Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Jaffe’

Queen of Hearts ParisLynn “Queen of Hearts” Paris

Our readers want to know what’s going on with the Global Poker League.  As far as I know, the GPL is on a scheduled break for about a month, so this is a good time to bring everyone up to speed.

Alexandre DreyfusAs a blogger who’s been following and writing about the new League since before their highly professional inaugural draft in February, I’ve made no secret of how impressed I’ve been with Alexandre Dreyfus and the GPL. The innovative team concept, the use of web cams, the fan-focused experience as opposed to an experience focused on professional poker players   . . . all came together incredibly well in just 14 short weeks. The GPL had half a million unique viewers, with sustained average viewing times of 17 to 21 minutes per viewer throughout the summer.

Could they have done even better? Absolutely, if they’d wanted to spend millions of dollars on television and online advertising which they obviously did not. Probably a wise decision too, since they now have “proof of concept” without exposing the whole ball of wax to the world prior to doing some very necessary tweaking. Plus they got some free marketing every time someone said or wrote: “Congratulations to Jason Mercier of the New York Rounders”. You can’t buy better branding than that.

GPL's The CubeIt was clear from the start that there had to be a GPL TV studio in Vegas, the mecca for poker players. And, to accommodate all the GPL team members also playing in the 2016 WSOP, they needed the convenience of a TV studio in close proximity to the Rio. I admire Dreyfus and his team for taking the calculated risk to break out their signature platform, The Cube, during the Summer Series, instead of waiting for the reveal originally set for September. In fact, Dreyfus wrote on Facebook that “it was a last minute decision to bring The Cube . . . to Vegas to form the centerpiece of our 2nd TV studio.”

I felt validated reading that, since at the time I had written in my blog: “No surprise, either, that he decided to break out the much-hyped, but not quite ready-for-prime-time Cube ahead of schedule.” It was no surprise because it was obvious to anyone paying attention that The Cube set-up, even in its pared down version, provided the perfect contrast to the play at the WSOP:  up close and personal, fast-paced, poker standing up, innovative and fun!

The players seemed to agree, saying they enjoyed the pace, the slightly intimidating electronic music and SFX — the loud beat, beat, beating of their hearts — the intensity of the heat and lights in the isolating sound-proof glass enclosure. Personally, I think they got a kick out of the jock-like activity of standing and sweating after the passivity of sitting at the poker tables in the air-conditioned Rio for hours on end.

In the meantime, we fans got the rare opportunity to enjoy the “other side” of some of the biggest names in poker – Fedor Holz, Jason Mercier, Sorel Mizzi, Jonathan Jaffe, Anatoly Filatov, Bryn Kenney, Fabrice Soulier, Randy “Nanonoko” Lew, Dan “Jungleman” Cates, Byron Kaverman, Tom Marchese, Faraz Jaka  and the list goes on — as they “let it all out” against their opponent in The Cube.

Many of these matches were not only good heads-up poker but also incredibly engaging entertainment. And for a newbie like me, the expert commentary provided by Joe Stapleton and Eric Danis broadened my poker education without delving too heavily into higher level strategies like range and variance. Their poker knowledge, humor and great chemistry, along with interviews by the smart and sexy Laura “Corndog” Cornelius, made for a highly enjoyable few hours in my day.

By the way, based on comments made by Dreyfus in several interviews, I imagine that what we saw was The Cube in its most basic iteration . . . many of the bells and whistles are still to come.( I’ll cover much more on the improvements I hope to see in The Cube in an upcoming blog!)

So now what?

I’ve been trying to figure that out and according to the schedule that appears on the GPL website, inter-conference play begins again on August 16th.  Unfortunately, a note on the homepage of the site also says “Thank you for joining us in the Las Vegas Summer Series – Back in September.”

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg for Dreyfus and team if they want to hold on to the fans they have acquired and continue to grow the way they need to. I’ve been saying for months that the website needs to be overhauled (design and programming) and then maintained consistently. Stories and features need to be updated regularly, a less cumbersome schedule and video archive has to be developed, the site has to load faster and it MUST be optimized for mobile. There’s enough content to fill ten websites, so that’s not the problem. It simply needs to be handled by developers who can deliver a high class, high-functioning professional site.

Eurasia ConferenceConceptually, the GPL‘s vision of poker as a team sport is what sets it apart. It began with players being drafted onto a team representing a major city, and it was that team concept that was supposed to build the fan base.

America ConferenceUnless the mission has changed, I don’t believe the GPL did enough to reinforce the team concept. If this was being marketed as a Team Sport, the logos of the teams should have always been prominent. Instead, the way in which the graphics were designed for the online matches made the team logos difficult to see. Viewers could easily see the players and the hole cards, but sadly, the team names were covered up.

And when play progressed to the Summer Series in The Cube, the players should have been wearing their team t-shirts sporting their team logo. Had the GPL been on time with their team merchandise (a costly misstep) fans of the teams could have worn their t-shirts all over Vegas, including at the heavily attended WSOP, where tons of attendees might have been tempted to purchase an LA Sunset or Las Vegas Moneymakers team shirt — free advertising! Dreyfus commented, “We also didn’t connect with the WSOP fan-base as deeply as we had the potential to do.” He’s right; they blew it. In addition, team branding as well as GPL branding were mysteriously absent from The Cube, at least from the online audience’s vantage point.

Because of the GPL, I grew to know and like some of the players personally; I feel a kind of crazy proprietary interest in many of them whenever I see them playing poker anywhere.  But in the end, if I don’t know what GPL team Fedor, Nano or Mercier play for, there’s something wrong with the marketing plan. Bottom line:  it’s the team that grows the fan base and excites those who root for them with a passion, motivating them to buy team banners, t-shirts, caps. . . and ultimately bring in sponsors.

Dreyfus has promised to “amp up the adrenaline inherent in many of our matches and focus more on the players than the game.” Maybe so, but if he still wants the team aspect to be the GPL’s hallmark, then some good old Yankees/Red Sox, Celtics/Lakers team dynamics have to be built up as well.

I have tremendous faith in the brilliance of Alex Dreyfus and his team to make the necessary adjustments to the GPL in ways I’ve suggested . . . and in ways I’ve never even thought of.  I look forward to the immediate improvements I hope will be made as they finish out this year with the league playoffs and the Season 1 Championship at Wembley Stadium in London. And I can’t wait to watch what happens next year and in the years to come. I got hooked on poker because of the GPL, so I’m rooting for it to evolve into everything Dreyfus envisioned — poker “sportified” to appeal to millions of old and new-generation poker fans.

And I’ll be blogging about it all as soon as the next half of their season begins in August . . . or September.

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Queen of Hearts ParisLynn “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.

Cube Shot 1

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:

The Cube shot 2

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.

The Cube shot 3

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? The Cube shot 4

Or this?
cube-6

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.

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Texas Poker StoreQueen of Hearts Paris

 

Lynn “Queen of Hearts” Paris

I’m feeling somewhat apologetic right now because it’s been more than a week since I posted my last Global Poker League blog, which is certainly unfair to my small but growing list of followers.  I was traveling/vacationing, which I mentioned last time, and my timing was way off, but I DID manage to write one blog from California, since you can take the GPL with you!

Sorel MizziFuBerlin Bearsnnily enough, last week Sorel Mizzi’s timing was way off too. Playing in his first match for the Berlin Bears, he got his start time completely wrong. Driving under pressure to get to a place where he could play, he discovered that he’d left his laptop back in the Motel 6. With no time to go back for it, he drove to the first Apple store he could find, bought a new laptop, pulled into a coffee shop and apologetically entered his first 6-max, because he didn’t want to let his team down. (He wound up scoring 13 crucial points for the Bears over two days, more than making up for his late arrival.)

My real excuse for not writing again was that I got sick as a dog two days before my vacation ended, which was compounded by winding up on an American Eagle flight from hell (upon which I tragically left my tablet with its awesome collection of ebooks). After that, I came as close to praying for my own demise as I can ever remember while suffering through three agonizingly difficult days.

Nevertheless, because I’m admittedly hooked on the GPL, I managed to follow a few of the matches on my cell and dragged my laptop to my bed on occasion to catch some of the replay action on globalpokerleague.com. Of course, you can watch GPL poker from any device, but on Thursday, with my health restored, I had my favorite GPL fan experience so far. My husband fixed it so we could stream the matches onto the big screen in the living room where we watched the Americas Conference Heads-Up matches together.

Olivier BusquetL.A. SunsetI was rewarded by a shirtless L.A. Sunset’s Olivier Busquet playing heads-up poker from a beach bar in Jamaica (why not; he’s not only been dominant in HU matches but he also looks damn good with his shirt off) against Felipe Mojave “Vamos” Ramos of the Metropolitans, who’s been a phenom in his matches but a decided underdog against Olivier.  Although Busquet was as charming and generous with his gems of poker strategy as always, often finding new and creative ways to outplay Felipe, he ultimately relinquished his unbeaten status to the lovable Brazilian, losing 2 out of their 3 matches. Later, the humble Felipe expressed his admiration and respect for Busquet, admitting to Laura Cornelius that he’d studied Busquet’s prior matches which might have been what gave him the edge.

The third match was important to me personally because I’d seen my N.Y. Rounders go from first place to third during this week so I wanted their competition, the Montreal Nationals, to lose. And, lose they did, eventually. Pascal Lefrancois played lights out for the Nats in the first game, but a stoic and determined Jonathan Jaffe, feeling the pressure to help his team, won the second and third games, earning six points for the last place San Francisco Rush.

What is quite clear after seven weeks of GPL matches is that the league has not only delivered on its promise to entertain its audience with exciting matches played by elite poker players (with tremendous pride and a wealth of poker knowledge) but that these players truly care about winning for their teams. And that’s how you begin to “sportify” poker.

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