By: Jason Lake
It's so crazy, it just might work. The Global Poker League (GPL) plans to launch next month with 12 teams and an ambitious 12-week schedule, leading up to the inaugural GPL World Championships this summer. Dates and locations are pending at press time, but league officials intend on hosting the Championships at a “1st-tier” arena in the United States. Can poker draw 20,000 fans to Staples Center? It's likely if the GPL does it right.
Early results are promising. The 12 teams have already been named and branded with gorgeous sports-style logos, and each team has been assigned a captain, plucked from the biggest names in poker. They'll meet on February 25 in Beverly Hills for the first-ever GPL draft, which will be streamed live on Twitch. Each team will select three more players that day, then they'll have a week to name a fifth “Wildcard” player. It could be anyone – even you.
The Big League
Here are the 12 teams and captains for the GPL's maiden voyage:
Berlin Bears (Philipp Gruissem)
Hong Kong Stars (Celina Lin)
LA Sunset (Maria Ho)
Las Vegas Moneymakers (Chris Moneymaker)
London Royals (Liv Boeree)
Montreal Nationals (Marc-Andre Ladouceur)
Moscow Wolverines (Anatoly Filatov)
New York Rounders (Bryn Kenney)
Paris Aviators (Fabrice Soulier)
Rome Emperors (Max Pescatori)
Sao Paulo Metropolitans (Andre Akkari)
San Francisco Rush (Faraz Jaka)
Definitely no shortage of star power here. The GPL led strong by revealing the Las Vegas Moneymakers first, captained by the man who started the current poker boom after winning the World Series of Poker Main Event in 2003. The intention is clear: Elevate poker's profile back to the level it was at in the early (and highly profitable) years of the Moneymaker Era.
On the Clock
The blueprint is fairly obvious, too. League owner and CEO Alexandre Dreyfus hopes to chart the same course for poker that has brought e-sports into the mainstream. Dreyfus was already a familiar face in the business before buying the Global Poker Index in 2012, and over the past four years, he's helped make the GPI a leading brand, both as a rankings authority and a promotional vehicle.
Dreyfus hasn't been coy about the risks he's taking with this new venture, or how long it might take to build the same kind of live audiences that e-sports has built over the past 15 years. Somebody has to do the innovating, though. At the very least, the GPL will show us some new bells and whistles, like the “action clock” that will limit the amount of time players will have to make decisions. Live poker has needed one of those for quite a while.