectious optimism makes it hard to imagine there will be any kind of glitch. The whims of the world’s internet certainly don’t faze him.

Naglis, who look to be made up entirely of right angles – cheeks, chin, grin, shoulders, elbows, knuckles, even the parting of his hair – reassured dealers left terrified by the prospect of bringing down the whole system, that it wasn’t that bad. They were the “rabbits” being used to test this new way of playing before, he joked, before Hux corrected him: “guinea pigs”.

“The ‘undo’ button is your friend,” said Maris, in a thick accent. He then ran through various scenarios, all of which seemed to make sense. For everything else he’ll rely on crossed finger (more right angles). Somehow I don’t think he’ll need it. We’ll no doubt find out at some point today.

Watch the action on our live stream

11am: You may have noticed that earlier we said play started at 10am local time. Well, it was more like 10.30am, but then when did a poker tournament ever start on time?

We also said that you can watch all the action yourself on the live stream, and you can – just not yet. The live broadcast starts at 12 noon, reporting the action as if live in order to maintain security and avoid any unfair advantages. The man behind the microphone will be none other than “the voice of poker” Jesse May, who brings his unmistakable flair to the booth once more, reporting on the first hand through to the very last.

Watch for yourself by visiting our Facebook page. Alternatively click on the live coverage image you’ll find throughout this post.

What is this “Match Poker”?

view-live-stream10.20am: To those already familiar with Match Poker it’s perhaps the most intriguing format of Texas Hold’em there is.

Each table consists of six players, one from different national teams. Crucially each table of players is dealt exactly the same hands, so the player in seat one receives the same cards as all the other players positioned in seat one, as do the players in seats two, three, and so on.

It means that in effect the players positioned in seat one at each table are competing against each other, as well as those at their table.

Freed from the capricious nature of the shuffled deck of cards, each is given the same opportunity to win. It’s not about getting good hands; it’s about playing every hand to the best of your ability, whether it’s a pair of illusive aces, or a meagre seven-deuce off-suit.

It’s the purest test of poker ability, and grants skill the edge over chance, with points allocated at the end of each hand based on performance.

All of this takes place over two days of play. This afternoon there will be two sessions of 100 hands (although that may change depending on how the first progresses), with the first starting at 10am and the second at 3pm. Each session of play is expected to last around three hours. Tomorrow a further two sessions will be played, at the end of which the top six teams will emerge.

Along the way a detailed analysis of every single decision made over the course of each hand will be logged, with teams able to examine in great detail the performance of their own players and those of rival teams. The IFP is not just changing how the game is played, it’s changing how it will be talked about, with vast reams of information – a treasure trove for poker players and fans alike – to be made available.

Time to make history

vid-thumb-nations-cup10am: It took a little longer than expected, but the 2013 European Nations Cup is now about to begin. Some 14 teams have gathered here in Paphos, Cyprus, to compete in this unique event at the Annabelle Hotel, perched on the island’s sun burnt southern shores.

At stake is a place in the Grand Final to be staged later this year. For some it will be a simple matter of winning and losing. For others, toiling away back stage, it’s about the development of a fascinating format for Texas Hold’em. For everyone though it’s about making history.

Aside from the advancement of Match Poker, today stands as a significant day in the history of Cypriot poker, it being the first live poker event to be legally allowed across the country.  Since its formation in Lausanne in 2009, the International Federation of Poker has sought to promote poker as a mind sport around the world, easing outdated legal restrictions and allowing the millions of poker players around the world to play without fear of prosecution. This event is, in many ways, proof that that work is paying off.

Among the 14 teams enjoying the spring sunshine are among some of the best players in tournament poker.

As a breed poker players are renowned for a mercenary pursuit of the money, the big prize pools that keep the wheels of the game turning, drawing players to each corner of the globe. But the cynics should take note. The bracelet winners, champions and jobbing pros that make up the teams this weekend found the idea of representing their nation enough of a draw, not to mention being among the first to play this new format. Details of that will be coming up shortly.

What’s more the television cameras are here to capture every hand played, broadcast via our exclusive live stream on the Pokerfed.org website. It means as well as reading regular updates you can also watch the action yourself when the broadcast, delayed for security reasons, starts at 12 noon. Two sessions of 100 hands will follow, with a further two sessions tomorrow.

It promises to be an captivating couple of days, a spectacle unlike any other poker tournament. We’ll be introducing the teams and the players shortly. But first, you may want to know how it works…

Live updates from the 2013 European Nations Cup, written by Stephen Bartley.