One could not help but think of the irony of it all as the 2008 PartyPoker.com Nations Cup concluded this week with the British poker team defeating the Guinness-swilling island nation of Ireland in what proved to be a first-class poker championship round.
Team Great Britain was captained by Roland de Wolfe; the other members of the elite poker squad included Neil Channing, Surinder Sunar, Joe Beevers, Ian Frazer and PartyPoker.com VIP online qualifier Charlie Durbin. The team could not have been any happier with their victory, “I’m absolutely delighted,” said Brit team captain de Wolfe. “In many ways it is even better to win a team event for your country than win an individual title. I am so proud that the selections for my team were vindicated.”
This year’s team event also featured top-notch line-ups from America, Germany, Holland and Sweden. The teams competed in a “tag” final, meaning each team relied on their captain’s judgment to make crucial substitution decisions and strategic “time outs”.
“We knew that it would be tight early on so I played Surinder. We fancied that he could exploit his tight image and he had played so well in his heat that it simply had to be him. Next we put on Joe Beevers. At that point we needed to sure things up as we were near the chip lead. This was a choice I made based on the situation. If we had been leading I would have put in Ian Frazer to get at them but Joe did a good job.
"I played third and always fancied this period of the tournament. I had a good run against Holland’s Thierry Van Den Berg and knew that blind stealing would be key at this stage before the blinds got too big. Neil had to play last as he had the form and confidence. Even though neither Ian Frazer or Charlie Durbin were involved at this stage, both were key to our success. Both played excellently in the heats and the decisions were hard but we were only allowed to play four players in the final.”
Finishing off the Irish in a heated heads-up battle was Neil Channing. Channing was not even originally scheduled to play in the tournament; he was planning on going as a television reporter covering all of the action. After winning the Irish Open, captain de Wolfe asked him to take his place in the line-up. The British team must have been thankful for their captain’s wise decision as Channing took down Irish poker legend Donnacha O’Dea in the final round of the tournament. Ireland’s captain Padraig Parkinson was philosophical about the defeat: “We were the oldest team in the tournament. It’s quite obvious that poker is a young man’s game.”
“I am just as proud of this as I am of my win in Ireland,” said Channing. “It was an honor to be picked to represent my country and great to be chosen to play the crucial final leg for the team.”
A PartyPoker.com spokesman commented “Neil Channing is running so good that Great Britain looked like the winners when it got short-handed. Full credit must go to Ireland, however, who brought a great atmosphere to the tournament and very nearly pipped them at the post. On paper, the likes of Chris Ferguson and Jamie Gold for Team USA look very intimidating but it seems like when they cross the Atlantic for these tournaments they just can’t quite get it right.”
It was an amazing experience for the five PartyPoker.com VIP online qualifiers. A week alongside the world’s best pros in a unique team atmosphere is intimidating but ultimately exciting and unforgettable.”