Earlier this week, Alex Dreyfus gave us a teaser for the upcoming Global Poker League (GPL) draft, announcing one of the twelve teams – the Las Vegas Moneymakers – and its manager, who is of course Chris Moneymaker himself. The other eleven were scheduled to be made public today, and indeed, earlier this morning Dreyfus tweeted them out as promised.
Dreyfus is the CEO of Mediarex Entertainment, the parent company of the Global Poker Index (GPI) and Global Poker League, as well as the Hendon Mob tournament results database. The GPL has been in the works since late 2014, but it was only this fall that the details of how it will work were announced.
Sorry, but I'm gonna tweet a lot in the new hour @GPL. So here we go.
— Alexandre Dreyfus (@alex_dreyfus) January 13, 2016
The GPL will consist of twelve teams in two conferences: Americas and Eurasia. The season will consist of a draft day, to be held on February 25th this year, followed by a regular season and finally playoffs to determine a final, global winner. Some regular season matches will played online, some in a television studio environment, and others in “the Cube,” a massive glass enclosure allowing matches to be held in an arena environment in front of a live audience without the spectators interfering with play.
Single owner, multiple managers
Along with the team names and logos, some important new information has been revealed about how the league will operate. Initially, the plan was for the GPL itself to take an oversight and organizational role, and for each team to have a separate, individual owner and investor. That has now changed; all teams will be owned directly by the league itself. Steve Ruddock wrote a good explanation over at USPoker of what advantages this provide, and Dreyfus told me that the decision was also made in part because the cost to own a single team proved in fact to be too small-ball for the interested parties, who preferred to invest larger sums and own a piece of all the teams as well as of the league itself. Under this new system, managers and players alike be paid directly by the league, in a combination of a guaranteed hourly rate, performance bonuses and a share of the team’s revenues, which in turn will come from ticket sales, merchandising and sponsorship.
The managers’ first responsibility will be to make all drafting decisions, after which they will take on more of a scheduling and PR role for the remainder of the season. The draft will be streamed online on February 28 and will be hosted in person by Kara Scott and a to-be-determined co-host, while Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth provide analysis and color commentary for online viewers.
Draft opt-in starts tomorrow, managers can self-draft
Players have to opt in to be draftable, and the first three chosen by each team must be among the top 1000 live tournament players as ranked by the GPI. The opt-in process for GPI 1000 candidates will be done through a website going live tomorrow, although a few really big names have already expressed the intention to do so, including Jason Mercier, Anthony Zinno, Byron Kaverman and Fedor Holz. Each team will also have two wildcard slots available, which can be used either for additional GPI 1000 players who opted in but weren’t drafted, or for anyone else the manager wishes to draft and can convince to play. In an interesting twist, the managers will be allowed to draft themselves (either as a regular or wildcard pick) if they wish to play, though not other managers for obvious reasons.
— Alexandre Dreyfus (@alex_dreyfus) January 13, 2016
In order to help build a following, players and coaches will all be required to commit to two seasons, and Season One teams will only be allowed to swap up to two players from their roster in the second season draft. At the same time, new expansion teams are expected to be added for the second season. The exact number will depend on how popular the GPL proves in its first season, but Dreyfus says that 4 to 6 would be a good guess.
The twelve Season One teams and their managers are as follows.
Las Vegas Moneymakers
Manager: Chris Moneymaker
You may not see Moneymaker at a lot of final tables these days and he’s the only manager who isn’t himself in the GPI 1000, but his name is one that the poker world will never forget. Aside from having the perfect aptronym for a poker ambassador, it was his win in the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event that kicked off the poker boom and made the industry what it is today.
Los Angeles Sunset
Manager: Maria Ho
One of three women managers in the GPL, Ho brings a lot to the table for the league as she has as much experience as a media figure as a poker player. She has $2.6 million in tournament earnings, but has also appeared on The Amazing Race and American Idol, plus countless televised or streamed poker appearances both as a player and commentator.
New York Rounders
Manager: Bryn Kenney
Bryn Kenney is arguably the best and certainly the currently hottest poker player among the twelve managers, at least if you believe the GPI, which has him at #6 in the world. He’s off to a hot start in 2016 too, having won the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Super High Roller for nearly $1.7 million and cashed the $50,000 High Roller for good measure. Assuming he feels that he has the time to play, Kenney is one of the managers you would strongly expect to consider drafting himself as a player.
San Francisco Rush
Manager: Faraz Jaka
At #92 in the GPI currently, Jaka is the second-highest rated player among the managers. Although his name might not carry the same recognition as the game’s biggest ambassadors, his outgoing personality and positivity are well-suited to the role, and he seems to be fairly popular and active on the poker forums. Jaka is another manager you’d expect to have a high chance of deciding to self-draft.
Manager: Marc-André Ladouceur
Ladouceur is a Team Online player for PokerStars, where he plays under the moniker ‘FrenchDawg.’ Although he’s back in Montreal these days, like many professional players from Canada, he has spent plenty of time south of the border over the years and owns a nightclub in North Carolina.
São Paulo Metropolitans
Manager: André Akkari
Another Team PokerStars member, Akkari stumbled into poker by accident while working in the website and e-commerce industry, but quickly discovered found it to be his true calling. He won a WSOP gold bracelet in 2011 and has continued to perform well both in live and online poker since then and is closing in on $5 million in combined earnings.
Manager: Liv Boeree
Boeree is yet another Team PokerStars member, and the second of our three women managers. She holds a European Poker Tour title from 2010 and, like Maria Ho, has had success in reality television and as a poker media personality as well as at the felt. She’s also active in the effective altruism movement and a co-founder of the Raising for Effective Giving (REG) meta-charity, which may see some of poker’s more progressive fans rooting for her and her team.
Manager: Fabrice Soulier
Born in Avignon, France, Fabrice Soulier now lives in Las Vegas, but frequently travels back to Europe for EPT events. He holds two titles and a high roller win in the EPT, plus a WSOP gold bracelet. Before poker, he had a career in media, but as a director of two shows, rather than a television personality himself. He can probably therefore be counted on to do a good job of marketing his team.
Manager: Max Pescatori
The “Italian Pirate” Max Pescatori enjoys huge popularity in his native country, as evinced by the fact that Italian poker fans managed to rally enough votes to have him nominated for the WSOP Hall of Fame short list this year. He’s the author of two of the only poker books written, rather than translated into Italian and, like the man himself, his team can be expected to generate a lot of patriotic support. For that reason, I think it’s likely that he’ll draft himself, as whatever edge he might be giving up in winning the championship would be made up for in marketing value, as Italian fans will want to see him play.
Manager: Philipp Gruissem
Although only #574 in the GPI, you could make a case for him having the most impressive credentials of the coaches, as he plays almost exclusively against the toughest competition in the world. He has nearly $10 million in live cashes, almost all of which comes from high roller and super high roller events. These events are unique in poker as the fields consist mostly of top pros, so the style of play tends more towards unexploitability than exploitation, so Gruissem is another guy who may prove valuable to his team as a player as well as its manager.
Manager: Anatoly Filatov
Filatov may be the least-known of the managers, at least outside of his native Russia, and also one of the youngest, at only 26 years old. He’s been playing poker for seven years and live tournaments for three. He’s certainly been active in that time, with 35 live cashes to his name, but most of these in EPT and WPT National side events, so his success has been largely off-camera.
Hong Kong Stars
Manager: Celina Lin
Lin is our third woman manager and, like Boeree, a member of Team PokerStars. Lin is originally from Shanghai, but gambling is illegal in China, so she got her start while traveling in Australia. Now, she plays mostly online and in Macau, although not in the insane nosebleed games Asia’s gambling capital is known for. She has been crushing the smaller buy-in tournaments there since late 2007 and has been described as “China’s Queen of Poker,” but has so far not made the trip to play any American or European tournaments, except for an appearance at last summer’s WSOP.
Alex Weldon (@benefactumgames) is a freelance writer, game designer and semipro poker player from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.