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Alex Dreyfus continues to innovate in his mission to “sportify poker.”

The entrepreneur behind the Global Poker Index (GPI) announced today on his twitter account that the first ever Global Poker League (GPL) season will be held in early 2016. According a press release from GPI parent company Mediarex Sports & Entertainment (MSE) the goal of the GPL is to “sportily poker in a bid for the Global Poker Index to become the equivalent of the NFL, NBA, NASCAR, MLB, ATP or PGA for poker.”

And while the idea of a true poker league is definitely generating cautious enthusiasm within the poker community, the biggest buzz is occurring around the fact that the GPL has reimagined poker right down to the very physical space in which it is played.

Dispensing with the traditional poker room table and chairs, Dreyfus announced that GPL matches will be held in a special arena space designed to maximize fan interaction both live and online in what is being billed simply as “The Cube.”

“The Cube” – Meeting the Demands of a New Era of Poker Enthusiasts

MSE released an info-graphic laying out the capabilities of “The Cube.”

Describing it as “a unique venue set-up that creates instant recognition [for] fans” similar to the UFC’s Octagon, the 20ft/6m squared cube shaped area would be 100% portable and could be assembled almost anywhere.

More importantly, “The Cube” would capitalize on the growing synergy between poker and online streaming services such as Twitch. It would be 100% soundproof and have “one way clear walls.” This in turn will allow matches to be watched or streamed with players’ hole cards visible in a live, real time way, without any effect on gameplay.

That is something that up until now has been impossible and handicapped the ability of the game to appeal to a truly mass audience.

Initial GPL Season to Have 12 Teams, Pay Players, Feature Timed Games

The GPL season will feature twelve initial franchises split into an “Americas” Conference and a “Eurasia” Conference that will compete over the course of at least fourteen weeks.

As in traditional sports leagues, each team will be associated with a city and be given a moniker/nickname. Cities on the shortlist for franchises include New York, Paris, and Hong Kong

Teams will have 5 players, 3 of which will be “drafted” during a GPL Draft Day from amongst the top-ranked 1,000 players from the GPI. Two other “wild card” players can also be selected. Those on teams will be paid for their participation just like in other sports leagues, with cash prizes for victories.

Essential to note is that no actual money will be wagered by anyone involved. Instead, money will come from sponsorship dollars, ticket sales, and other revenue streams.

The season – which will feature matches capped at 30-40 minutes to match up with television viewing patterns – will culminate in the GPL World Championship Final during the summer.

Poker Without Betting and Synergies with Current Industry Players

Dreyfus was quick to point out that the GPL is not going to compete with current established poker brands and tours such as the World Poker Tour (WPT),  European Poker Tour (EPT), or the World Series of Poker (WSOP).

His vision is not to capture more of the existing pie, but instead to work with existing entities to generate more excitement for the 51 million poker fans he estimates already exist in the United States alone.

This makes the project a collective done that everyone can benefit from, giving everyone in the industry an incentive to see it succeed.

The Best Thing to Come Along for Poker in a Very Long Time

The concept of the GPL as explained by Dreyfus is completely innovative and very exciting.

It solves many of the most difficult issues surrounding legitimizing the game in the mainstream. Most importantly, it allows for the action to be followed live in real-time, something absolutely essential to today’s online streaming and instant information culture.

The idea of a soundproof “Cube” as a unique and recognizable arena will serve to make the GPL unique and provide great brand recognition.

The use of city based teams might be able to break through the optics of poker as a game played solely at the personal level, and serve to create something resembling a true “fan culture.”

The elimination of any wagers takes the poker out of the “gambling” category and places it on par with activities such as chess or other recognized mind sports.

For all these reasons, the inaugural season of the GPL will definitely be something for current poker enthusiasts to watch closely in 2016.

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Bradley Chalupski

Bradley Chalupski made his first deposit onto an online poker site in 2009 and has been paying rake and following the poker scene ever since. He received his J.D. from the Seton Hall University School of Law in 2010.