Lynn “Queen of Hearts” Paris
When I first began watching and blogging about The Global Poker League, I was thrilled to be covering something brand new in the poker world. I loved Alexander Dreyfus’ idea of teams of world-class poker players behaving more like sports teams, pulling for each other and competing with other GPL teams. I enjoyed the 8-week online format tremendously as each of the two GPL conferences – Americas and Eurasia –battled for points and aimed for the Playoffs, just like other sports teams do. As I’ve mentioned many times, I became addicted to watching and learning about poker after following it in this format.
But there were a few small tweaks I wished had been made along the way that weren’t corrected, despite my tweets to Alex Dreyfus and the League. I imagine it’s because the pace they’ve been on has been incredibly demanding, going from one format to another, and one location to another in their very first season.
Nevertheless, I’ve complained from the beginning that if this was being marketed as a Team Sport/Game, the logos of the teams ought to be prominent. Instead, they were often difficult to see the way the graphics were designed for the web. For example, in this typical screen shot, the team logos can’t be seen when the hole cards are being shown, whether it was a heads up or 6-max format.
In all cases, the web cams made up for some of the lesser problems; it was great fun listening to the player’s explaining their thought processes and strategies, much less becoming familiar with so many great poker players, but this still seems like an easy fix
In addition, someone needs to be assigned to keeping the GPL website up-to-date! The same articles and stories stay up for weeks. Also, the site is slow to load, and most importantly, it hasn’t been optimized for mobile which is an absolute must.
Moving on to the much ballyhooed Cube, there are a couple of quick fix things to improve the experience beyond the general observations I’ll make later in this blog.
It’s been annoying that the player’s names and hole cards are often under the wrong player, as in this shot:
In this particular case, it didn’t matter because I was so focused on both of the player’s faces, as well as their playful banter, that I ignored the incorrect graphics. Who could take their eyes off Fabrice and actor/poker player Aaron Paul? But I did find it odd that there was no branding at all – none for the GPL or again, none for the teams other than in the intro graphics that precede every match.
Thankfully, by the second Cube match, both players were wearing team t-shirts and I assume that will be standard operating procedure from now on. It really reinforces the “sportify” poker concept. (Apparently, as seen during the 4th match between Nanonoko and Jacobson, the players can get out of wearing their team shirts which isn’t smart in my opinion, unless the GPL has another identifier for later on,)
In this close-up of Jonathan Jaffe, his San Francisco Rush shirt was prominently displayed, as was the Moscow Wolverine shirt of his opponent, Urbanovich. These two players kept up a steady table talk throughout the match, with Jaffe poking and prodding to get information out of Urbanovich, which made it great fun to watch.
It also helped that the commentators (Joe Stapleton and Eric Danis) as well as the guest commentator only spoke occasionally, never taking the attention off these two compelling players.
In the 3rd match, guest commentator Felipe Mojave Ramos spoke over the players almost continuously. Although his insights were great, I tweeted at him after the match about it, and he graciously accepted the idea that it was important to find the right balance.
As far as the Cube itself, just a few general comments as I’m sure I’ll have more to say once we’ve all seen more.
So far, most players have said it was a fun but somewhat difficult environment to get used to. Several said it was a bit intimidating, with the music and heartbeat sounds and being cut off from the world. I felt “naked” in there, Martin Jacobson said and many spoke about the standing element as well as the heat. All seemed to enjoy it, however, and I applaud them all for being so supportive of the concept.
Based on comments made by Dreyfus in several interviews, I imagine that this is the Cube in its most basic iteration . . . they broke it out in time for the Vegas Summer Series but many of the bells and whistles are still to come. They better come, because although it’s fun to watch these heads up matches, most of the fun is created by the players inside. They have to create it with their chatter and trash talk and personalities . . . and if you really enjoy poker, that’s all you need.
Watching on the live Twitch stream, it’s a great experience because I get to see terrific close-ups of the players as well as side-by-side shots as the camera shows pretty much everything. But it’s hard to imagine what the live viewers will see.
Is it this?
I’m going to hold off all judgment for now. But by the time TwitchCon comes along in September, everything planned to enhance the Cube better be in place, or the huge video game audience will walk right by it without ever noticing it’s there.