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26/02/2007 No. 15
he Guardian G2 Poker Column
Victoria Coren
Monday February 26, 2007

A couple of weeks ago, we filmed the second Poker Nations Cup in Cardiff. This is a national team event, perfect for TV. There is only one representative per country per match, to avoid any risk of collusion, but each player accrues points for the whole group. The traditional will to win is made more electric by the extra elements of peer pressure and national pride.

I should admit that I wasn't playing on the British team, just doing the commentary. Naturally, I can't reveal any results until the tournament is screened on Channel 4 later this year; but it reminded me of a salutary lesson I learned while watching the first Poker Nations Cup in 2006.

In that event, the best team spirit was undoubtedly shown by the Swedes. Their captain took them out for group dinners to discuss strategy, and gave individual advice to each player. The Danes were another tight-knit group; the Americans were bonded by their patriotic fervour; and the Irish certainly did a good job of drinking together in the bar. All teams made a point of turning out in force for each match, to watch their compatriots in action and cheer them on or cheer them up as required.

Except, that is, for the Brits. On good days, a couple of them straggled in to support their fellow players. Usually (if not playing that day themselves), one of them was in his hotel room betting on sports, another sleeping off a hangover, another out shopping, a fourth playing online. They were also the only team to decide against splitting the money won in individual heats: dog eat dog, each British player kept his own winnings.

And what happened? They cruised to victory with barely a ripple. Their solo instincts were a strength, not a weakness. Group hugs don't win poker trophies; not even in team events. You may have many friends in the bar, but you're always alone at the table.

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