There is something about the Global Poker League (GPL) that I’ve been struggling with for a while. Not the concept, nor the Cube. Not the Franchises, nor the Draft. A completely different feeling whatsoever. It was H.P. Lovecraft who once said: “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown” Thankfully, the unknown will be a lot less unknown by the end of today.
We’ve had announcements, we’ve had Twitter accounts set up, we’ve had interviews and press releases, but up until this week we’ve not actually watched any GPL content. Granted, we had the short GPL Draft Order show, which was from the Malta office from which the Global Poker Index’s broadcasted overage of last year’s SCOOP, but no real content of note. This changes today. The inaugural GPL Draft will take place from Los Angeles, California and will constitute the first real coverage players, fans and media will have been able to watch. Gulp.
Up until now whenever someone has asked me about my thoughts regarding the GPL, my reply has always been mixed. You see, I’m still a fanboy at heart. I own RunItUp and PokerStaples t-shirts, I’m still glued to Twitch streams, and my recent trip to EPT Dublin proved that I’m just as star-strucked now as I was when I started nearly two years ago. Therefore it comes as no surprise that I’m so excited for the GPL!
My phone background contains all the logos of the teams, I’ve been sketching out theoretical first round draft picks and I am super excited for the release of any merchandise. I just want to consume any and all content that the GPL produces and want to find out more and more about this exciting new venture in poker.
However this is where it gets a little bit Jekyll and Hide-y. At the same time as this is going on, I make no attempt to conceal my scepticism and cynicism toward the GPL. For weeks now we’ve been reading about how the GPL will revolutionise poker by targeting and engaging with a new audience. In fact, just last week GPI CEO Alex Dreyfus tweeted a poll asking how many franchises there should be in Season Two, when the first one hasn’t even started yet?! How on earth can he be contemplating expansion at this early stage, when even you yourself admit that this is just one big gamble?
By now the very phrase “sportify poker” is enough to get my stomach turning. The optimism surrounding the GPL is admirable at the very least, stomach turning at the very worst. Articles in Forbes and the LA Times have helped to propel the GPL into the mainstream spotlight, and have been much publicised by organisers. They neglect to mention that the Forbes article was written by the GPL’s own legal counsel, and that the LA Times featured the dubious phrase: “…if all goes according to plan.”
It just seems to me that none of those involved have stopped for a minute and thought: “Wait, what if this doesn’t work?” That just doesn’t seem to have been in any meetings at the Global Poker League head offices. There are too many gaping holes of information that just haven’t been filled yet. The most glaring has to be that with no schedule of events released (and none expected to be until after the draft), and no concrete rules or procedures set, players will be drafted without knowing what the hell they’re getting themselves into. Although I suppose poker is meant to be a game of incomplete information!
If it does works, we could be looking at another Moneymaker-esque poker boom. Piggyback on the esports bandwagon and ride it into the sunset. If it doesn’t work, we’ll just have another Epic Poker League on our hands. With that there will be many bridges being burnt between poker and the mainstream media, as well as with the esports industry as a whole. The potential for expansion into these industries will be lost, and we’ll never know if a team-based poker enterprise will succeed in the way it was destined to. I guess, like with most things, only time will tell.