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!