A few hours ago, Alexandre Dreyfus, CEO at Mediarex Sports & Entertainment, announced, on the Chinese Media, the creation of a Global Poker League (GPL) China. The league will make its debut in early 2017 with 8 teams, each representing a Chinese city.
We sat down with him to discuss about the future of the GPL and the development of poker in China.
1) The first season of the GPL just ended. What conclusions can you draw from this first season?
The biggest achievement of GPL Season 1 was to start and to end. It has been a very challenging project, but I’m very proud that we launched it. GPL aims to become a platform promoting poker as a sport, skill game, like esport. We learnt a lot, about what people want and don’t want. We were very lucky with the players involved, we had the best players with more than $500mm of winnings involved in the League. There is a clear appetite from players, fans and media for GPL, but we need to improve the product over the years. We want to be the NBA of Poker, which will not happen in a few months.
2) What kind of improvement are you considering for the second season?
Our biggest mistake was how long was the League, it became boring because of its structure. Next year, we will do 2 season per calendar year, each of them 8 to 12 weeks. We need to make it more intense. We had a great hype when we launched GPL, but because it was too long, we lost it. We gonna have much more engaging tools for the fans, for the draft, for the matches and also allowing non GPI players to be part of it.
3) You have been travelling a lot recently to China. Can you tell us more about the poker scene in the country?
I’ve been to China a lot in the last 10 years, trying to educate myself to learn more about the country. As I said, in the past, China will be the nest of the next poker boom, in a very different way compared to what happened in US. A lot of people always tell me that China doesn’t have a Poker culture, which is true. But thanks to the technology and mobile phones, now every chinese can discover Texas Holdem, and there is more and more ‘white collars’ playing publicly. I think that Poker in China will leverage the angle of a sport and skill game, more than any other country. It fits the culture and the government policy too. That’s why GPL is investing in China, and that’s why we have Chinese and Hong Kongese investors in our company.
4) A few days ago, Alibaba Sports Group (AliSports) announced a new tour, International Poker Tour (IPT). What does it mean for the poker industry?
I’m not yet convinced by another international tour, I need to understand more their strategy. I have worked in the poker space for 12 years, and we own the Global Poker Index (GPI) and HendonMob, so we have the best knowledge about the live poker market. Having said so, having a leading technology company investing in Poker is a great move. I’m thrilled about their initiative in China. You have now, the 2 largest tech companies Tencent & Alibaba investing in this game, with a myriad of others companies. It is a great signal to engage with the game, as long as it is not gambling.
5) We heard you talking about a GPL China. Can you give us more info about this project?
So GPL China will begin after Spring Festival, but we just announced this week the 8 franchises/cities that will start GPL China. We are now reviewing applications for the first 8 managers of GPL, and then we will work with the managers to find the best players to compete. GPL China aims to be the NBA of Poker, and we will have a draft – similar to what we’ve done last year in Los Angeles – with managers to pick between the best players (especially top GPI China players), but also the most entertaining players, celebrities and qualified players coming from our mobile partners.
We want GPL China to be a project powered by the whole chinese poker community. There will be livestream, with online and live events, to create a proper League. We already have Chinese investors behind the project and we are going to engage more and more with media partners and tech companies.
6) More generally speaking, how important is the Chinese market for your company Mediarex (Hendon Mob / GPI / GPL)?
In 2017, we gonna invest a lot in China, with the launch of GPL, but also with the launch of GPI China – a dedicated official ranking for China. We believe that the future of poker is in China and therefore, will try to position ourselves as an authority there, as we are in the rest of the world. We already work with local partners like Sina Sports, and most of big Chinese Poker events like TPT, BPT, CPG, WPT, etc … are already working with GPI for China.
7) What challenges are you facing as an entrepreneur in developing your activities in China?
I guess, unlike any other countries where I could understand most of the language, here I can’t. I will try to learn a bit, but it’s not easy at my age to engage with a new language. Otherwise, I love how the country is moving fast and decision makers are acting fast. It’s very exciting for me.
8) A lot of people are pessimistic about the future of the game. It’s not what you think. What would you like to tell all these people who don’t believe in the future of the industry.
In different part of the world, the game may have several faith. US doesn’t have online regulated poker, but a very strong culture and live poker market. Europe is suffering in both online and live right now, due to regulations and lack of product innovation. Latin America is booming, especially Brazil. Russia has probably one of the largest potential and there is a lot of movements there. China is actually a totally new market, with poker mobile applications and mainland poker sports events. I’m a strong believer in the growth of the game, on a global scale, as long as we embrace new way of consuming the game, new narratives to engage with audience and media.