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When the Global Poker League announced its 12 team managers, the inclusion of Faraz Jaka in that dozen was no surprise. He is consistently ranked in the top 100 of the Global Poker Index world rankings with more than $5 million in live tournament earnings to date, not to mention nearly $4 million in online winnings.

Jaka is one of the most enthusiastic of the GPL team managers, and he was happy to be fourth in line to choose his first player on GPL Draft Day. He chose Phil Galfond in that round, and he followed that up with Anthony Gregg in Round 2, Kitty Kuo as a surprise choice in Round 3, and Anton Wigg in Round 4. The latter of those picks was the result of a coin flip, as he and his new teammates were completely torn between Wigg and Jason Les. Wigg won the flip.

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With that, Jaka’s original team was set.

But what was it like during the draft process? For someone like Jaka, who is enthusiastic about the GPL and everything it has the potential to become, it was a whirlwind day that is about to lead to even more excitement in the months ahead.

Jaka was kind enough to give us his thoughts on it all.

PokerUpdate: What was your plan going into GPL Draft Day?

Jaka: The plan was to just execute on the homework that I had already done! For everyone I was interested in drafting, I gave them a score based on different characteristics I was looking for. I came up with backup options in case my team was lacking poker talent or marketability and needed to make up for it in the later rounds. I came up with scenarios of who I thought other teams would pick and, basically, came up with both best and worst case scenarios, knowing exactly who I would pick in any given circumstance.

PokerUpdate: Did your selection process go smoothly or did you hit a stumbling block along the way?

Jaka: I’d say my selection process went smoothly for the first three rounds. In the fourth round, I ended up with a very difficult decision. Luckily, by then, I had three other very analytical minds (the players I drafted) to help discuss the fourth pick.

PokerUpdate: What are your team’s greatest strengths?

Jaka: I think the greatest strength of our team is how well we will work together. It was really important to me to draft a team that will not only be easy to work with but includes people who will be infectiously positive towards the rest of the team. It only takes one person to be difficult to work with to ruin the chemistry for all. Our team also has a very good balance between talent and marketability, but the chemistry we will have is something that really takes a deeper understanding of each player’s personality type to get right.

PokerUpdate: Have you already chosen your wild cards? Or are you still considering options? (Any hints about your choices are welcome. Ha.)

Jaka: My wild cards are just about chosen and confirmed but still not 100%. Either way, I won’t be revealing anything about that just yet. *smile*

PokerUpdate: How do you feel about being a team manager?

Jaka: I’m thrilled to be a team manager. I think this roll suits me very well. I worked as the head of marketing in a student run t-shirt screening business in high school and absolutely loved it. I got to manage and lead a team of 15 other employees and had a very good experience. I’ve also done a lot of coaching and mentoring for other poker player, and even some life management coaching for some close friends who are entrepreneurs. Not only do I think I have a natural knack for management, I genuinely enjoy mentoring and leadership.

PokerUpdate: What are your goals as the team’s manager?

Jaka: Of course, the obvious goal is to win Season 1 of the GPL. Beyond that, it’s really important for me to have come up with a great management system or template. I want to have procedures and expectations set in place that work well and will be able to be replicated in future years for the San Francisco Rush. It’s a franchise we are building, so it’s all about long-term success. All managers and teams will be making mistakes and figuring things out through trial and error. My goal is to learn as much as I can and become an efficiently managed team that optimizes its ability to play at the highest level, while also creating the highest level of fan engagement at the same time.

PokerUpdate: Do you feel prepared for the GPL to begin? What are you looking forward to the most?

Jaka: I feel prepared, for the most part. With that said, I’m not going to lie; it is challenging trying to organize and be on top of everything while traveling as heavily as I do, both on tour and for my own personal travel. I’m known to do a lot of off-the-path-type traveling, which can sometimes make it difficult to pursue side projects. Even so, I’ve had a lot of involvement with side projects over the last few years, from consulting or helping promote startups to building out my own website and blog. The skills I’ve learned trying to be efficient and productive with those projects while on the road will help me to effectively manage the San Francisco Rush.

PokerUpdate: What are your hopes for the GPL?

Jaka: My hope for the GPL is that we are able to create an entertaining platform that draws not only the existing poker crowd but an entire new audience that had never before considered engaging in poker. The GPL is attempting to break down barriers and change the way the game is both played and viewed. My hope is that we see the demographic that engages in poker grow massively, leading towards a new poker boom.

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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.