Nations Cup World Championship Roundup

The weekend of 30th and 31st May 2020 was a monumental occasion that saw IFMP conduct its flagship event in a virtual manner, responding to the global pandemic we all currently find ourselves in.

12 nations geared up for this world championship event, in a unique format since everyone was playing from the safety and comfort of their own homes. Following on from the European and Asian continental championships last year in Kyiv and Taipei respectively, we saw our 12 participants emerge. Current Nations Cup holders Ukraine, European Nations Cup winners Spain, Asian Nations Cup winners India were all joined by Germany, Ireland, Belarus, Poland, Lithuania, Australia, Singapore, Taiwan and Korea.

While trying to replicate the live format as much as possible, and adding a social element, IFMP partnered with Cisco to use their Webex video conferencing platform for the Nations Cup. Every player was online on Webex, connected to each of their table opponents, while simultaneously playing Match Poker on their smartphone, tablet or PC. Each team was provided with their own private meeting room where they could conduct their team meetings and discuss strategy between sessions. PokerNews came onboard as the official media partner of the event, providing regular updates to the global poker community throughout the event. For the first time, all tables were also streamed to Twitch, on a 30-minute delay, where all fans could follow the cards-up action while watching the Webex meetings between the players too!

6 sessions of 50 hands were played with all 12 teams participating after which the bottom 6 teams were eliminated and the top 6 qualified for the final. Defending champions Ukraine showed their skill by rising to the top after 100 hands and maintaining that position throughout the group stages. They were accompanied by Singapore, Australia and India to make up the top 4. The battle for the last 2 qualifying spots really went down to the wire as there was very little to choose between the next 5 teams in the standings – just 20 points between them going into the last session of the group stages! The final session of the group stages was played completely in the dark, with the tension clearly building as IFMP president Patrick Nally got ready to announce which teams had qualified to the finals – a virtual gathering of all participants via a Webex conference! The reactions from Taiwan and Lithuania were priceless as Patrick announced it would be these 2 nations going into the final alongside Ukraine, Singapore, Australia and India.

A tough decision after many internal reviews and discussions led to the disqualification of the Singaporean team for the use of additional information to gain an unfair advantage. This led to the final session of 100 hands being played by the 5 remaining teams, completely in the dark once again. It was here that the players in Team Ukraine really asserted themselves and pulled away, scoring average or better in hands an incredible 80% of the final. This compares with 59% for Australia, 58% for Lithuania, 52% for Taiwan and 47% for India. It was also noted that Team Ukraine finished in last place in just 4 of the final’s 100 hands!!! A special mention must also go to the individual performances of Mykhailo Gutyi of Ukraine and Mantas Urbonas of Lithuania who played exceptionally well – both amassing well over 100,000 chips more than their average opponent with the same cards. The final standings saw Ukraine retain the Nations Cup, Australia in 2nd place with Lithuania climbing two spots from the start of the final to finish in 3rd overall! A fantastic event which brought the Match Poker community together at a time when very few sports have the ability to continue – we truly are ALL IN TOGETHER!

 

Team Singapore Disqualification

This year’s IFMP Nations Cup World Championships of Match Poker was contested in most extraordinary circumstances, given the inability for all teams, players, analysts and officiators to convene at the same physical location. It was therefore understood that the integrity and sporting aspects of Match Poker could only be upheld by a total commitment from all teams and all participants to play according to the strict guidelines sent to all nations. The tremendous efforts and preparations made by all IFMP National Federation members ahead of the event was truly remarkable, with the shared mission of persevering against adversity and presenting our sport to the world via coordinated mobile gameplay software and video- conferencing.

All nations took part in test sessions prior to the championships and were informed of the rules of competition. Particular notice was given to all players regarding the temptation to gain an unfair advantage by accessing data on hands in advance.

IFMP is proud of the fact that Match Poker is so transparent. Given the digital nature of the sport, all action is recorded and time-stamped. Additionally, at the World Championships, gameplay was observed in real-time throughout, as well as live-streamed with all cards up (on a 30-minute delayed basis). IFMP was extremely grateful for the self-policing of the competition guidelines and for all the specific hand information teams shared for review. Throughout the entire first 6 sessions of the Nations Cup World Championship there was only one such review that escalated to a player being interviewed and cautioned.

Ahead of the final, all team captains were again assembled and notified about IFMP’s invigilation processes and warned of the potential penalties for infractions. Following the first 75 hands of the final, IFMP received multiple requests for review and the competition was therefore delayed while an official investigation took place. The player who had been previously cautioned was again called in for an interview. Sadly, the outcome of the investigation into hand histories and video concluded that Team Singapore had contravened the rules of Match Poker and gained an unfair advantage in the final. The severity of this and implication for the other finalists left IFMP no option but to exclude the entire team and restart the final with the remaining 5 nations. IFMP has now made all hand histories from the event publicly available here: http://mipl.pokerplaza.com/mp_leaderboard/

Despite this regrettable incident, IFMP is extremely grateful to all other participating nations for their conduct, understanding and patience throughout the weekend, which enabled a remarkable contest to take place.

IFMP NATIONS CUP GOES AHEAD LIVE WITH VIRTUAL HOST

The International Federation of Match Poker’s (IFMP) Nations Cup Final is to go ahead despite Covid-19, with the showpiece competition to be hosted virtually.

The decision was taken by IFMP to protect players at a time when most participating nations are still facing coronavirus lockdowns.

The Nations Cup will take place on Saturday May 30th and Sunday May 31st with 14 nations competing live on a digital host platform.

While each participating player will remain safe in his/her own home, the platform will enable each member of every team to see and communicate with each of their table competitors while the session is on and with their team mates, captain, manager, analysts, etc during breaks in play, in a virtual live competitive environment.

The global nature of the event means that while some will experience early morning play, others will be participating during their evening/night time.

Match Poker was devised and developed by the International Federation of Match Poker – which holds Observer Status of the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) and which has over 65 members federations worldwide – as a team-based mind sport where the element of chance inherent in the “random draw of cards” has been removed.

As a result, it conforms to the GAISF definition of a sport as ‘not relying on any element of luck specifi- cally integrated into the sport.’ IFMP has successfully developed the Match Poker technology including innovative use of smartphones in game-play and administration, making Match Poker a true 21st cen- tury mind sport and an eSport.

For the Nations Cup players will be producing personal video introductions to help with the event pro- duction, and will also use their mobile phones or tablets to access the gameplay software.

Teams taking part are reigning World champions Ukraine who will be joined by European champions Spain, Asian champions India and teams from Taiwan, Australia, Singapore, Korea, Ireland, Poland, Germany, Belarus, Lithuania plus a Digital Nation and a President’s pick.

Patrick Nally president of IFMP said:

“All International Sports Federations are facing enormous chal- lenges due to the pandemic but we are fortunate that, with our gameplay software, we are able to play a ‘live’ event but in individual home locations. Match Poker is a sport based entirely on skill and it’s the combination of a team’s effort that will ultimately produce the winner”.

“The social relationships developed through the hosting of our Match Poker events are important to us and we are looking forward to getting back to live events as soon as practical, but we will continue to support our international competition schedule in this manner until such times as our ‘sporting family’ can be reunited”.

The Nations Cup series kicked off with the European Nations Cup in Kyiv, Ukraine where 7 Nations qualified with Spain being crowned Champions. Next was the Asian Nations Cup in Taoyuan city, Taiwan where 5 Nations qualified with India taking the trophy home. This Nations Cup event will close the series by crowning our World Match Poker Champion for 2020.

2019 Year End Review

2019 has been a breakthrough year for Match Poker! It began with a slightly delayed 2018 Nations Cup held in Dublin, Ireland at the beautiful Boyne Hill House as the home nation were looking to defend their World Championship after being victorious at the 2017 Nations Cup in Oxford. Debutants Ukraine arrived with a large contingent and got their strategy spot on, beating the Irish and Germans who finished 2nd and 3rd respectively to clinch the Match Poker World Championship on their first attempt! This event also marked the first time Match Poker athletes were subject to WADA tests during competition – which has now become a norm at all IFMP events. Match Poker is a sport and we must function like any other sport, ensuring clean competition and adhering to global sporting rules & regulations set by the IOC & GAISF.

The excitement from the Dublin event lead to Kyiv, Ukraine securing the hosting of the 2019 European Nations Cup. This event would be the first in IFMP’s 2019 events calendar and would be followed by an Asian and America’s Nations Cup which would then culminate into the grand Nations Cup Finals. 13 European Nations came together in Kyiv to battle it out as the Irish defended their European Championships from the previous edition of this event held in Cyprus. All teams would play together in the group stages over the first 2 days after which they would break into a top 6 (Cup) and bottom 7 (Plate). With 7 European spots up for grabs, and scores being reset to 0 after the group stages, it was all to play for with every nation having a fighting chance at qualifying! Some debutants but many familiar faces lead to intense competition over 3 days and finally saw the Spaniards make an incredible comeback and lift the trophy! Ireland finished 2nd, Ukraine 3rd, Belarus 4th, Poland 5th and Germany 6th – all of whom secured qualification to the Nations Cup Finals. The last qualification spot was contested by Hungary, Serbia, UK, Lithuania, Denmark, Estonia and Italy with Lithuania stepping up to the occasion to be crowned winners of the ‘Plate’ and the last European nation to participate in the finals.

Next was the Asian Championships, held in Taoyuan, Taiwan after the Taiwanese also made their debut at the Dublin event. This event saw 9 Asian nations compete for continental glory as 5 qualification spots were up for grabs for the World Finals. Similar structure to the European event, all 9 teams play together in the group stages through 2 entire days after which they break into the top 4 (Cup) and bottom 5 (Plate). Top 4 automatically qualify but only the winner of the Plate joins them at the finals. Team India took an early lead and managed to ride some ups and downs to finish the group stages on top of the leaderboard with Australia and Singapore in 2nd and 3rd. The fight for 4th went right down to the wire and the home team Taiwan finally managed to get past the Israelis by just one point! A slight change in format saw the Cup play out 4-handed and the Plate 5-handed – with teams needing to adapt their playing styles and strategies constantly. A big push from the Indians secured the Asian Championship for them in the last 3 hands, away from the home team who lead for most of the final sessions! It was always two-horse race in the Plate as Israel and Korea kept putting the pressure on each other for the top spot with the Koreans breaking away and taking a lead in the last session of play to secure their qualification and win the Plate!

We then move to Mumbai, India for the 4th season of the world’s first pro Match Poker league – the MatchIPL (Indian Poker League). 9 franchises all representing different part of India were ready to dethrone the Pune Kings after their triumph in season 3. Group stages included all teams playing together for the first 6 sessions of play after which the bottom 3 teams would be eliminated and the top 6 would play 2 final sessions with 50% of their scores being carried over. The Mumbai All Stars (season 1 champions and season 3 runners-up) and Haryana Hawks (season 2 champions) established themselves as the teams to watch out for quite early on and maintained the top 2 spots through the group stages. A nail biting finish to the groups saw the Bangalore Royals make the top 6 by a single point over the Kolkata Diamonds! The final sessions saw the Haryana Hawks implement the perfect winning strategy by taking a lead in session 1 and consolidating it in session 2, leading to their 2nd National Championship in 3 seasons!

Unfortunate political and civil circumstances in Peru lead to the postponement of our Nations Cup Finals from December to the last week of February. We thank our participating nations for their support and understanding, and promise to deliver our most sensational Nations Cup event yet! 2020 will see Match Poker’s link with education and corporates strengthen as we launch University and City Leagues in various nations to complement our existing events calendar comprising of European, Asian and American Nations Cup events all culminating into our Grand Nations Cup Final at the end of the year. 2019 saw over 2,500 hands of Match Poker played by over 35 teams at IFMP events and 30 anti-doping tests successfully completed! We expect to have 50+ nations participating in these events and hope to bring Match Poker into many more territories as we continue to grow this exciting sport globally! We wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!