In a press conference held in Shanghai Tuesday, Alibaba Sports Group (AliSports) announced a new tour, International Poker Tour (IPT), which will start taking place in Asia, North America and Europe.
After Ourgame and Tencent Poker, Alibaba will be the most recent entry from a huge Chinese Company into the world of live poker tournaments. According to organizers more than RMB50 Million (approx. US$7 Million) will be there for the taking.
An upcoming event in Shanghai was released during the conference which will supposedly have US$870,000 in prize money with about $200,000 earmarked for first place. Although figures were disclosed, the actual date was not announced.
Alisports has always had a vision of engaging consumers into sports via the Internet. In an ambitious and strategic move to promote its other sports endeavors, the IPT will integrate other mind-sports like chess into its events. It will also partner and coordinate with local poker clubs in China to allow players multiple ways to qualify for the tournament.
The Big picture
This announcement is evidence that the Chinese poker scene is growing by leaps and bounds despite setbacks like the Asia Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) Nanjing Millions in 2014 and the more recent incident with the Asia Poker League (APL) event in Shanghai last month.
More importantly, the players who are entering the poker industry are game changers that can alter the landscape of not only Asian poker scene, but the poker industry worldwide. Major Chinese conglomerates seem to be penetrating the online poker scene and then now the live poker market in an attempt to promote and push the game further.
One such mover is Hong Kong-listed Company Ourgame which had purchased the World Poker Tour in June 2015 for US$35 Million. Then in March 2016, the largest internet company in Asia, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. invested in Match Poker which follows a Duplicate Poker platform.
Tencent Holdings Ltd, proprietors of WeChat/QQ and the 2nd largest internet group in Asia after Alibaba, has its own social media poker platform (similar to Zynga) and has also scheduled a live tournament in event in the island of Sanya in December.
Major Asian companies are now promoting and endorsing poker as a mind sport and a game of skill not of chance. This can definitely bring major changes to an industry otherwise dominated by gambling moguls.
Global Poker League founder and CEO Alex Dreyfus seems to have the exact sentiment – “Another step towards China embracing the game of poker as a skill game and a sport,” he said via Facebook. “You now have the two largest tech companies in China, Tencent and Alibaba, promoting the game of poker.”
Article By Gabrielle Barredo