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Did Best Team Really Win at Global Poker Masters? It Doesn't Matter
Can a game like poker be a team event AND interesting to the mainstream media?
The first-ever Global Poker Masters, held at the Hilton Hotel during the just-completed EPT Malta festival, gave us an idea.
When Team Italy won the first unofficial "World Cup of Poker" they celebrated as if Italy had just scored in the football World Cup final.
It was the climax of a remarkable development.
Typical for Poker Players
Thirty-six hours earlier, when the Global Poker Masters got underway, the vast majority of players and spectators were very suspicious.
The system was complicated, the schedule was long and no "Team Poker" event had ever been successful.
It also became obvious quickly that at least half of the players hadn’t even looked at the event and didn’t have an idea of what was going on -- even after the event had already started.
Of course, this is typical behavior of many poker players.
Much like the way only three players actually answered organizer Alex Dreyfus’ email invites to play.
But almost all of them were there.
I could see a few players start to think more about what they were doing after they blew off their stack in the first round of SnGs. You could almost read it on their faces.
Suddenly, they realized they actually had to play a little smarter or they’d hurt their whole team.
After a couple of hours, the strategy talks amongst the team had considerably intensified and a form of team spirit had evolved that is usually not present in a poker room.
A Fan Culture Evolved
The same thing happened to the people who were following the live stream.
Thanks to Twitch.tv the whole event was presented with hole cards and only a 30-second delay with commentary in four different languages.
In the beginning few people were watching and the comments were mostly negative.
By the end of Day 2 an obvious us-against-them feeling had formed -- no matter which of the seven remaining countries the viewers came from.
A fan culture had evolved.
The French Seemed to Argue a Lot
It was also fascinating to watch the intra-team dynamics. The Italian team was brimming with good vibes and they were thoroughly enjoying themselves.
Apparently, that was a good way to take on the challenge.
The French seemed to argue a lot.
Patrick Bruel didn’t look very happy when he wasn’t nominated for the heads-up round, although he’d made the most points for the French team on Day 1.
You know what happened. France became the only team to lose all three heads-up matches.
In the US team there was a lot of strategy talk. Not surprisingly, they considered themselves favorites -- “unbeatable” even, as Bryn Kenney put it -- but then the Dan Smith decision came upon us.
There was also the rumor that the English team was lacking team spirit and that they wouldn’t hang out together – an accusation occasionally heard about their national football team, too.
But it has to be said that team member Simon Deadman told us that this wasn’t true at all.
Something That Could Really Catch On
The Germans always pride themselves on great team spirit, no matter the sport, and they certainly had it at the GPM.
Also, they seemed to rely a lot on “mastermind” George Danzer to figure out the strategy.
“Danzer was also the first of all the 40 players who understood the event structure," one of my media colleagues jokingly remarked.
The Ukrainians and Russians also talked a lot, but with them I’m never really sure whether they're joking or arguing. Forgive me my ignorance, please.
Anyway, when the Italian players were singing their national anthem at the winners' ceremony it felt like this could be something that really catches on.
Certainly, this was something unseen before.
The Goal in Long Run is Global Poker League
Ok, not everything was perfect. The hole cards were often not visible on the screen, for example, and in some cases might even have been shown incorrectly.
I didn’t mind it that much, as I like the bits in poker shows where they don’t show you the cards until the end of the hand, so you can guess yourself.
Also, I do think that an event like this needs a live audience, but of course you can’t simply let people in because it would open doors to all sorts of fraud.
Yet, GPM inventor Alex Dreyfus has high hopes – and plans.
For next year he plans to have 12 teams instead of eight, and at least one extra day so there can be a proper “final day” with only two teams left.
If the EPT comes back to Malta, he considers this environment as perfect for the GPM.
Apart from that the goal in the long run is the Global Poker League that might see cities, casinos, clubs or other forms of teams going against each other.
The dream is to have a weekly poker show like you have your sports show on the weekend in most countries.
Obviously, in most countries readers are now thinking football, but I’m sure you Americans get my point, too.
"It's Just That We Won Today"
All of this is of course only possible if Dreyfus manages to get the mainstream sports industry on board.
Which is why there were no poker room patches allowed and no official prize money at the first GPM -- so the focus would be on the trophy.
Can this work? A week ago I would have answered no. Now I say maybe.
Oh, and the most important question: Did the GPM prove that poker is a skill? And did the best team really win?
Before you even think about answering this question, hear this: It doesn’t matter.
The best team doesn’t always win. That applies to any game, be it football, chess or beer pong. Nobody wins 100% of the time.
I’d rather go with Rocco Palumbo of the champion Italian team, who said:
“I wouldn’t say we won because we’re the best. There were a lot of good teams; it’s just that we won today!”