May 31st saw Mediarex Sports & Entertainment and JuzhongJoy host a joint ceremony that would signal the beginning of the first poker league in China: The GPL China.
The GPL is not a new concept of course, having first left its mark on the world of poker back in 2016 when it was launched globally by Mediarex Sports & Entertainment. The concept involved 12 teams competing against each other, with the teams separated into two conferences – Americas and Eurasia. The initial goal of Mediarex Sports & Entertainment was to promote poker in a similar way to the promoting of e-sports which have seen their fan base grow in recent times.
The fundamental principle behind the GPL is that players aren’t buying in for cash, they are essentially players who are part of a franchise which competes against other on a regular basis, as you see in many other sports worldwide. GPL China is the localized extension of this idea.
Mediarex seals exclusive rights to operate in China
March 13th 2017 was the date that Mediarex Sports & Entertainment sat down to sign an agreement with Beijing JuzhongJoy Network Technology Co. Ltd that would ensure exclusivity for the GPL in China.
Alexander Dreyfus – CEO of Mediarex, spoke passionately about the league “Mediarex aims to promote the game of poker as a competitive mind game and to ‘sportify it’. There is an excellent opportunity for poker to become an actual sport now. We hope this poker league can show more potential than anyone expected”.
He went on to say: “I believe that today’s China wants to show the world its culture, talent and philosophy. I think the GPL and poker culture can drive this, and the GPL can be seen as a platform for China to export itself to the world. In order to promote the GPL to China, we have contacted a lot of companies, and ultimately, Beijing JuzhongJoy Network Technology company are our ideal partners. I hope we can work together to promote poker as an intellectual sport in China”.
Zhang Peng – CEO of JuzhongJoy had the following to say:
“GPL China’s core concept is to promote and develop intellectual sport, for this we created a competition which involved no buy in, hoping that all poker enthusiasts can showcase their talents in the game. Another core idea is the sense of honor, the tournament itself not only includes a sense of personal honor, but also a team honor, the honor of each city that the teams represent, but also, a sense of national honor. The league has been supported by the Asher Sports and the GPL China Finals set in the National Swimming Center – Water Cube, and GPL China Championship. The winning team will eventually be the Chinese team to participate in the global poker league Final, for the highest honor, this is something that has never happened before in China, and it is something a lot of poker players dream of”.
GPL China officially launched on June 1st
June 1st was the official launch date of GPL China, with the events being covered through a 6-month period, as the players compete in Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Xi’an, Kunming, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. A total of 12 cities will host events, with participation being absolutely free. The GPL has also now opened the official GPL China webpage too.
The events will see teams of 6 players, who will be advised by a ‘wildcard mentor’. These teams will participate in the national league and the final championship, and ultimately, will seek to represent China in the GPL finals.
During the course of this league, there will be complete broadcasting coverage, which should amount to 140 hours of footage. With a mainstream broadcasting platform secured, the total audience could exceed 100 million. Time limits will be imposed on thinking time, cameras will give audiences unprecedented angles of the action as it unfolds, and players will be hooked up to heart rate monitors, which the audience will see too.
China’s interest in Poker has grown in recent years, and the industry is seeking to find positive ways to tap into this potential fan base. China’s introduction of overseas tournament brands has taken place alongside player skill levels rising fast within the country. Many of these players have already participated in international tournaments before. The Global Poker League is not simply helping more Chinese players reach an international playing field, it is also beaming the poker dream into the homes of countless Chinese poker enthusiasts who have a growing fondness for the game.
Article by Craig Bradshaw