By: Queen of Hearts Paris:
I was thinking about the Global Poker League (GPL) over the weekend, when there are no matches going on. I was trying to figure out how Alex Dreyfus and the GPL will ever get to that place they’re aiming for – that sweet spot where everyone has at least heard of them (like the NFL or the NBA) and where they attract a wide audience of fans around the globe. And that audience can’t just be poker fanatics. They need to bring in brand new fans that become excited about the competitive format, start identifying with and then rooting for their “home team,” and can’t wait for that team to make it to the playoffs in September and ultimately, the finals in November.
It’s hard to figure, because in some ways the GPL is obviously most akin to the World Series of Poker (WSOP) since it’s about poker, and ultimately crowning a champion. But even though at this point more people have heard of the WSOP than the GPL, I’d bet that the audience for the WSOP consists of 98 percent poker players and fans. Period. And of course, the WSOP is all about individual players. It’s huge, but it isn’t going to grow much bigger.
Maybe the GPL wants to be more like Major League Baseball (MLB) in that just about everyone has at least heard of it; it has fans from every walk of life; some people have season tickets and some catch a game occasionally; even if you’re only a casual fan you still know what team you root for, and then just about everyone gets involved as the competition heats up and the leagues face off against each other until only two remain to play in the World Series.
Then again, we call it the World Series because of our ethnocentricity, but it’s never been about the world; it’s always been the United States’ Series, hasn’t it? Same for the Super Bowl; everyone around the world has heard of it, football fans root passionately for their favorite team and hope they make the playoffs, but again; the NFL is made up of leagues from the U.S. and culminates in a Super Bowl that, although watched by millions, is only played by teams from the U.S.
Perhaps the GPL is more like soccer’s World Cup, with teams from all around the world playing each other until the victor emerges.
Okay, I apologize. I’ve been fantasizing about the future of the GPL and what we might compare it to, but there’s really nothing like it. And that’s its advantage. It has the pull of home teams that can start building a loyal fan base; people are already rooting for their favorite team. It has the software and webcams that make it possible to get inside the players’ heads to learn their strategy and get to know them personally, the feature I most enjoy. It has live chatting and tweeting at the same time to create even more fan engagement. It has the innovative “time banks” which, according to Earl Burton on “Poker Update” are not only turning out to be a useful tool in a player’s arsenal but are also so successful that they should be borrowed by all of online poker. It has the mystique of the” Wild Card” choices, where anything can happen, including drafting a famous actor like Aaron Paul for your team.
Although it has been a global league from its inception, with teams representing Hong Kong, Berlin, London, Paris, Rome and Moscow, it is poised to become a global phenomenon after striking a recent major media deal with Sina Sports, the leading online sports platform in China, with a daily traffic flow of 15 million online users and 26 million mobile visitors. Dreyfus noted that the deal is destined to increase interest in poker and the GPL among a potential viewership of more than 40 million people. Not only that, but the media giant will be hosting poker content alongside an array of mainstream sports, from soccer to basketball. In other words, Sina Sports is an already highly credible media platform that should boost the credibility and reputation of the GPL tremendously. Talk about attracting a new audience!