Montreal Nationals Win First-Ever GPL Championship, $100k
The Montreal Nationals won the first-ever Global Poker League Championship last night in Las Vegas defeating the Berlin Bears 6-5 in the finals to win the trophy and $100,000 to split between them.
The six-person team, comprised of manager Marc-Andre Ladouceur, Mike 'Timex' McDonald, Pascal Lefrancois, Jason Lavallee, Xuan Liu and Martin Jacobson, led the league from start to finish, entered the playoffs as the #1 seed and fittingly finished things off last night.
Valiant Effort from Underdog, Undermanned Bears
The National's opponents last night in the Best-of-11 finals were the Berlin Bears, comprised of just 3 members of their six-person team - Sorel Mizzi, Bill Perkins and Brian Rast.
The Bears were a surprise to even make the playoffs as they started out slowly on the season and needed a big late-season surge - led by Rast and Mizzi - to come into the EurAsia playoffs seeded third.
They beat the second-ranked Hong Kong Stars in the opening round, the #1 Moscow Wolverines in the Conference finals and gave the #1 seeded Nationals all they could handle in the finals.
Trailing 5-3 Mizzi won two straight matches to send things to a winner-take-all finish where Lefrancois just edged Rast to claim the title.
The Nationals beat the San Francisco Rush and LA Sunset in the Americas Conference to advance to the finals.
Team manager Philip Gruissem (who didn't play at all this season) plus regular season members Dan 'Jungleman12' Cates, Jeff Gross and Dominik Nitsche didn't participate in the finals for the Bears. Liu and Jacobson sat out for the Nationals.
A Strong Ending, Big Plans for Season 2
The first-ever season of the GPL definitely had its ups and downs and faced plenty of flak from poker grinders who felt the "play-money" aspect of it - and the gimmicky feel of the 'sportify' poker elements - made it a recipe for disaster.
The league did attract some major A-list poker talent, though, in the likes of Phil Galfond, Jason Mercier, Olivier Busquet, Mustapha Kanit, Liv Boeree, Vanessa Selbst, Igor Kurganov, Maria Ho and Fedor Holz and also reeled in Hollywood star Aaron Paul, who surprisingly held his own in his two matches.
After a long season with a very modest number of viewers for the live stream, the finals hit 6k simultaneous viewers at points and inspired a lot more interaction/emotion from fans and players.
The Nationals themselves were clearly very invested in securing the win and were very happy to claim the trophy and inaugural title. Said star McDonald on Instagram:
"This was an awesome week. In poker it's so easy to get caught up in chasing money but at the end of the day my favorite moments in poker have rarely been the most profitable ones.
"One of my biggest career wins came on a day when fighting with an ex and the person closest to me at the time never found out until almost a year later. At televised allins I'm often texting friends rather than watching runouts since the outcome feels so pointless.
"The looks on our faces here is such a good indicator of exactly what the GPL was going for- wanting to win for the sake of competition rather than to pad the bank balances. Thanks once again to the @globalpokerleague."
Big changes are on tap for Season 2 next year with a shorter season, a new player draft and combine, a parallel GPL starting in China and a chance for fans to play in the signature Cube themselves on the agenda.
To watch the full replay of all the playoff and final matches, visit the Global Poker League website.