Global Poker League Q&A Session Upcoming

Alex Weldon : October 13th, 2015

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Last week, Alex Dreyfus, CEO of the Global Poker Index (GPI), released new details about his latest project, the Global Poker League (GPL), in what was the first of what he says will be three info dumps in the month of October. The focus of this first release was on “the Cube,” a modular, transportable glass structure that will serve as the arena in which Dreyfus’s “sportified” version of poker will be played.

Despite all the newly-released information, however, many misconceptions about the GPL remains, so while we wait for the next round of details to be released, Dreyfus has decided to host a Q&A session to try to clear up a few things.

The Q&A is scheduled for tomorrow, Wednesday, October 14 at 1 PM EST and will be conducted as a video conference call between Dreyfus and a few select representatives of the poker media and community, myself included. It will be live streamed through the GPL’s Twitch channel, however, so the general public will also be invited to participate with comments and questions through either Twitch chat or Twitter.

“After the announcement, I have followed and joined many conversations about the GPL on Facebook and Twitter,” Dreyfus said. “Unfortunately, it’s very hard to explain a project like the GPL in 140 characters — and that’s that’s why we decided that a public Q&A session could be a good way to move forward.”

Hopefully, we’ll get some new details out of the session, but I expect to see a lot of clarification on issues for which the information is already available, yet missed by many people due to the fragmented way in which it was released. Based on articles, forums posts and Twitter conversations I’ve seen, I think most or all of the following topics will be on the agenda.

Where’s the money coming from?

Probably the worst misunderstanding of the GPL is that it amounts to an invitational poker tour, with players putting up their own money as usual and the only difference from a typical tournament circuit being a recurring cast of players. Many have compared Dreyfus’s plans to the failed Epic Poker League for this reason.

The reality is quite different; for the players involved, the GPL will effectively be a freeroll, with all prize money being put up by the organization itself. The plan is that this money – plus profit – will be recouped by the GPL through licensing, ticketing and sales of team-branded merchandise. In short, Dreyfus’s stated goal of “sportifying” poker refers not only to the front-end presentation of the game, but also the underlying business model.

Won’t this hurt tournament poker?

One common worry put forth by the GPL’s detractors is that, even if it ultimately fails, the GPL will prove to be a distraction from the major tournament circuits such as the WSOP, WPT and EPT, all of which are struggling to some extent in the slumping poker economy.

Dreyfus is well-connected, however, and has already discussed things with the powers-that-be in the tournament world to ensure that the 2016 GPL schedule will not conflict with major events in the mainstream tournament poker scene, despite the fact that specific dates for the various tours have not yet been made public. I expect this to be a point he stresses during tomorrow’s session, as it seems to be a big concern for some.

What if the players don’t want to cooperate?

The GPL will launch with 12 teams of 5 players each, for a total of 60. Three players from each team will be drafted from the top 1000 players in the GPI rankings, while the remaining two will be “wild cards,” i.e. whoever the team owner wants. Another common question is what will happen if a team wishes to draft a player who isn’t interested in participating.

The answer here is simply that the GPL will be based on an opt-in system, where each of the GPI 1000 players will be asked in advance whether they’d be open to being drafted. It seems that many players have already expressed interest, and I’m sure that number is sufficient that filling the teams will be no trouble; I’m guessing, however, that the full list of draftable GPI 1000 players will not be made public tomorrow. It may come out in one of the other two reveals promised this month or, more likely (I would guess), closer to the actual draft day in early 2016.

Issues of inclusiveness

One big problem facing Dreyfus and the GPL in the wake of last week’s press release has been some mishandling of issues related to equality and inclusiveness.

One of the details revealed was that the GPL format will have players standing, rather than seated at a table. This raised questions about accessibility. Dreyfus initially said that the decision was non-negotiable and that players unwilling or unable to stand for the duration of a match would be excluded. He later backed down, however, and said that if, for instance, a wheelchair-bound player happened to be drafted, accommodations would be made and that the GPL will deal with that problem if and when it arises.

Meanwhile, Dreyfus landed himself in trouble over a statement made in an interview, in which he described his vision of the GPL as “six guys versus six guys raging at each other.” Although his wording is arguably ambiguous and he did clarify that he expects there to be women players in the GPL, his handling of questions on Twitter in that regard left something to be desired and probably provoked more hard feelings than the comment itself.

Compared to the other questions, which are pretty straightforwardly examples of people failing to read carefully and do their research, I expect these issues of inclusiveness to feature pretty prominently in tomorrow’s discussion. Dreyfus has blamed Twitter character limits, the limitations of live interviews and the language barrier – he is French and speaks English as a second language – for these conflicts, which he considers misunderstandings, yet there are still many who feel he owes some apologies. I think it’s inevitable, then, that he’ll face some criticism in this regard tomorrow, and how he handles it may set the tone for the GPL’s public relations in future.

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

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