In a quest to “sportify” the game of poker, Global Poker Index (GPI) owner, Alexandre Dreyfus, created the unique Global Poker League (GPL). Just like major sports leagues, teams were formed, there were draft picks, wild cards, and pros leading the teams. Over the course of several months, the teams competed in a variety of tournament formats earning points based on performance. At the end of the season, the teams with the most points faced off and the ultimate champions were awarded a hefty cash prize.
Since its beginnings in 2015, this “dream” has grown. In addition to GPL Global, there is GPL India then in 2017, GPL took its first big leap into “sportifying” poker in China. No doubt, the country was the perfect market for such an innovative idea. In December 2017, 12 teams representing different cities in China competed in the first GPL China. It was one of the most ambitious and unique freeroll teams event ever produced by the brand and it was a massive success.
Upon speaking to GPL China organizer Raymond Wong, CEO of Mediarex Beijing, he explained the mission of GPL China,
“During the first season of GPL China, our idea was to build a bigger poker community with fans, grab the new generation, really sportify poker. We didn’t want to select just top pros like the original GPL. Poker is not like soccer or NBA. We really wanted to create a platform for fans who want to play; they can play this teams event. It’s not an ordinary event. We wanted to create and promote camaraderie and team spirit. Of course create new players; players that love the game for the game, not necessarily for the money.”
Over the course of a few months, this was achieved. One team was selected from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen,Tianjin, Xi’An, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Kunming, Taiwan, Macau, and Hong Kong. The teams were comprised mainly of local poker amateurs. Only one or two pros qualified. For the next three months, these teams competed in various types of tournament formats live in Beijing.
“We had around four tournaments per week. Everything was free even flights. We had plenty of live footage. Then for the finals we moved it to Sanya. The Chengdu Pandas became the first champions. When it ended, it was quite emotional and the players immediately looked forward to the next season.” said Wong.
GPL China Season 2 in Taiwan
At the conclusion of GPL China S1, the dream was in motion and Season 2 was fairly certain. However, drastic changes took effect in China’s poker policies in mid-2018. This caused GPL China to uproot from the mainland and host S2 in Taipei for the first time. Unlike its predecessor, GPL China S2 – Taiwan Tour [The Battle of Urban] ran for only three days at the Chinese Texas Hold’em Poker Association (CTP) room. It was an open sign-up with a big buy-in. The event attracted six teams and ran in stages:
- GPL Knockout round.
- GPL Repechage Match
- GPL Final: the final 4 teams (5 members each) competed in a variety of tournament formats of 2v2v2v2, 3v3, and 1v1v1v1.
CTP Taipei became the league’s S2 champions and won NTD 698,400 (US$22,700).
“We did it differently to see if players really liked it or not. We put in a high buyin of around US$7,000 per team. We got six teams and it was good to see Danny Tang, Sparrow, AJPC. I think it was a good start. Hopefully we get more nationalities for the next season.” said Wong.
Team events versus GPL China concept
To many, the GPL China concept may look to be just another type of teams event especially with the very short run of S2. But it is far from it. GPL China is more comparable to forming a school’s first little league team per se (like in baseball). Players try-out and they either make the cut of not, then they compete against other teams over a period of time (season).
However unlike other major league sports, GPL China’s biggest challenge is that it is not a spectator sport. Creating fans is not as easy as with other sports.
“I want for the Global Poker League here to create a platform for everyone where they can enjoy the game as a sport. Also a platform for different branding exposure. Teams can get sponsored if they want. Right now there are plenty of team events but everyone is doing different things. There is no S.O.P. for these events. GPL is an international brand I think they should keep at it to attain a type of World Cup for the sport of poker. It becomes a different experience for the poker player as well.”
Spreading the sport of poker to other Asian nations
Looking forward, the GPL brand intends to continue spreading their vision even if it means forgoing mainland China. Having already branched out to Taiwan, Wong is looking to explore different nations in Asia.
“Branding is the most important thing. I’m not thinking profit is most important right now, it is branding and bringing it all over with the goal of sportifying poker. I don’t just plan to keep GPL China in Taiwan. For now yes because of proximity. It is easy for surrounding countries to come here. If there is an opportunity to bring it elsewhere that would be good as well. Maybe Vietnam, we’ll see. I also talked to Sparrow (Park Yu Cheung) and if the laws in Hong Kong can accept buy-ins then we would consider it.
The idea of GPL in general is still new in Asia and like many new concepts, it will take some time to develop before it reaches its full potential. For Wong, that means continuous revamping.
“For the next season I want to go back to team selection. It won’t be a freeroll though. Satellites will be held to form teams from other places such as Taiwan, China – we’ll see how, maybe Vietnam, Japan, have more partners things like that.
Of course we will fine tune the format, have an affordable buy-in for everyone, maybe just 4 members because It is easier to gather. But the format, we will keep it. The points we will fine tune. The play down will be the same, I will keep it. We might want to add different games like Omaha or Short Deck, we’ll see.
As of now, no confirmation on when or where Season 3 will be held.