Hit and Run: JungleCam for the Win, DFS Illegal in Alabama and Tennessee, High Times Casino?

Alex Weldon : April 6th, 2016
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Dan “Jungleman” Cates may have just made believers of everyone still on the fence about the Global Poker League. Daily Fantasy Sports has lost two more US states in the past two days. DraftKings jumps on board the “Mission” train. Pot-culture magazine High Times may open a marijuana-themed casino in Las Vegas. And more.

What the GPL was Missing: Swear Words and Trash Talk?

When I wrote about the first day of the Global Poker League (GPL) this morning, a lot of people still seemed ambivalent about how much entertainment value was to be had from it, and whether it could succeed. This afternoon, Berlin Bears wildcard pick Daniel “Jungleman” Cates may have singlehandedly dispelled those doubts, having produced many of the most entertaining moments in the short history of “sportified” poker over the course of his three-game series of heads-up matches against Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier of the Paris Aviators.

Today’s matches, which also included Randy “nanonoko” Lew v. Sergey Lebedev and Timothy Adams v. Justin “ZeeJustin” Bonomo (the latter being played as I write), have featured the important addition of webcams and mics for the players, allowing the online audience to experience their reactions and occasional comments. Lew and Lebedev were mostly stone-faced and silent throughout their match, though Lew began to show signs of enjoying himself towards the end. Jungleman, on the other hand, provided a running, expletive-laden commentary throughout his matches, which caused the GPL to slap a Parental Advisory on its Twitch channel.

Jungleman’s antics proved incredibly popular with the Twitch chatbox crowd, who immediately began demanding that commentators Griffin Benger and Sam Grafton stop talking so as to be able to hear Cates better. Benger and Grafton indulged them eventually, stepping out of the way to let Cates do his thing. The result was an impressive amount of love for the GPL both on Twitch and on Twitter, showing just how different the mentality and tastes of the streaming audience is from that of more mainstream televised sports fans – or, if not, then how wrong the conventional wisdom of outlets like ESPN may be.

In the end, Cates ran only slightly better than in yesterday’s six-max matches, producing just a single win and 3 points for his team, while ElkY netted 6. Although the Bears remain in dead last in the Eurasian standings, Cates has made them the early winners in terms of marketing to fans. Indeed, he proved more entertaining the more frustrated he became, and it’s surely the case that plenty of viewers are already planning on tuning back in the next time he plays.

That feedback clearly had an impact on other players in the league, as Bonomo and Adams have been much chattier than Lew and Lebedev were in their earlier matches, commenting on their decision-making and even cracking jokes for the benefit of the audience. Benger and Grafton have likewise reduced the pace and volume of their own chatter, filling in the silences but quieting down when necessary to give the stage to the players.

Quick Hitters

- Tennessee and Alabama have both joined the ever-growing list of states to have declared daily fantasy sports (DFS) to be a form of illegal gambling. The legal status of the fledgling industry has been under close scrutiny ever since last fall’s so-called “DKLeak” scandal.

- Meanwhile, DFS industry leader DraftKings has jumped on board the same player rewards trend currently sweeping the online poker world. Usually described with words like “Missions” or “Challenges,” the incentives system gives players certain targets to hit in terms of play volume, stakes, game type, etc. in return for fixed or randomized rewards. In DraftKings’s case, the rewards are in the form of its Frequent Player Points, which it still gives out the regular way, albeit at one-third the previous rate.

- As the movement to legalize marijuana gradually gains steam (or smoke) in the US, pot culture magazine High Times is planning on trying to capitalize on the trend by opening a weed-themed casino in Las Vegas. Although currently only medical marijuana is legal in Nevada, the state will soon vote on legislation which, if passed, would have it following in Colorado’s footsteps in legalizing the regulated sale of the drug for recreational purposes.

- Daniel Negreanu will grace the Eureka Poker Tour with his presence at its Bucarest stop. Although even the “high roller” there will be well below his usual stakes, Negreanu’s family hails from Romania, so one would assume his reasons for making the trip involve getting in touch with his heritage and promoting his personal brand in that part of the world.

- Another poker player of Romanian descent – this one by birth – is Valentin Vornicu, who has just won his 8th WSOP Circuit ring. This puts him in a three-way tie for second, and only one ring away from current record-holder Alex Masek, who has nine. With Vornicu, Ari Engel and Chris Reslock breathing down his neck, Masek’s days alone at the top may be numbered.

- Yesterday, we mentioned in the Hit and Run that Paddy Power was laying off several hundred employees in Ireland and the UK. Some of those unfortunate workers may well find new homes at Bet365, which is opening a new office in Manchester. Unfortunately, the expected payroll will only include 50 to 70 staff, or about a fifth the number of Paddy Power employees who’ve lost their jobs in the UK alone.

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