The IFMP Asian Pairs Challenge was a feature of Sports Festival 2018 ©ITG

International Federation of Match Poker (IFMP) President Patrick Nally has hailed the progress of the sport after trophies were presented to the winners of the IFMP Asian Pairs Challenge event here today.

The event has been a feature of Sports Festival 2018, running alongside SportAccord Summit in Thailand's capital.

Taking part in the tournament, held under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), were teams from China, Chinese Taipei, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

It comprised a strict rotation of individual heads-up freeze-out tournaments against DeepStack, the world’s most advanced artificial intelligence poker system developed by the University of Alberta.

The event is a precursor to the IFMP Asian Nations Cup in Bangkok featuring full teams of eight players.

That is due be played in October, with the victors joining other continental winners to contest the World Championship title.

"Thank you for the history that is in the making," Nally said in addressing the participants at the ceremony here.

"As I said to you on the first night, this is the first of many yet-to-come award ceremonies when match poker will be presenting its medals and trophies in an event supported by the IOC and by a Government.

"This is the first and you are the history makers to be at the first.

"Everybody else will have to follow you."

The tournament comprised a strict rotation of individual heads-up freeze-out tournaments against DeepStack ©Indian Fed. Poker/Twitter
The tournament comprised a strict rotation of individual heads-up freeze-out tournaments against DeepStack ©Indian Fed. Poker/Twitter

Speaking after the ceremony, Nally told insidethegames that the event was an "extraordinary" and "momentous" one for the IFMP from a psychological perspective.

"This is the first time ever that match poker, which is always a controversial sport because they don’t really always understand it, is at a sport event," he said.

"We’ve got the patronage of the IOC, it’s supported by the Thai Government and this is the first time ever that medals, trophies and awards have been presented at a sporting event.

"It’s the first of many, many more to come but from a psychological point of view, it’s a great, as you see from the excitement of the athletes and the participants, occasion.

"And this is just a forerunner because this has just been a pairs [event].

"They’re all coming with their full teams back here into Bangkok in October when all 16 nations will play the Asian Nations Cup.

"The top three at that event will then go to the Nations Cup, which will be in December this year."

In October 2017, IFMP was one of seven governing bodies to become the first to achieve observer status with the Global Association of International Sports Federations.

Nally claimed today’s event would not have been possible without reaching that milestone.

"We couldn’t have been here without observer status and of course observer status means that the only thing left for us to do now to become full members is to get the additional recognition letters," he told insidethegames.

"Once we have those additional recognition letters, we should automatically become a full member.

"It will certainly be by this time next year.

"We’re already quite close to the number that’s required, so with the work that we’re doing with these new federations, it should be relatively straight forward for us to achieve it by this time next year.

"And then we’re full members and I can relax, I hope."

Singapore won the IFMP Asian Pairs Challenge ahead of Chinese Taipei and Israel, the second and third-place finishers respectively.

The individual victor was Singapore’s Lau Heng Seng with a win rate of 47.43 per cent.

Compatriot Daniel Chua finished second with 46.47 per cent, while Chinese Taipei’s Philip King Chung Wang completed the top three with 45.08 per cent.