“We are a small team," says Alex Dreyfus, visionary and head honcho for the upstart Global Poker League. "And we are swamped."
“We didn’t really have time to sit down, review and improve the product," he told PokerListings yesterday after the announcement of substantial changes for the remaining portion of its inaugural GPL season.
Out are the playoffs at TwitchCon in San Diego and a live final at Wembley Stadium in London. Matches won't begin again until Sept. 20 instead of the original Aug. 18.
Lower costs and a focus on the US and digital audience are in. But plenty of hope still remains for an inventive poker product that's "only reached 1%" of its potential.
"We Don’t Have a Big Enough Fan Base Yet”
The launch of the Global Poker League this spring was met with both high hopes and strong scepticism.
Aaron Paul in The Cube
It’s too early to predict its ultimate future just yet but after the first two parts of the season the GPL hasn't gained the traction - among both poker enthusiasts and casual fans - expected. Or hoped for.
After a series of lessons learned over an intriguing Summer Series in Las Vegas, with 33 days of heads-up matches in the GPL's signature arena, The Cube, it's time for a restart.
"We have everything in Vegas now," Dreyfus says, "so it’s easier to hold the finals here. And 40% of our traffic comes from the US, so they’re very important.
"We’ve also decided to put more focus on the digital than the live audience for now, as we don’t have a big enough fan base yet.”
Originally The Cube was going to be shipped first to San Diego for Twitchcon and then across to London, which would have turned out to be a logistical challenge. Spending a lot of money to host a final in front of a likely near-empty stadium clearly wouldn't have been the wisest move.
And instead of running the GPL playoffs on location at TwitchCon in San Diego (Sept 30 – Oct 2), there will be an exhibition event instead.
“We will have a booth and several GPL players, so you can play against them," Dreyfus says. "Also, we’ll have our first GPL shop where you can buy merchandise.”
Barcelona, Burning Man Obstacles to Avoid
Engaging fans and players key.
Another change is when the League will resume play. Originally set for August 18 it's now been postponed until September 20.
As the GPL learned in April, scheduling matches against big events like SCOOP doesn't help its cause. This August/Sept it has EPT Barcelona, the WCOOP and Burning Man to compete with, making most of the League unavailable.
The GPL is also looking to intensify its efforts to involve and engage poker fans and players.
“We want to have a fan-centric platform," Dreyfus says, "with creative tools to connect the players and the audience.
"You’ll not only be able to watch them play but also to bet on the matches, to play them yourself, buy merchandise products.”
To handle the workload the GPL will hire more staff, Dreyfus says, both for the Vegas and the Malta offices. North America will focus on content and poker with the technical and merchandising departments based in Europe.
Mastering the Balance
Despite the inaugural growing pains there's no plan, Dreyfus says, to give up fighting for the GPL's spot in the poker industry.
If you set out to revolutionize the poker industry you won't do it in three months. And teething problems are normal for every entrepreneurial adventure.
As Dreyfus himself has put it: “We try, we fail, we adjust.”
No matter what the changes beget for the rest of Season 1, or the size of audience the GPL garners in the next couple of months, its fate will not be decided this year.
The clock is ticking, though, with the balancing act of pleasing the audience, players and investors across two vastly differently sports worlds a challenge not to take lightly.