The Global Poker Index (GPI) and USA TODAY Sports Media Group are joining strengths in a shared mission to “sportify” the game of poker and revolutionize how it’s played.
Acquired by Internet entrepreneur Alexandre Dreyfus in 2012 under his Mediarex sports and entertainment company, the GPI runs TheHendonMob.com, poker’s largest database in the world, and is set to launch the Global Poker League (GPL) in early 2016.
12 franchised teams spread around the world will encompass the GPL, players ranked in the top 1,000 of the GPI available to be drafted to the five-person rosters.
USA TODAY Sports, a global leader in sports reporting, will help keep tabs on all the latest developments and results.
“The partnership will provide an essential platform to showcase our innovative new events and to promote the players ranked in the Global Poker Index,” Dreyfus said in a press release. “It’s great to have the support and passion of an industry leader like USA TODAY Sports, whose team shares our vision to ‘sportify’ poker.”
If You Build It…
In theory, Dreyfus’ reasons to transform poker into a game that can be marketed and digested on similar lines to professional sports makes perfect sense. Poker’s roots date back to long before many of the world’s favorite sports were created.
It remains to be seen whether poker fans enjoy watching the game as much as they enjoy playing it.
Poker’s Super Bowl was held earlier this week, the 46th World Series of Poker (WSOP) crowning its $7.68 million champion on Tuesday night. The ESPN broadcast attracted 1,105,000 million viewers, fine for poker but dismal for sports.
Here’s a look at the other big four sports audiences in 2015:
Super Bowl: 114.5 million
World Series, Game 5: 17.2 million
NBA Finals, Game 6: 23.25 million
Stanley Cup, Game 6: 8 million
Dreyfus isn’t alone in believing that poker has the potential to become an attractive sport for casual gamblers and even non-players.
Last July, he secured $4.9 million in funding from outside investors to promote and build the GPL.
Additional capital will be raised from the selling of the 12 franchises, and then ideally ticket sales to tournaments.
One discussion that came up at this year’s WSOP Main Event was the notion of implementing a play clock. To make the game more engaging for audiences, the GPL will play heads-up and six-handed matches with set time limits of 30 to 45 minutes per level.
Each hand will be accompanied by an “action clock” that will count down the player’s turn similar to speed chess or even the NBA.
Though terms of the partnership weren’t disclosed, it’s apparent USA TODAY Sports is also buying into Dreyfus’ blueprint. The media group will need to assign journalists, producers, and digital creatives to cover the GPL headlines.
“The Global Poker Index has done more than any other organization to unify poker,” USA TODAY Sports VP Jason Ford said. “We’re looking forward to working together to create a 24/7 digital poker destination.”