After two days of gruelling competition Team Italy emerged triumphant in the first ever Global Poker Masters. The Team was made up of Andrea Dato, Rocco Palumbo, Dario Sammartino, Giuliano Bendinelli and Mustapha Kanit, who secured the third and final point which was needed to ensure victory.
Russia entered the heads-up final with almost a 3-1 chip deficit and they started slowly, chipping away at the Italians. However with Italy’s lead being so great, the chips nearly always ended up going back the other way.
There were however encouraging signs early on. There were double ups for Vladimir Troyanovskiy vs Mustapha Kanit as Team Russia’s AcJd held up against Team Italy’s 7c8c. Then it was over to Table 4 as Alexey Bilokur’s pocket sixes held against the Ks3c of Team Italy’s Dario Sammartino.
These double-ups, although significant were nearly always small, allowing Team Russia to keep in touch of the Italians. Italy were playing well but were falling short in the all-in situations. During a short break in proceedings it was Team Italy who seemed more motivated, gathering together in a small group as the Russians mingled around the studio floor.
Finally there was an elimination. In a classic race situation, Rocco Palumbo called Anatoly Filatov’s all-in and the Russian was at risk. Team Italy’s pocket sixes were in the lead over Team Russia’s AK and they held to ensure Team Italy went 1-0 up, needing three points to win the title.
This was quickly followed by another all-in and call. Despite his earlier double-up, Alexey Bilokur of Team Russia was the player at risk yet again, with his K6 behind Dario Sammartino’s A3. The Italian needed help as the flop came Qs9dKs, but found help on the Jc river. Needing an Ace or a Ten on the river, the dealer burned and turned and dealt the ten of clubs, rivering Sammartino a straight and busting Bilokur. 2-0 Italy.
Meanwhile, Lunkin and Italy’s playoff hero Giuliano Bendinelli’s heads-up match was a tight affair, but it appeared that the Russian was the more dominant heads-up player. On a board of 3s7hKdAs8s, and after calling Lunkin’s bet of 22,000 on the turn, Team Italy check-called a bet of 53,000 but mucked when Russia showed Ac4h.
However that match did not matter in the end. Over on the new feature table Mustapha Kanit of Team Italy had put Vladimir Troyanovskiy of Team Russia all-in on a board which read Ks6cTd3s7c. After a short while Troyanovskiy called, tabling JT for middle pair. However it was no good up against Kanit’s KJ and Team Russia was eliminated from this heads-up. It meant that Italy had won the required 3 heads-up matches in the Global Poker Masters final and they were the champions!
Speaking after the trophy ceremony, Mustapha Kanit spoke highly of his team-mates, despite him being the one to secure the winning points. “I think all of us did the best. Rocco (Palumbo) didn’t do too well in the playoffs but he won his heads-up match today [in the quarter-finals]. Giuliano (Sammartino) and Andrea (Dato) did really good. All of us contributed, it’s not a win because of one person, it’s a win because of the team.”
On Team Italy’s win as a whole he said it felt amazing. “It’s really nice to win and it was a really nice competition. We enjoyed the whole tournament and for me to win the last heads-up match was a great feeling for me.”
“As a team I think all of us are really good poker players. We all know how to keep control of ourselves and play eight-handed, six-handed and heads-up. They are all different games and for myself it was natural because I play a lot of poker and I know how to play these different formats, but with my friends we spoke a little bit before the heads up about strategy.”
I asked Mustapha how this Global Poker Masters win compared to some of his other achievements in his poker career. “This trophy is something special. I don’t want to put it with the others. Winning two rings in Australia was different but this was a great feeling.”