Big changes are in the works for the Global Poker League. There was no press release, but hints of mid-season changes turned to confirmation from GPL founder Alex Dreyfus last week.
The original schedule of Season 1 showed play resuming in mid-August after the post-summer break, but several comments from members of the GPL indicated that the date was being pushed into September. And with no mention or promotion of the upcoming TwitchCon during the summer also hinted at a change. Last week, however, the GPL website did change some schedule dates and the location of the semi-finals from San Diego to Las Vegas, as well as the finals that were originally pegged for Wembley Arena in London.
No press release accompanied the changes, but Dreyfus granted several interviews, one of which was to Poker Update, to discuss the changes.
Poker Update: Can you explain why the GPL switched its playoffs and finals from San Diego and London in favor of Las Vegas?
Alex Dreyfus: After more than 15 consecutive weeks of TV production and running the League, we realized we needed some time to sit down in order to being able to improve the product and launch some other tools. The summer break was not enough for the small team that we are. That’s one reason. The second one is a conflict of events. We learned during our first half that it doesn’t make sense to be in front of EPT & WCOOP, so with EPT Barcelona and WCOOP coming up, not to mention Burning Man, it made sense to move it out a few weeks.
By moving the dates, we were not able to leverage TwitchCon for the playoffs; therefore, we will use it more for a promotion of GPL there, as Twitch is a key partner for GPL. We will be doing some matches, promotion, and merchandising there. That’s for the playoffs.
As you know, GPL delivered most of our initiatives until now: the draft, the League, the Cube and some others stuff. We made it. I’m very proud of that and happy to have built a foundation, a framework that will allow GPL to exist for the next years. But the reality is that the foundation is not yet strong enough to support a big live event like what we were planning. In that way, we shifted our inspiration a bit more from ESL to eLeague (Turner/WME). Before trying to get a strong live spectator audience, we have to work more on our digital product and distribution. We don’t have enough marketing power yet to create the best live experience I dream of, so it is better to wait a little bit more.
Poker Update: Is the Vegas studio big enough to host an audience for those events, or will there even ben an audience?
Alex: We will readjust the studio to ensure we have an audience, but our priority is the digital audience for now. I want to focus more on digital and fan connection this year and next year.
Poker Update: Will there be a more concerted effort going forward to include fans, either as an audience or via contests and merchandise sales?
Alex: At this stage, it’s not going to be through audience but rather through contests, merchandise, etc. It’s funny, you know, people want to buy team-related gear and want to support a team. So our model is right, big time; we just need a lot of time and a few years to take off properly. I was talking again yesterday with an executive of a leading sports media company, confirming that we are building the right framework, the platform, that only time will make successful. So right now, the priority is to finish Season 1, improve the product a bit, and work ASAP on Season 2.
Poker Update: What have you learned thus far about the market for the GPL? And how can you use that to grow the GPL?
Alex: If you saw the latest post I made on FB, you’ll see how we see the future of GPL in three years. It will be the GPL fan model, connecting teams/players with fans, using the League as a platform, and offering for them to “Watch’Em” (that’s done), “Shop’Em” (soon), “Bet’Em,” “Draft’Em,” “Stake’Em,” “Play’Em,” and “Experience’Em.” This is the holistic view of where we are heading, it will take a lot of time and resources, but that’s the end goal.
We did a lot of surveys, using the great tool that is TheHendonMob.com website, to understand some trends of poker consumers. For example, 40% would like a real-money fantasy poker, 25% would like to bet real money on GPL, almost 50% would like to stake poker players, 55% would play a team poker tournament, 39% would like to be part of GPL, and even 41% would pay to play a match versus a poker celebrity. These are very strong signals of the fan model monetization we are working on. Surveys are not votes, as you don’t want 51% to offer a service, but you want to understand the size of the market and create it. With these amazing results, GPL can create a great platform with the best players in the world, but it will take some years to achieve it globally.
Poker Update: What kind of feedback have you received so far from the managers and team members? Is there anything you can share?
Alex: We have been very lucky with the players that decided to engage in GPL. A very large majority of them are very committed. I met most of them during Las Vegas GPL matches, and I was so thankful for the attention and the will they have to grow the game of poker and give a chance for GPL to be part of it. None of these players are doing that for short-term revenue; they understand it’s a long – very long – journey, but they understand as well that without players, we can’t grow the game, and some are keen to become ambassadors to promote it.
Like us, they can be frustrated that some of the initiatives we do are not perfect, and we don’t get enough traction sometimes, but they understand as well that we are a 4-month-old league, so we need time.
Preparing GPL Part II with a duck. pic.twitter.com/iOWBrFk2nT— Alexandre Dreyfus (@alex_dreyfus) August 9, 2016