2021 Review – A Year of Challenges and Progress

2021 saw IFMP make considerable progress after a rather quiet pandemic hit 2020. With the constantly changing situation caused by Covid, we didn’t want to be dependent on live events for Match Poker activity this year. We therefore decided to run virtual qualifiers for the 2021 Nations Cup Finals for our member nations in Asia and Europe. Being the world’s only recognised digital sport, Match Poker has the unique advantage of digital gameplay as compared to other conventional sports which are more physical in nature. We used this to our advantage and re-created the live Match Poker environment linking a video conference platform in with Match Poker gameplay, thus enabling the athletes to see and talk with each other just like they would at a live event, while playing Match Poker for their nation.
We ran a total of 10 qualifiers, which produced 5 Asian and 6 European qualifiers who will attempt to stop Ukraine from wining their 3rd World Championship in a row! 200 unique hands of Match Poker were played in each qualifier, giving us 2000 hands played by 25 participating nations. Over 200 athletes competed for their nations, testing themselves in this skill-based format with the aim of securing a spot at the finals. The qualified nations are India, Israel, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Singapore from Asia, with Austria, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Macedonia and Switzerland from Europe. The virtual qualifiers allowed many nations, who have previously not been able to participate in live events, to play, compete and experience Match Poker. It has been fantastic to see our sport grow and reach so many new countries this year.
One prime example of this effect is the birth of the Mongolian National Match Poker League! 12 teams participated in the first season of the league, which took place on 11th and 12th December in Ulaanbaatar and saw 500 hands played across the 2 match days. Every team had atleast one male and one female member in their squad, across various age groups once again reinforcing that Match Poker is a fully inclusive sport. Team Pokerfriends were crowned Champions with 749.5 points, Team Shrup came 2nd with 723 points and Team Megamind was 3rd with 710 points. Trophies, medals and prize money was awarded to the top 3 finishing teams and top 3 individual players. The Mongolian NF will use this event and the content captured to approach their National Olympic Committee (NOC) and National Sports Authority (NSA) for the formal recognition of Match Poker as a sport in Mongolia and for their national federation as a national governing body of sport, linked to IFMP as the global representative.
IFMP’s observer membership of GAISF was extended for another 2 years as we continue our fight for full recognition. One of the main aims of encouraging local Match Poker activity by way of national leagues was to be able to evidence to the NOC and NSA of your nation that we are a sport, recognised globally, played digitally, and are not anything like conventional gaming or gambling. Once the authorities see it in action, being played in teams, without the presence of physical cards or chips, they will better understand what we have been trying to explain to them for so long. We are hopeful that this all will work to our advantage and we can provide the GAISF membership council with plenty of new national recognition certificates in the coming year.
We are working hard towards a packed events calendar for 2022, with a Champions League style finale event for our many national league champions, a Global University Challenge involving student Match Poker teams from universities and colleges across the globe, and of course our Continental Championships (Asia, Europe, America’s) all culminating in a Nations Cup Final at the end of the year. There have been a few nations that have expressed their desire to host an event and we are evaluating our options, and would encourage other nations who are interested to let us know at the earliest.
Finally can we take this opportunity to wish you all a wonderful holiday period. Stay safe, take care of yourself and your loved ones and let’s make 2022 the year where Match Poker really takes off! Happy Holidays and wish you a fantastic New Year!

The Kazakhstani’s can’t wait for their Match Poker debut!

Introducing the Kazakhstani national Match Poker team, for their participation in the upcoming 2021 Nations Cup qualifiers:

Gulbanu Sapabekova

Gulbanu Sapabekova (female)
My name is Banu (full name is Gulbanu Sapabekova). I am 47 years old and I am an economist by profession. I’ve been playing poker since 2011. I am the first woman to win a tournament in Portugal – Vilamoura. I also have wins at various tournaments and a lot of final tables on my account. At the moment I do not play as often as before, but I hope to improve my game in the future and achieve good results. It is a great honour for me to participate in such a prestigious tournament. Our team will try to show their best side. Thanks for the invitation and good luck to us!
Zhenis Abenov
Full Name: Abenov Zhenis Makhsutovich
Age & Profession: 36 years old, crypto investor
Zhenis started playing poker in 2007 and was one of the first Kazakhstan poker players.
He won many official tournaments in Kazakhstan including latest Central Asia Championship, King Of Poker Championship and Tournament of the Champions. With more than 20 trophies in live tournaments, the thing he likes most in the Game is the competitive spirit and fast changing pace of the game in tournaments. After poker became illegal in Kazakhstan, Zhenis started his online poker career which he continues to this time. In spare time, he likes to do research and invest in prospective new crypto projects. Married, happy father of 3 children.
Daniar Aubakirov
I was born on 06.05.90 and started playing poker at the age of 19. Started participating in local tournaments, won prize places.
I also participated in big world tournaments (WSOP, EPT, etc). Won WPT Amsterdam in 2017. What I love about poker is that everything depends on you. Married, have 1 daughter.
Ermek Alymbekov
My name Ermek, I am 54 years old and I am a philologist by profession.
I started playing poker in 2007 and I have wins at location tournaments and a lot of final tables on my account.
Skhirtladze Lasha
I was born on 26/03/1976 and I have been playing poker for over 20 years. I have played in local tournaments, won first and prize places. For me, poker is a game of intellect, skills, where the presence of luck is of no small importance. I work as a Chief of Restaurant. Experience 25 years.
Roman Lopatenko
38 years old, journalist and secretary of Kazakhstan Sport Poker Federation. In 2007 started playing poker and organising tournaments. Captain of national team in international competitions. Doing a lot of work for the promotion of poker as sport in Kazakhstan. Playing poker online, also like chess and backgammon.