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What Poker Can Learn From The Ryder Cup
The first time I watched a football match was in 1982.
It was West Germany vs. Italy in the World Cup and my uncle woke me up saying, “You have to watch this game.”
I remember Harald Schumacher sending Patrick Battiston to the hospital, the grace and elegance of Michel Platini.
And it was the first time I learned that if you reach a penalty shootout against the Germans, you will lose.
Every Two Years, the World Stopped
In 1986 my mother allowed me to sneak downstairs to watch the England games during the World Cup in Mexico.
England were dire in the qualifying groups, but when Lineker came alive it was the first time that I thought we would win the World Cup.
Then Diego Maradona broke my heart.
Every two years thereafter I would watch England take part in either the European Championships or the World Cup. It didn’t matter what was going on in my life at that moment - the world stopped.
I am not nationalistic but when it comes to football I turn into an England diehard. There is something about sport that makes you want to go to war. It’s primal.
So it pains me to have to acknowledge that we haven’t won a major tournament since 1966. And even then it was in our own backyard.
Over the years we have had some great teams and the question of a lack of nationalistic pride is often cited in media circles as one of the reasons England has failed to light up a tournament.
The Premier League has turned footballers into multi-millionaires. When your club is paying you a weekly six-figure sum, where does the desire to play for your country enter the equation?
The players rebuke this assertion. They believe it’s a myth. The results speak for themselves.
The Global Poker Masters
Alexander Dreyfus is doing for poker what the minds behind the English Premier League did for European football.
The brilliant Frenchman has worked it out. We have something special. Our little game is creating prize money that can only be matched by the sport of boxing.
In 2013, in fact, Daniel Negreanu banked more money through ‘playing’ than David Beckham. Where Beckham has the run on Negreanu is through sponsorship deals.
It’s the power of the most respected and watched sport in the world versus the tainted game that’s played by hustlers in the darkest corners of the world.
Latching on to this premise, Dreyfus has launched into a one-man mission to turn poker into a recognizable and respected sport.
In the past few months alone he has announced plans to launch the first-ever American Poker Awards. Alongside its European Poker Awards cousin, we now have the Oscars of poker.
Dreyfus has also revealed plans to host a Global Poker Conference some time in the first quarter of 2015. An event that will run concurrently in both America and Europe, pulling together the greatest minds in the game to brainstorm ways of helping push poker to a more global audience.
His baby - the Global Poker Index (GPI) - has become recognized as the one true ranking system in the industry. This week he signed a deal with CineSport to showcase poker video segments to over 30 newspaper sites in the US.
Then you have the Global Poker Masters.
The Champions League of Poker
When the news first broke that Dreyfus was planning to host an annual Global Poker Masters event I was excited.
I have always viewed the GPI as the Champions League of poker. The European Poker Tour (EPT), World Poker Tour (WPT) and the World Series of Poker (WSOP) are like the Premier League, Bundesliga and La Liga.
The GPI is where the very best in the game fight it out to discover who the very best actually are. When I learned that the event would be a team one, my heart sank a little bit.
I couldn’t help thinking about my beloved England and the footballers that I put all my faith in when the World Cup comes around. If they can’t find the fire in their bellies to put on a good show, how will the poker players manage?
Poker is a game where money is the fundamental component. It’s like the football in football. There is no game without money. It becomes sex without the orgasm.
The Global Poker Masters would be a $10,000 buy-in with $100,000 in additional prize money added to the prize pool by the GPI.
The tournament would consist of the top nine countries, as ranked by the GPI, and populated by the four best players as ranked by the GPI based on their performance in the past 12 months.
Will poker players take this seriously? Dreyfus believes that in order for poker to be elevated as a sport, an international team concept is the way forward.
But poker is an individual sport. There is no team in poker.
So Why Does the Ryder Cup Work So Well?
That's what I call a team effort! Everyone played their part this week, so proud to be a part of #TeamEurope. Captain McGinley = phenomenal— Rory Mcilroy (@McIlroyRory) September 28, 2014
That tweet was sent by golf's world number one player Rory McIlroy after the Europeans defeated the Americans 16 1/2 to 11 1/2 in the 2014 Ryder Cup.
Golf, like poker, is an individual sport. Putting together a team concept in golf shouldn’t work.
Remove nationalistic pride by merging the European countries into Team Europe and the desire and hunger should diminish even further.
So why does it work so well? Why are players sinking to their knees, why are eyeballs hanging by a thread, why are tears streaming down grown men’s face?
I've heard many sports analysts say that the Ryder Cup might be the greatest sporting event in the world. It doesn’t make sense. But it works.
Golf and poker are similar in so many ways. Can the Global Poker Masters become the Ryder Cup of poker?
Your Poker Needs You
I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know that it’s given me cause for hope.
The Ryder Cup takes place biennially. The FIFA World Cup and the Olympics take place every four years.
Perhaps the Global Poker Masters needs to follow suit? Create some distance and make every moment special.
Dreyfus will do all he can to put on the greatest show that poker has ever seen. He will fight tooth and nail to find sponsors from outside the gambling industry. Promoters with a global pull and money to put into the game.
In the meantime the players also have a very important part to play. Without their passion and enthusiasm the Global Poker Masters is nothing.
So I am calling upon all you poker players. When the Global Poker Masters comes calling, put aside your financial dreams, forget individuality and dig deep to find that national pride.
Your poker needs you!