Montreal Nationals Win First GPL Championship ($100,000)

Montreal Nationals

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  • Montreal Nationals win the first GPL Championship for $100,000.

The Montreal Nationals are the first Global Poker League Champions and will take the $100,000 grand prize. The Nationals beat the Berlin Bears in 11 games to claim the inaugural GPL Championship title.

Pascal Lefrancois claimed the final victory, completing a magnificent run in the playoffs. He lost only one of his heads-up matches and was his team’s go-to pick for the deciding game against Berlin Bear Brian Rast.

Play started today with the Nationals as the favorite coming in as the overall points leader in either division, facing the Berlin Bears, who would not have had enough points to make the playoffs had they been in the Americas conference. That all went out the window when they went toe to toe with the would-be champions.

Things kicked off with Sorel Mizzi defeating Mike McDonald in Game #1. McDonald was on a great run, slowly siphoning Mizzi’s stack into his, but Mizzi would win the match when he rivered the nut flush and McDonald shoved into him.

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Mike McDonald versus Sorel Mizzi

Game #2 saw the undefeated Lefrancois beat Bill Perkins. Lefrancois was helped by two big hands. First, he rivered a Broadway straight and got paid off by Perkins after starting the hand with pocket aces, and then again on the final hand when Perkins got all in preflop with ace-jack against Lefrancois’ pocket kings.

Jason Lavallee made his first appearance of the GPL Playoffs, after being one of the better heads-up point getters all season. He handed Rast his first loss of the playoffs and gave the Nationals a 2-1 lead. By far one of the most entertaining single hands of the GPL Playoff occurred on hand #18 of this game.

Lavallee had pocket aces against the queen-seven of Rast. Lavallee shoved the river. Rast was sitting with 334,000 behind had a tough decision. This clip shows a perfect example of why the cube is so great. Rast talked through his decision and Lavallee offered some insight as well.

McDonald returned to the cube for Game #4. This time his opponent was Perkins. McDonald managed to overcome an early deficit thanks to some good luck. He hit a king when he got all in with king-jack against Perkins’ pocket queens and then flopped a set of nines to finish Perkins off and put the Nationals up 3-1.

Rast and Lavallee played the shortest match of the series when Rast flopped a set and managed to get called when he shoved the river for 100,000 more than a pot-sized shove. Lavallee talked himself into a call with pocket jacks and left himself very short. Rast would complete the match on hand seven.

The next game saw Lefrancois add to his resume and defeat Mizzi. Lefrancois’s effort was helped when Mizzi basically told him what he should do. Mizzi led the river with a small flush on a four-club board. Then Mizzi told Lefrancois it would be a good time for a “hero bluff type thing.” Lefrancois shoved all in with the worst hand, but Mizzi folded his small flush.

In Game #7, McDonald looked like he was going to beat Perkins after catching a miracle ten to double up, but Perkins would come back to win with some luck of his own. He got all in behind with ace-ten against the ace-queen of McDonald. This time it was Perkins who caught a ten and he would go on to win the hand and eventually beat McDonald for his first win of the GPL Final.

Then Lavallee handed Rast his second defeat in the playoffs. Lavallee won two of his three matches on his first day at the GPL Playoffs. Lavallee called a Rast bluff on the river and would go on to defeat Rast and put his team up 5-3.

Mizzi then won two in a row, handing Lefrancois his first defeat when he turned two pair against the pocket queens of Lefrancois. Mizzi then beat McDonald for the second time in the series when McDonald shoved with ace-deuce. Mizzi called with pocket twos and sent the Championship to Game #11 where Lefrancois went on to beat Rast and claim the title.

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GameBerlin Bears Montreal Nationals
1Sorel MizziversusMike McDonald
2Bill PerkinsversusPascal Lafrancois
3Brian RastversusJason Lavallee
4Bill PerkinsversusMike McDonald
5Brian RastversusJason Lavallee
6Sorel MizziversusPascal Lafrancois
7Bill PerkinsversusMike McDonald
8Brian RastversusJason Lavallee
9Sorel MizziversusPascal Lafrancois
10Sorel MizziversusMike McDonald
11Brian RastversusPascal Lafrancois
 5 6

The playoffs kicked off with a matchup between the top-seeded Montreal Nationals and the San Francisco Rush led by manager Faraz Jaka. The Rush came out strong with a 2-0 start thanks to wins from Jonathan Jaffe and Phil Galfond. The Nationals then won four of the next five games to defeat the Rush. McDonald won two of his three games in that stretch, including the decisive game.

The next series of the day was the second seed, LA Sunset, led by team manager Maria Ho playing against the third seed, Sao Paolo Mets. The Mets brought in probably the hottest player, Thiago Nishijima, who was riding a heads-up winning streak that continued when he beat Ho in Games #3 and #6. However, in the deciding game, Olivier Busquet bested Nishijima to send his team through to the Americas Conference Final to face the Montreal Nationals.

The Conference finals started with the Sunset falling to 0-2 after McDonald and LeFrancois continued their winning ways beating Chance Kornuth and Busquet in Game #1 and #2. It was Ho that got things turned around in Game #3, defeating Marc-Andre Ladouceur to bring the series to 2-1.

Kornuth followed up Ho's win by defeating McDonald in an epic 74-hand match. Lefrancois then beat Busquet for the second time in the series, going undefeated that day. Ladouceur finished the Sunset off when he defeated Ho in a match where she got the hot seat for the third time. With only four seconds to make her decisions, the hot seat had at least some influence on the outcome of the match.

The first match of the day saw the Moscow Wolverines beat the London Royals in five games, one of which only lasted four hands. The Wolverines were the top seed in the Eurasia conference this year.

The Hong Kong Stars were the No. 2 seed and met the Berlin Bears in the second playoff match of the day. The Stars got out to a 2-1 lead, but the Bears won three matches in a row to send themselves through to face the Wolverines.

In the Eurasia Conference Championship, it was the Wolverines who won two of the first three games. The Bears came back to tie it up at 2-2 before Mizzi hit quads on the river to eliminate Igor Yaroshevsky and put his team up 3-2. That left Perkins against Anatoly Filatov. Perkins was once again in position to close out a best of seven.

It took 20 hands for Filatov to beat Perkins and send the series to Game #7. In Game #7, both Rast and Filatov played great, but it was a river card that made the ultimate difference when Rast called a Filatov all in with queen-high and hit a queen on the river to win the match and send the Berlin Bears to the GPL Final.

This is the end of the inaugural season of the Global Poker League, and already there is news of GPL China, with big plans for Season 2. The GPL will return and the Montreal Nationals will have a target on their back now that they will be the defending champions.

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