Asian Nations Cup Round Up
The 2019 Asian Nations Cup was hosted in Taoyuan city, Taiwan and saw 9 highly skilled Asian nations participating, namely Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia, Singapore, Israel, India, Japan, Philippines and Korea!
The previous Asian Championships were held in Sanya, China in 2013 and it was great to see some familiar faces in Taiwan. Match Poker debutants included Hong Kong, Philippines and Korea while Australia, Singapore, India, Israel and Japan had all participated in the 2013 Asian Nations Cup which was won by China. Excitement was building as 5 spots on the Road to Peru would be up for grabs from the 9 participating teams. These 5 qualifiers would join Ukraine, 6 European qualifiers, Peru and a few other select American teams for the Nations Cup Finals.
The event kicked off with a grand opening ceremony where the local minister of sport was in attendance and formally opened the event, toasting to its success with a glass of champagne along with all the participating teams captains. After a quick round of team introductions, dinner and a strategy session we jumped right into a formal player briefing held by IFMP’s Match Officials Joe Barnard and Varun Goenka.
The fan zone was packed with eager Match Poker athletes and as the first session of play kicked off, so did the screens with all card information provided face up ensuring complete transparency! 50 hands were played on day one and the leaderboard showed Team India in the lead with Korea, Australia, Israel and Taiwan taking up the remaining ‘Peru spots’ but it was way too early to make any predictions.
After a long night of review, analysis and strategy, the teams arrived ready for day 2 which would see them play 5 sessions of 50 hands each to make up a total of 300 hands in the group stages before breaking into a top 4 fight for the Nations Cup and the other 5 battling for the Nations Plate and the final Peru spot! The Koreans made a big push in the 2 morning sessions, topping the leaderboard ahead of India at the halfway point of the group stages (150 hands) by a whopping 59 points! Taiwan, Australia and Israel still held the other 3 of the top 5 spots.
The next 50 hands saw India reclaim the top spot but we also saw Team Singapore finally flex their Match Poker skills and begin climbing up the leaderboard to 5th as Israel dropped down to 6th. The last 100 hands in the group stages were coming up and there was bound to be a lot of fluctuations in the standings as teams were looking to try different strategies with the hope of breaking into the top 4 to solidify their spot in the World Championships.
Singapore was determined to continue their ascent up the leaderboard and they sat 2nd after 250 hands had been played! Just 15 points stood between Australia, Taiwan, Korea and Israel in 3rd to 6th with India sitting 30+ points clear at the top. The final group stage session was underway and the fan zone was buzzing with nervousness as the fight for the top 4 was extremely close!
Every hand being played was watched with hawk eyes as Taiwan, Israel and Australia were fighting for two qualification spots. A huge roar erupted from the fan zone as the leaderboard updated with scores from the 300th hand, marking the end of the group stages and along with that confirming Taiwan’s spot in the top 4 by just one point over Israel!!!
Dejected Israeli faces were seen leaving the room as celebrations began among the home team’s large contingent. Team India stood proud with their flag in front of the leaderboard and posed for photos as the winners of the group stages with Singapore in 2nd and Australia in 3rd. Israel and Korea were particularly disappointed at not making the top 4 but they still had a shot at the 5th Peru spot via the Nations Plate competition. The day ended with a trip to the nearby night market as the athletes socialised with one another outside of the event venue while enjoying local delicacies.
The final day saw the creation of two separate tournaments – the Cup and the Plate, along with being the day Asian Match Poker athletes would be tested by WADA for any performance enhancing substances. The Asian Nations Cup would be competed by the top 4 qualified teams of India, Singapore, Australia and Taiwan, who played in a 4×4 format for 5 sessions of 60 hands each to determine the new Asian Match Poker Champions!
In the Asian Nations Plate the remaining 5 teams played in a 5×5 format for 5 sessions of 50 hands each to determine who the last team to join the top 4 in Peru will be, and be awarded with the Asian Nations Plate trophy. Scores were reset to 0 and play kicked off for both competitions. Quite early it was evident that the Plate would be competed by Korea and Israel mainly as the 2 teams were neck and neck at the end of the first session.
The Cup saw home team Taiwan take a 25+ point lead after session 1! Session 2 ended with Australia closing the gap on Taiwan in the Cup and Korea extending their advantage in the Plate.
The final 2 sessions of play were in the dark as the leaderboards were switched off and final scores would be announced at the closing ceremony and awards function later that night. India made up a lot of ground in session 3 to close the gap to within 6.5 points of Taiwan with one session to go in the Cup while the Plate saw Israel now top the leaderboard but by a mere 3.5 points from Korea!
Tensions were high and strategy was the need of the hour with teams huddling together and planning their collective approach for the final session of the event. An incredible finish to what was a fantastic event lead to the closing ceremony and as our local host David Tai thanked the teams for being a part of the 2019 Asian Nations Cup, the final scores were being handed to IFMP president Patrick Nally to announce to the athletes and fans.
Philippines, Japan and Hong Kong finished 5th, 4th and 3rd in the Plate with Korea finally securing their Peru spot over the Israelis by a comfortable 61 points! Korea’s Lim Yohwan was also awarded player of the tournament as they came up to collect their award. Now time for the Asian Nations Cup standings – in 4th place with 730 points was Singapore, in 3rd place with 750 points was Australia who’s captain Julius Colman graciously accepted medals and thanked the hosts for an extremely enjoyable event.
It was now between India and Taiwan for the top spot and you could cut the tension in the room with a knife as everyone waited for the final announcement with bated breath. As Patrick Nally said, ‘The new Asian Nations Cup Champions are… INDIA’ the outpour of jubilation and excitement from the Indian contingent was absolutely incredible to see.
The players were ecstatic and couldn’t control their emotions as they began jumping around and hugging one another celebrating this monumental achievement! Team Taiwan graciously came up and received their silver medals while congratulating the Indians on their victory. The 5 qualified nations will now work hard and prepare themselves for the global challenge that lies ahead in the form of the Nations Cup Finals where their skills will be tested against top nations from Europe, North and South America!