With all the talk about the upcoming Global Poker League (GPL), it would be easy to forget about Global Poker Index (GPI) CEO Alex Dreyfus’s previous attempt to “sportify” poker, the Global Poker Masters (GPM). He hasn’t forgotten, though, and it’s going to be back next year, albeit rebranded as the GPI World Cup.

Highs and lows from the first time around

The inaugural GPM, this past March, was what you could call a modest success. Eight nations competed, with five representatives from each. Ultimately, it was Italy who came out on top, defeating Russia 3-0 in the final to capture the title.

The response from the players involved was mostly positive. Most importantly, that first trial answered the number one question that had been asked when the GPM was initially announced, which was whether professional poker players would really be motivated to play in an event that was largely about national pride, rather than money. The answer was yes.

That’s not to say that there weren’t problems. The number one critique of the event was that the format was hugely confusing. I don’t think anyone looked at the “explanatory” infographic and understood how things were actually going to work. That’s certainly going to be something that Dreyfus and his team will be looking to do better on this time around.

Dreyfus is in the habit of releasing info a little at a time, rather than unveiling his products all at once. This morning’s press release was typical in that regard, giving us a partial picture of what the 2016 GPI World Cup will look like, while leaving a few questions unanswered.

Qualification process

There will now be twelve countries participating, rather than the original eight. Italy, as the defending champions, gets an automatic spot. After this, it comes down to GPI World Cup Rankings, which are based on the combined total scores of each country’s top three players in the 2015 GPI Player of the Year race, plus its top seven players in the GPI World Poker Rankings as of July 20, 2016 – a date chosen because it immediately follows the conclusion of the World Series of Poker (WSOP).

In addition to Italy’s automatic qualification, the top country in each of the GPI World Cup’s four regions – North America, South America, Europe and Asia-Pacific – will also qualify regardless of position in the overall standings. This is primarily relevant for the Asia-Pacific region, where Australia will likely qualify despite being ranked 17th overall; the other regions’ top countries are all comfortably within the Top 12.

The remaining seven teams will simply be the top seven overall, excluding those who have already qualified. As things stand today, the qualifying countries would be: Italy, USA, Germany, Argentina, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, Russia, France, Ukraine, Spain and Austria. A lot can change, however, and Belgium, Poland, Brazil and Bulgaria are all within shooting distance of Austria for the bottom spot.

The number of players per team has meanwhile been reduced from five to four. These will consist of the country’s top two players in the GPI World Poker Rankings, its Player of the Year, plus a Wildcard slot, the selection process for which is to be determined, but will presumably involve the other three players.

Tournament structure

As one would expect, the tournament structure has been massively simplified. Most of the complexities of the inaugural GPM seemed to stem from the decision to have every country play every other country in the preliminary round, and from having too many separate stages of play – preliminary, quarter-final, semi-final and final. There were only eight teams to begin with, so the preliminary and quarter-final rounds each only eliminated one team and had to employ a complex structure to do so.

This time around, the structure is considerably simpler. The twelve teams will be divided into three groups of four, much the same system as employed in other international sporting events. A round-robin series of heads-up matches will be played in each group, with the winner of each group advancing to the final.

A total of four teams will reach the final, so with only three groups, this leaves one place open. This means that there will be a sort of last chance “Playoff” round following the group stage, in which the teams which failed to qualify battle it out for the final seat. The exact way that this will work is another of the details which is to be determined.

Live finals in the Cube

Unlike last year’s event, the final round of the 2016 GPI World Cup is to be played in front of a live audience. This has been made possible due to “the Cube,” a box which was constructed out of one-way, soundproof glass for the Global Poker League.

Since the finals for the GPL’s inaugural season are expected to come just after the WSOP, and this is when the final qualifiers for the GPI World Cup will be announced, it seems that the latter is now intended to be a fall event, during the GPL’s off-season and probably slotted somewhere in between major European Poker Tour (EPT) stops.

Dreyfus has also indicated previously that the GPL is going to be targeted primarily at an American audience, while the GPI World Cup is aimed at an international audience. Next year’s GPI World Cup finals can therefore be expected to be held somewhere in Europe, although the exact venue has not yet been announced.

Further details are expected to be released in the coming weeks.

Alex Weldon (@benefactumgames) is a freelance writer, game designer and semipro poker player from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.