Team Poker Has Arrived and the Reason for Success is Simple

Did I mention they played for no money?

This weekend the first Global Poker Masters was held in Malta.

I wrote “first” because it was a success and there will be a second one.

I have played a few of those events over the years. The first one was at the Aviation Club in Paris in 1998.

Twenty-one teams of three players ponied up. I played PLO, Peter Eichhardt played stud and Englishman Mark Napoletano took care of No-Limit Hold'em.

You got points equal to your finishing position and the team with the least points won.

Pretty simple, but pretty bad for us when Mark got knocked out first. Never try to bluff a Frenchy.

Mark moved on to San Antonio, Texas and founded Peter moved on to Malta to work for the Entraction Poker Network.

Perhaps It Didn't Fly Because of the Name

Tomas Brolin
Sweden's 1994 World Cup star Tomas Brolin.

I have played the Nations Cup in a studio in Cardiff aired for UK television. It consisted of six Sit-and-Gos for the six players where you collected chips for the final one.

As the captain I had to pick the three players for the final (who I could swap at any time, but only one time). Everybody felt very strongly that they should be picked.

It was a nightmare. The two who got picked thought they deserved it and gave me no credit.

The three who didn’t get picked were upset and grumpy for the rest of the trip. Obviously I picked myself, and nobody seemed to like that decision.

It didn’t matter that I was the only one who accumulated chips at the final table.

I have also played the Party Poker Football & Poker Legends Cup. Perhaps it did not fly because of the name?

Three players against three players in a six-handed sit-and-go meant there was real team-playing possibilities. One of the players was a football star from each country.

Tomas Brolin, the 1994 Swedish World Cup hero, was my team member. I picked Erik Sagström, the 2004 Swedish online hero, as the third player.

New Whiz Kid on the Block

I was also the national team captain for a European Championship in St. Petersburg around that time. I did not get to pick the team, but it was a dream team when it comes to having fun with Lars Kjestrup, Frej Rutensköld and Peter Eichhard.

Mikael Thuritz
Thuritz: The new whiz kid.

We also brought along the new whiz kid on the block, Mikael Thuritz.

The Entraction network sponsored us with the cost for travel and hotel covered so it was hard to say no to Per Hildebrand when he wanted us to bring along Entraction PR Manager Stefan Östlind.

He could not play, but at least he was lucky and we needed that in our team.

We had a lot of fun; probably a bit too much. I asked the guys to show up on time for the morning flight.

Everybody promised but only two of us made it in time. Imagine if the Irish had been there to party with us.

This Guy Doesn't Know How Bright His Future Is

I told the guys that we had a responsibility to our sponsor and that they could at least show up on time. Everybody agreed.

Except Östlind who showed up 10 hours and 10 Gin & Tonics later for a chat. He tried to make a case in a slurry voice that I had behaved very badly and almost ruined the team spirit by asking the guys to show up on time.

One hour later he made out with the French hostess, No Mercy style, next to the final table in front of the TV cameras like some kind of Dario Minieri.

Later he was released from Entraction because he charged extra money from all customers -- privately, so to speak.

I remember the young kid Mikael Thuritz dancing alone on the dance floor to Eric Prydz “Call On Me” with 200 Russians girls standing by and looking.

This guy does not know how bright his future is, I thought to myself. Especially with this crash course from his experienced team members.

The Reason for Success is Simple

Martin Jacobson
A Swedish team headed by Jacobson would have been great.

Now, finally, team poker is here to stay. The Global Poker Master is taking off but not because of the complicated rules.

The rules are made to bring out the skill in poker, to “sportify” poker. It's always a hard thing when you don’t have a lot of time, which is really the only thing that can beat variance.

It's not so important anyway. I’m sure they will develop and improve over time.

24-1 longshot Italy won after beating out USA, Russia, Germany, Ukraine, Canada, United Kingdom and France.

The teams qualify by having players ranked high on the Global Poker Index, so it will be hard for smaller nations to qualify in the future.

Shame, I would have loved to see a Swedish team lead by the Champ Martin Jacobson.

The reason for the success is simple. People believe in Alex Dreyfus.

If you're not an entrepreneur yourself you really cannot understand what a fantastic job he has done.

I promise you that it takes many hours of hard selling to put together such a feat, and a great visionary and salesperson to do it.

Did I Mention They Played for No Money?

What Dreyfus has done is unprecedented.

If you understand poker players you must admit that it is purely magnificent to get most of the best players in the world to travel to Malta and play poker for two days for no money.

For. No. Money.

For. Their. Nation.

For. No. Money.

Did I mention that they played their best for no money? In Malta?

Team poker has finally arrived. It will be with us until Alex Dreyfus gets headhunted to the United Nations to solve the problems in the Middle East.

About Ken Lennaárd:

Sweden's most controversial poker blogger Ken Lennaárd has been around the professional poker circuit for almost 20 years. Among his numerous accomplishments are Swedish Championships both live and online, three WSOP final tables and over $1.5m in live earnings. He's now bringing his singular poker voice to the English world via Look for new posts every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Note: Opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not represent the views of

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