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Not even two weeks after the Global Poker League wrapped its first international season in Las Vegas, founder and chief executive Alex Dreyfus revealed the next step for the GPL. There is a GPL China preparing to launch in 2017.

While the second season of the primary GPL plans is in the works, no information has been released as of yet. But with the popularity of poker growing exponentially in China, the company is focused on boosting its presence in that part of the world. It is unknown if the leagues will overlap in the coming year.

Eight Teams, One Country

The announcement for GPL China came on December 12. The rollout of the new league will take place after the Spring Festival Golden Week holiday, a full week of celebrations following the Chinese New Year on January 28.

Dreyfus did reveal that GPL China will start its first season with eight teams, each representing a different city in China. The names of the teams are as follows:

  • Beijing Great Dragons
  • Shanghai Golden Tigers
  • Guangzhou Pioneers
  • Shenzhen Eagles
  • Hangzhou Legends
  • Xi’an Warriors
  • Chengdu Pandas
  • Tianjin Guardians

It is being called the “NBA of Poker” and will operate independently of the international GPL teams and season. Dreyfus described it as being “geared specifically to open up poker as an eSport and mind sport in China – a team-based Texas Hold’em format that will push the game into the same realm as other mainstream skill-based leagues within the region.”

The managers of the eight teams will be announced within the next two months, likely in early February, at which point the procedure for choosing team members will also be explained. Managers will be able to choose celebrities, online poker qualifiers, and players ranked by the Global Poker Index in China. As of today, the GPI shows 501 ranked players in China who have won more than $1.8 billion since 1982.

Eventually, the GPL China games will be streamed online in China and around the world via media partners to be announced.

In a Constant State of Improvement

Dreyfus is the first to admit that the process of rolling out the Global Poker League has been a constant learning experience. He even noted in his GPL China announcement that the Chinese launch will be inspired by “modern sports, the video game industry … and lessons learned from GPL Season 1.”

What is that likely to mean for GPL China? Here are some possibilities.

  1. Fans should be engaged from the outset, with merchandise available to allow people to feel connected to their favorite team and its players. The Draft Day festivities were fun to watch in the 2016 GPL, though the fans could’ve been roped in at that time.
  2. The commentators should be consistent throughout the season. The international GPL kicked off with two game commentators and two hosts, the latter of whom participated in the Summer Series, and only one of whom stayed with the GPL throughout the season. Fans need to build a rapport with commentators and hosts who stay with the program.
  3. There should always be a post-game analysis. The livestreams are filled with good information, but a breakdown of key hands and lessons are beneficial for players and fans. This happened in the latter part of GPL’s first season with the help of Jonathan Little and his video analyses.
  4. The scoring process should be completely transparent and explained in detail, including any penalties and other points changes. The GPL picked up the pace toward the latter part of Season 1 with detailed statistics and explanations of all points.
  5. The players chosen for the teams must be fully committed to the league. They must be prepared to play, participate, use social media, and see it through to the end.
  6. The inaugural season of GPL China could be much shorter than the 2016 GPL action. Fans tend to lose interest over the course of months and months and different formats, commentators, and cities, etc. The schedule should be short and sweet, enough to garner significant points but not long enough to lose attention.
  7. Sponsorship from the start looks like something GPL China already has in the works. Dreyfus has been working with potential sponsors for months, and those partnerships will be beneficial to start the league off with as much publicity as possible.

Whether supportive or critical of the Global Poker League, the vast majority of people in poker want the GPL to be a success. Everyone – from players to fans – can benefit from the overall growth of the industry. The new GPL China looks to be entering a key market at an ideal time, so collective fingers are crossed for success.

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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.