Posts Tagged ‘TwitchCon’

Lynn "Queen of Hearts" ParisLynn “Queen of Hearts” Paris

I hadn’t heard much about the Global Poker League lately. (And then, almost as if they knew I was about to publish this blog, there were GPL sightings TODAY on Facebook, plus updates to their website – finally!) I found the paucity of information somewhat surprising, considering the two-and- a-half-month break between their Summer Series and the second half of their season. I thought it would be an ideal time to fix some of the things Alex Dreyfus had said needed fixing.Global Poker League

In fact, in his wrap-up of the first half of the season, Dreyfus said that they needed to:

  • Revamp the website (I’ve been saying that for months)
  • Improve the mobile app
  • Create drama by increasing the “character dynamics” and focusing more on the players’ personalities and less on the game – create WWE-esque narratives
  • Connect more with casual fans and grass-roots players
  • Provide GPL branded merchandise
  • Consider possible partnerships with key online poker rooms (social, free-to-play and real money offers)

Dreyfus wrapped up his post by advising all GPL fans to get ready for some “transformative changes and risk taking.”

Nevertheless, although I kept checking, the only changes I was able to discover were the facts that the Playoffs, originally scheduled for TwitchCon in San Diego, as well as the Finals, originally set to be held at Wembley Arena in London, would instead take place in The Cube at the GPL Vegas-based TV studio.

Clearly, it seems that the entrepreneur, rather than taking big risks, has been focused on tamping down expectations for the remainder of this first year. But, as always, there is a method behind the madness/genius of Alex Dreyfus.

In a terrific podcast, our all-time favorite, Daniel “Kid Poker” Negreanu, interviewed Dreyfus, giving us all a fascinating glimpse into the mind of the entrepreneur from Malta.

In a nutshell, Dreyfus made it clear that his thinking has been long-term since he first bought the Global Poker Index (GPI). His vision, to establish a neutral and independent ranking system for poker, paid off.

As for his vision for the GPL, in the short-term Dreyfus is proud of the fact that they launched successfully and managed to get 72 of the best players in the world to play online for the new league. He’s proud of some of the innovations put in place, like the web-cams and The Cube.

But he’s not interested in short-term profits or putting on anything less than a great show. His long-term vision is a multi-continent league with four different conferences, and a predominantly digital platform to capture millennials. He seems certain that the game of poker HAS to change, has to engage new fans. Ultimately, predicts Dreyfus, although he will no longer own it, the GPL will grow in the hands of a leading sports marketing company. His goal is to do everything in his power to make the League last long enough for that to happen.

For now, I’m going to trust Alexandre Dreyfus and wish the GPL luck in their upcoming second season, beginning on September 20th!

Send us your thoughts!

Lynn "Queen of Hearts" ParisLynn “Queen of Hearts” Paris

Imagine my surprise when I checked the Global Poker League’s schedule one last time before posting my GPL blog yesterday, only to discover that the second half of the season, scheduled to begin next week, had been pushed back to September 20th.

What was particularly frustrating is that I follow @GPL and @Alex_Dreyfus on Twitter and Facebook, but the news didn’t come directly from either primary source. The announcement, along with the news that the Playoffs and Finals will take place in Vegas and not at TwitchCon and Wembley, came from Pokernews.com in an Aug. 10th blog by Matthew Parvis, retweeted by the GPL and Dreyfus. Their second retweet, after a bit of sleuthing, came from an independent poker site called www.backdoorquads.com, which also claimed to be breaking the news exclusively at the same time.

Global Poker LeagueI’ve not only been an advocate for the Global Poker League, but I’ve also blogged about it – 20 in-depth blogs to be exact. I expect breaking news about the League I’ve been following so closely and supporting so fervently to be announced by its CEO and the GPL. I don’t want to learn it in a retweet!

I don’t get it. I’ve focused on The Global Poker League from its inception. I introduced it, explained it, praised it, waxed poetic about it and motivated people to watch it. I applauded the innovative team concept.  I raved about the genius of Alexandre Dreyfus and his vision to “sportify” poker and to make it “fancentric.” I was a huge fan and followed the action closely.

Along the way I also pointed out what I considered its shortcomings and made some constructive suggestions about what I believed needed to be improved.

I noticed that my tweets were either liked and/or retweeted more than 16 times by @GPL and @Alex_Dreyfus when I had posted a positive blog, which the vast majority of them were. The likes and retweets seemed to stop when I incorporated suggestions or recommendations for improvement the League might consider. Probably just a coincidence, but still . . .

One of my major criticisms was directed towards the GPL website. After their incredibly successful professional inaugural draft, it soon became clear that the GPL site needed to be redesigned and then maintained consistently. Stories and features had to be updated frequently, a less cumbersome schedule and video archive had to be developed, the site had to load faster and, of course, it had to be optimized for mobile. In other words, the site MUST be a high class, high-functioning professional website.

I’ve been writing since the beginning that the GPL’s vision of poker as a team sport is what sets it apart. In fact, I wrote:” . . . it was that team concept that was supposed to build the fan base. Unless the mission has changed, I don’t believe the GPL did enough to reinforce the team concept.”

Global Poker League Team logos coveredFor example, during the online matches, I wrote in my blog and in the Twitch chat “, the logos of the teams ought to be prominent. Instead, they are often difficult to see. The design of the graphics covered up the team logos when the hole cards were being shown.”

During the Summer Series in The Cube, I also wrote, “ . . . the players should have been wearing their team t-shirts sporting their team logo”. There was practically no visible branding of the teams or of the GPL for the streaming audience. And, because the team merchandise was STILL not available, I lamented that a huge marketing opportunity had been missed: “ fans of the teams could have worn their t-shirts all over Vegas, including at the heavily attended WSOP.”

In other words, I bought into the team sport concept. Naturally I grew to have my favorites among the players; it was hard not to., But in the end, I explained, “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.

The Cube as it is currentlyIn a couple of my blogs, I talked about my biggest concern, which was taking the Playoffs to TwitchCon in San Diego, where it would be competing for the attention of video gamers, a brand new demographic with millions of worldwide fans. I was concerned that bringing The Cube, even with some of the promised bells, whistles and enhancements, could be a disaster, and that “the huge video game audience would walk right by it without ever noticing it’s there.” And as far as Wembley is concerned, it never seemed big enough to be the center of attention in a huge stadium, at least not for a long time.

I’m glad that Dreyfus and team are committed to making the GPL a success on a long-term basis. I respect them for holding back until they’ve made some much needed adjustments. I am betting that within a couple of years, the League will have done what it needs to do to work itself into our hearts and minds; after all, it made me a poker fan and I can’t wait for more! I just wish they would have handled the re-scheduling and venue changes as professionally as they handled their inaugural draft.

Send me your comments or thoughts!

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 ParisLynn “Queen of Hearts” Paris

After the final heads-up match of the online phase of the Global Poker League’s inaugural season, Olivier Busquet, (LA Sunset) with a “slim-as-can-be 2-1 win” over Tom Marchese of the NY Rounders, said during his interview; “The GPL has been tons of fun:  the webcams, the whole team aspect, following the standings, I’ve totally enjoyed it and gotten a lot of poker practice. Everyone now is ready for the live portion; I think it will be a blast.”

So now I’m ready to be convinced, knowing that many of the team members prefer live play to online, that watching the heads-up cross-conference matches will bring its own kind of excitement. I have to believe that the GPL has prepared as well for this phase as they did for the online launch phase (notwithstanding Dreyfus’ tweet about building a studio in just 10 days). It’s hard to imagine that Dreyfus and his team are counting on last minute preparations, so I’m assuming the production values will be top-notch, there will be well-thought out extras and some unanticipated surprises, and hopefully enough fans have bought into the team concept that they can keep that crucial part of the League, the team competition, alive and growing.

But once the in studio Summer Series (approximately 48 heads-up matches over eight weeks) are over, and each team has played every other team in the opposing conference, and the four top teams in the Americas Conference and the four in the Eurasian Conference have been determined . . . then what?

GPL's The CubeWell, as just about everyone who’s been following the Global Poker League has discovered, Dreyfus is taking the GPL Playoffs to TwitchCon San Diego, for what is being called three days of unprecedented action. The top four teams from both conferences will square off to see who will progress to the Wembley finals in November. According to Dreyfus, The Cube®  will be unveiled for the first time. In other words, poker, and specifically the GPL, will be large part of this video gaming convention.

All along, Dreyfus had talked about wanting to make poker bigger, wanting it to go mainstream and reach a much wider and younger demographic. Is that audience made up of video gamers? I was flabbergasted to learn that more than twice as many people viewed a competitive video game tournament last year than watched Super Bowl 50!

“Last year, more than 225 million people watched competitive gaming (eSports) and the passion, engagement and size of this audience only continues to grow,” said Mike Sepso, senior vice president of Activision Blizzard Media Networks and co-founder of Major League Gaming.

Apparently, the alignment of poker and eSports is one that Dreyfus has been pushing for a long time. His company, Mediarex Sports & Entertainment, spent almost a year and millions of dollars to develop the new proprietary game of HoldemX, described as “a whole new poker game that tries to build a bridge between poker and eSports.”

“With HoldemX, we are also going to target a whole new demographic that has been largely untouched by the poker industry; we want to engage the new generation of video game players who haven’t been into poker yet.”

I’m out of my league on this — in completely over my head. I was just starting to get a grasp on playing poker and forming allegiances with my two favorite teams in the GPL. I naively thought that people like me were the audience for this league:  sports enthusiasts who would learn to enjoy “sportified” poker. But I’ve come to learn that I’m part of a very small demographic.

Suddenly all the talk is turning to eSports and competitive video gaming. I thought I knew very little about poker but was eager to learn. I’m positive I know nothing about video games and the gamer generation.

For now, I will continue to follow the GPL as it does what it needs to do to work its way into our hearts and minds. I’m hoping it doesn’t leave recent converts like me behind.

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