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5 Reasons the Global Poker League Will Succeed Wildly (& 5 It Won’t)
The Global Poker League (GPL) is a fortnight old and already it's changed the poker landscape.
The view isn't more beautiful. It's nothing like that. However, when I look at the world of poker today - it's all I see.
It's everywhere in the poker media. And already it's hard to see a poker world without the GPL.
But what key factors will Alex Dreyfus and his team need to push to make sure the GPL will succeed beyond its wildest dreams?
And what are the few simmering pans of trouble that need a lid?
1. The Webcam
When Dreyfus suggested to the GPL Team Managers that webcams would be used for heads-up matches, they were up for it but with a caveat: They wanted the opponents to interact.
Thankfully he talked them out of it. We are witnessing history in the making.
Never before have we seen heads-up matches showing both players' hole cards while listening to them both talk through their thought processes.
"I wanted the audience to be inside their heads," said Dreyfus. And we are.
Watch the Daniel ‘Jungleman' Cates v Bertrand ‘ElkY' Grospellier heads-up match and then watch it again with the audio switched off and a couple of Post-It notes on your screen. It’s not as exciting now, is it?
Potential Setback: The Six-Max
Watching online poker can be boring. Hence the introduction of the webcams.
In the first few weeks the six-max action has been devoid of emotion. Granted, we're in the early stages and things will get more absorbing when the fight for the playoffs begins. But at this rate something needs to change here.
2. The Characters
When the creators of Late Night Poker first drew up their battle plans, there were no plans for a commentary team.
The plan was to mic up the players and let them do the talking. When it came to game time, though, the players froze. There was nothing but silence. The producers knew their idea wouldn't work.
How can watching Daniel ‘Jungleman' Cates yawn on camera be entertaining? It's the Jungleman. He's not trying to entertain you, but he does.
It's precisely the fact that Jungleman is not trying to entertain that sends us to the infirmary with cracked ribs. People trying too hard to be entertaining won't cut it.
People who are naturally compelling because of who they are is a vital component of what will make this work. The addition of Aaron Paul into the LA Sunset lineup is also genius.
To sign a star at the peak of his powers, in the first year, will prove to be critical. There are strong ties between our top poker players and the top celebrities in the game; Aaron Paul has paved the way for more to follow.
Potential Setback: Stars Can Be Dull
These days players are used to being in the limelight. They've starred on TV or stream on Twitch. So they won't freeze. But the stars of today can still be dull.
Let's go back to the most famous match in GPL history: Jungleman v ElkY. Who is talking about ElkY now?
He looked the business in his shades. And the contrast between him and the Jungleman was sublime. But the Frenchman didn't entertain.
That won't cut it moving forward. ElkY had his game face on. He was focused on winning. Let's hope everyone loosens up and does a Jungleman as the league grows.
3. Entrepreneurial Drive
Social media can be an ally but it can also be your enemy. There's so much pressure to get things perfect on/from Day 1.
I applaud the GPL for taking the risk of starting without all of their ducks in a row. The Frenchman knows that unless he takes action he will never be able to iron out the kinks.
He needs kinks. He's not afraid of them. In a way, because of his daredevil attitude, the poker community can help the GPL become the product they will love.
It will work because Alex Dreyfus had the minerals to take action.
Potential Setback: Patience
Not everyone understands the entrepreneurial spirit. Not everyone will have empathy with the boldness that Dreyfus has shown in just getting this shit done.
People need to have patience - not everyone will. Sometimes we may see two flops. Sometimes the webcams will break.
Sometimes the cut sequences will be so slow Sam Grafton will look like Timothy Mallett on valium.
If people don't have patience and aren't able to tap into the Frenchman's vision, then we may have a problem.
4. The Pace
The speed of the games is great. They fly by, and that will keep the spectators interested.
After the first two weeks the average time spent watching the GPL is 40 minutes and I think that's largely in part to the quickness of the games.
However, I think the shot clocks are a little generous.
We have a Catch 22 situation because most of the intense emotional situations have arisen because players have been deep into the tank (who can forget the Tom Marchese 4-minute tank shove and fold by Anthony Zinno).
But I would like to see the pressure applied a little harder -- especially in the heads-up matches.
Potential Setback: The Length
The schedule is long and I question how many people can digest all of this content. I'd also like to see the scores removed from the replays so I can catch up on my own time without knowing the result beforehand.
I also feel the level of professionalism with Dreyfus’s team dips the longer the night goes on. I tuned in late last night and Benger and Grafton looked ready to fall asleep.
We need to keep this fresh and exciting.
5. The Support Team
When I first tuned into the action on Day 1 it struck me that Griffin Benger and Sam Grafton were going to be responsible for the success or failure of the GPL.
That's one hell of a responsibility to pile onto the shoulders of two rookie commentators.
Fortunately, Dreyfus chose wisely. They gel and have the right blend of humor and knowledge of the game. They were also wise enough to shut up and let Jungleman (and Galfond and Mercier) do the commentary for them, and that showed class.
I also believe Laura Cornelius is doing a great job … when scripted. She comes across as such a professional and I would throw her in front of the Sky Sports cameras tomorrow.
I also like Eric Danis's role in the team. He reminds me of a stat geek that lives in his basement and never sees the light of day.
Potential Setback: The Burnout
I think there could be some tweaking done to make this even better. Sky Sports News doesn't have one set of anchors; it has many. This keeps the coverage fresh, and it needs to be because it's a 24/7 news show.
The GPL isn't 24/7 but the days are long. Benger and Grafton need support. It would keep them sharp. I know costs need to be kept low but it would be good to have alternate commentary teams.
Cornelius is on top of her game when scripted but she doesn't have that same air of confidence when things start going tits up. I think Jesse May would be an excellent link man between the commentary team and the couch.
Cornelius could present, with a little help from Kara Scott or Sarah Herring, and May can be the glue. He is the master of making shit up as he goes along.
Another good night on the #GPL!— Kat Arnsby (@ThePokerBaffer) April 13, 2016
Play is fascinating, Laura's hot, GrifGraf on form and the homeless guy looks comfy on the sofa.
I almost forgot. Danis needs help and quick. He looks, at times, like he sleeps on that couch. He needs some regular guests.