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Poker is a solitary game. While live poker is typically played in a setting involving numerous other players, every man or woman is playing to outplay or outlast every single one of them. There may be some camaraderie among friends or collective excitement when bursting through the money bubble or making a final table, but it all comes down to one winner. Every person is out for himself or herself.

That may be why the notion of team poker tournaments is so intriguing. It allows a player to play with and for someone else, as team events typically allow two to four players per team. The ups and downs of the game are no longer for just one person to bear, as the bad beats and victories can all be shared with teammates. Many players seem to like the idea.

WSOP and GPL Increase Team Popularity

Early in 2016, the Global Poker League launched its first season of competitive team poker with online and live action. It showed the positive impact that teammates can have on each other and that the support of others on a team can encourage a player to do better. It also evened out the odds a bit. One player can be on a downswing and lose against luck in spot after spot, but the team can be salvaged by the upswings of others.

The WSOP added a Tag-Team NLHE event to its schedule last year, an experiment of sorts that required only a $1K buy-in for two, three, or four players to split. With four players, the buy-in was only $250 each, dramatically reducing the price for a chance at a WSOP bracelet. The idea received mixed reviews until the tournament actually happened. Players clamored to sign up, and registration ultimately closed with 863 teams comprised of more than 2,000 players. The resulting prize pool exceeded $750K, which paid out to the top 130 teams.

In the end, the duo of Doug Polk and Ryan Fee won the tournament, beating a team of three players, two of whom experienced their first WSOP cashes. Several of the final table teams consisted of well-known pro players, but Jonathan Little’s team took the most attention as he teamed up with both of his parents to finish ninth. Overall, it was a raging success.

It is no surprise that the WSOP put another Tag-Team NLHE event on the schedule this year. The same price tag applies, but it now appears earlier in the summer, with the three-day event set to begin on Monday, June 5. Even further, it added a $10K buy-in Tag Team NLHE Championship starting on Wednesday, May 31.

Survey Says…

Mediarex Sports & Entertainment recently asked visitors to the Hendon Mob website to answer various survey questions about poker. Many questions pertained to the Global Poker League, though some were more general questions about the game. One was particularly focused on team poker tournaments in general:

Would you play a team poker tournament?

  • 38.7% responded, “Yes, totally.”
  • 28% responded, “No, I don’t think so.”
  • 17.5% responded, “Yes, probably.”
  • 15.9% responded, “I don’t know.”

More than 55% of those surveyed would play in a team tournament, which shows that the concept is quickly increasing in popularity. Other survey questions that discussed team poker focused on GPL and a livestreamed poker show concept, and respondents in both cases showed a great deal of interest.

Whether it is the ability to share the experience with family/friends, the drastic change from the solo game that poker has always been, or simply something different from the typical tournament, there is a growing fascination with team poker. Keep your eyes on the WSOP Tag-Team NLHE events in May/June, as the turnout for the two events may be even more of an indicator of the direction that poker organizers will need to steer in the coming years.

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Jennifer Newell

Jennifer has been a freelance writer in the poker industry for a decade. She left a full-time job with the World Poker Tour to tell the stories of poker. She now lives in St. Louis, writes about poker while pursuing other varied interests, and speaks her mind on Twitter… a lot.

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