Buying and building up the Global Poker Index into the definitive poker tournament ranking system of today, Alex Dreyfus understands what it takes to overcome poker's past and re-shape the industry's expectations and perceptions.
Case in point: After years of failed "Team Poker" events, Dreyfus organized the first-ever Global Poker Masters in March of this year.
Looking nothing like team events that had come before, the 8-team, Nation-driven affair drew heaps of doubt before it ever hit the ground.
Despite some early teething pains, by event's end he had proven - to many, at least - his 'sportify poker' dream had some legs.
His next great project, the 14-week Global Poker League due to launch in early 2016, will expand on those same 'sportifying' principles to take his mission to the next level.
Dreyfus revealed a few early details about the GPL in a release last week and immediately began feeling the skepticism of the poker world via social media. In response he's set up a no-holds-barred Q&A session tomorrow night at 7 PM CET on http://www.twitch.tv/gpl.
We met up with the French poker entrepreneur in Malta 24 hours prior to get a sneak peek at a few of his answers.
PokerListings: What's happened since the Global Poker Masters?
Alex Dreyfus: The GPM showed that team events mattered to players. They were willing to wear their national jerseys. The team spirit was there.
Don’t forget that there was no buy-in and literally nothing to win. Many industry leaders didn’t think it could be pulled off.
The players were willing to spend time for the event. The ego factor kicked in and the bragging rights apparently were important enough, too. The 30 second shot clock proved to be successful.
The GPM will come back, too, but it’ll be renamed the GPI World Cup. Live streaming on Twitch also showed that there is an audience who wants to watch an event like this. Over a million viewers tuned in over the course of three days.
PokerListings: What’s the playing format going to be?
Alex Dreyfus: There will be three different arenas: the online arena, the studio arena and the live arena.
There will be weekly events online. The GPI has built their own platform for that to be independent of the already existing poker clients.
Besides, the GPI game will be a lot more interactive. It’s going to be possible to see hole cards and even to stop the game, for example at an all-in and call, so that the commentators can analyze and interpret the situation before the board unfolds.
The poker clients we’ve known are built to please those who play. They are not made for people to watch. There will also be regular events in the studios located in Malta and the US. Every 4-6 weeks there will be a live event in “The Cube.”
As in the GPM there will be different formats at each event. None of them are going to be called tournaments, as the focus is shifting to the event character of poker.
You can see this in the way during the GPM nothing was called a “tournament." There were matches and games, the TD was called referee and so on. There will be 6-max, heads-up and team events.
There will also be a players committee that’ll be challenged so we can constantly adjust and connect with the poker community.
PokerListings: Which big-name players are already registered?
Alex Dreyfus: None. The draft process is not going to start before January. The non-drafted players will also not be announced before the drafted players.
No player would agree to join without knowing exactly what he’s in for. The product has to be finished and ready to go before players will be approached.
Players who have already showed their interest on Twitter are, among others, former WSOP winners Phil Hellmuth and Martin Jacobson as well as this year’s November Nine player Pierre Neuville.
PokerListings: Who are the investors?
Alex Dreyfus: No names have been officially disclosed. At first the teams were supposed to have franchise names but then it was decided to separate the ownership from the direction of the team -- meaning that the owner can neither play nor tell the team what to do.
This, of course, makes it a lot more difficult to find sponsors. Instead the teams will be named after the cities they are connected with. This will make viewer identification and the generation of a fan base easier.
The target group of investors for the Global Poker League consists of NBA owners, hedge fund managers and high-profile sports and media people.
PokerListings: Is the GPL going to be connected to other non-poker events?
Alex Dreyfus: Possible, but unlikely. The live events in The Cube could potentially be connected to other events.
PokerListings: What’s the GPL going to look like on TV compared to the past?
Alex Dreyfus: The same, but completely different. While the concept of poker will obviously stay the same the main focus of the GPL is to turn poker from a player-focused to a viewer-focused event.
As opposed to eight-hour live streams the events will not take longer than a football game with some matches only taking 30-40 minutes. There will be shot clocks and digitized cards to speed up the action and make it more fun to watch.
There will be a format that has the goal to reduce variance. Players will play standing up to give them the freedom to show more body language, to put more physical pressure on opponents.
On the marketing side, with standing players, both front and back can be used to the maximum for sponsors, which is almost impossible in the regular, sitting format.
There will be two hosts plus a team of experts commenting on the events before, during and after – similar to the broadcasting format of football, basketball or other big sports events.
PokerListings: Why would anybody want to pay to see a live poker event when there's so much of it available online and on TV?
Alex Dreyfus: For the same reason people go and watch concerts or go to the cinema. The GPL is not just about poker anymore it’s about the show and the experience.
Today you can download movies for free but people still go to the cinema because it’s a different experience. You can download music but people still go to concerts, because the experience is unique.
The GPL is a product that is much more than live streaming. It’s the whole entertainment package you know from other sports. Nobody would pay to go and watch any of the big live poker tournaments there are today because it would be boring. These are made for the players.
The GPL is made for the fans. According to a survey by Sports and Entertainment Consultants Repucom 30% of the players would be willing to pay to watch the GPL- 1% would probably be enough to sustain it.
GPL Benchmark Data:
-- Teams will have five or six players.
-- At least three of the players will be drafted according to their GPI ranking.
-- First season will probably see 12 teams from three continents with the idea to expand in every season afterwards.
-- Teams will represent the following cities: Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Sao Paolo and Toronto for the Americas; Barcelona, Hong Kong, London, -- Moscow, Paris and Prague for Europe and Asia.
-- GPI’s mother company Media Rex Sports & Entertainment (MSE) has raised $4.9 million to get the GPL rolling in 2016.
-- Financing will be done through sponsorship. The sponsorship money will also be used to pay the players.
-- There will be online, studio and live events.
-- Cards in the live events will be digitized to speed up play. Chips will still be real but there won’t be money awarded -- just points.
-- The main feature of the GPL is going to be “The Cube,” a transparent, soundproof box 6 meters long and weighing 11 tons.