Over the last 10 years, everybody who has tried to shoehorn poker into a "team" event has, more or less, failed.
There have been some fun events, sure. But none that have truly captured the imagination of the poker fan and become a celebrated, annual event.
Global Poker Index CEO Alex Dreyfus thinks that's about to change.
Loosely dubbed "Poker's World Cup," the first-ever Global Poker Masters team event is building momentum daily for its debut event in March.
Over 30 of the world's best players have agreed to participate and there is unquestionably going to be some high-end, dramatic poker.
But not everyone has bought in to Dreyfus's vision yet - including two key French industry leaders.
All About Patches
As with any debut event, unexpected problems have materialized before the cards are even in the air.
The premise of the Global Poker Masters is that the players chosen to represent each country are determined by their rankings in the Global Poker Index.
After the list of qualifying players for the French "dream team" was published, however, trouble arose.
Two of those players - Fabrice Soulier and Benjamin Pollak - were informed by their respective sponsors, Everest Poker and Betclic, they wouldn't be allowed to participate.
“The reason why Fabrice and Benjamin are not playing," Dreyfus told PokerListings at EPT Deauville, "is because their sponsors said they have to wear the patch.
“However, as we’re trying to bring in non-gaming related sponsors next year, we want this event to be completely devoid of any poker promotions. We’re going to keep it ‘clean’, so to speak.”
“Also, patches don’t even make sense here as the players are representing their country. If a football player wears the national team’s jersey, he can’t have any sponsor’s patch either.”
These preconditions are part of the longer GPI strategy to “sportify” poker, which in a few words means to make it acceptable for the mainstream media.
“Unfortunately, for some of the potential sponsors poker advertisement can be toxic, so we can’t have it," explains Dreyfus.
ElkY, Bruel Among Replacements
Although both Soulier and Pollak voiced their interest in taking part, it won't happen for Year 1. The situation will be similar for most teams with not all of the top four qualfiying players able to commit.
Other top-ranked players in the GPI, such as Belgian Davidi Kitai, also won't play as Belgium is not one of the top-ranked countries.
Despite not having Kitai or the French national #2 and #3 ranked players, plenty of other top-ranked pros have agreed to participate.
Soulier and Pollak will be replaced by Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier (122) and Patrick Bruel (1477). The French team will be completed by French player of the Year Erwann Pecheux (75), former November Niner Sylvain Loosli (153), and Paul Tedeschi (141).
World #1 Ole Schemion will also play for Team Germany alongside former #1 Marvin Rettenmeier, George Danzer and Martin Finger.
Sam Trickett will replace GPI #11 Stephen Chidwick for the UK and Bryn Kenney will fill in for Dan Colman for the US. Check the full updated list of players for each team here.
Live Stream Without Delay
For those curious about the structure of the Global Poker Masters events, there will be a first round of Sit and Gos on the first day.
Five tables of eight players, one from each country, will get things started. The second round will be heads-up tournaments.
The final will be a table of the six players who accumulated the most points (althought the structure is still subject to change).
The Global Poker Masters final will be the first televised event to show hole cards without any delay.
“As we have a shot clock, and the players are not going to have WiFi or anything like that at the table, we don’t need to wait," Dreyfus said.
"Also, we want bookmakers to be able to offer live betting in real time. We’re going to publish a number of partnerships very soon.”
Earn Your Place
While a legacy of "failed" team events lays before him, Dreyfus believes the GPM has all the ingredients to be the one that sticks - even if is stumbles out of the starting blocks.
“There are plenty of reasons" to believe, Dreyfus says. "The first one is that if your first sexual experience was bad, doesn’t mean you cannot try again – and I’m not talking about my own judgment here, of course.
"The second reason is that in the past, team events weren’t legit. Here you have to earn your place for three years to become a team member.”
More detail and up-to-date news reports on the Global Poker Masters here.