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The evening of June 6 was a big one for the Global Poker League. After eight weeks of live-streaming six-max tournaments and heads-up online poker matches from the Malta studio, the cast and crew trekked to Las Vegas, set up shop very quickly, and began the GPL Summer Series. And the featured player of the night was none other than Emmy-winning actor Aaron Paul, making his debut for his LA Sunset team.

Nuts and Bolts

Before we get to the actual players and action, let’s talk about the Cube. It’s been discussed ad nauseum since Mediarex’s chief Alex Dreyfus first put forth the idea of players standing up to play in a box. I admit that I was a doubter as well, but I am happy to say that I was wrong.

An entire studio was built in a Las Vegas office in less than 10 days, and it did include the Cube, a massive glass box in which the players compete in a heads-up poker format but at tablet screens. It is a combination of online and live poker requiring the players to face each other and stand for the duration of the three heads-up games that comprise one match. The Cube also offers spectators a view into the box, though the players are unable to see or hear anything outside of the four walls. They are able to talk to each other, though, a feature which offers some interesting insight into the game.

The nature of the Twitch broadcast changed up a bit as well. The commentators at the broadcast desk are Eric Danis and Joe Stapleton, and the featured guest on the panel today was London Royals team manager Liv Boeree. Laura Cornelius was on the floor near the Cube, offering pre-game insight and post-game interviews with the players.

GPL commentators liv boeree joe stapleton

The screen also offered a few new features for viewers, including the time that each player is thinking during each move, the number of the hand being played, the percentage of time they might split the pot, and sometimes a list of outs available to each player.

Players and Games

The first match of the first heat of the GPL Summer Series of the first season – a lot of firsts – featured two exciting players. Fabrice Soulier, the team manager of the Paris Aviators came in at the last minute for George Danzer, who was supposed to play for the Aviators but instead made the final table of the WSOP $10K Stud Championship. Oops!

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His opponent was the only player in all of the Global Poker League who had yet to play at all, Aaron Paul of the LA Sunset. The star of shows like Breaking Bad and The Path, not to mention the winner of three Emmys for his role in the former, has a longtime love of poker and was ready to play in the new format.

The first game demonstrated a little nervousness on the part of both competitors in the Cube, but the two were friendly and very talkative with each other, even being surprisingly honest about hands. Soulier was admittedly feeling some jet lag after just having arrived in Las Vegas within the past 24 hours, and he quickly grew frustrated – though staying light-hearted through the entire match – with a lack of hands and the inability to figure out Paul’s strategy.

Paul, on the other hand, had been coached by teammate Olivier Busquet earlier in the day, and he was feeling very confident. He also got many good hands, and he knew how to play them. He quickly pushed into the lead early in all three games, finding some successful places to bluff and making some great calls. It would have been difficult for a non-poker connoisseur to know that he wasn’t as much of a regular player as Soulier.

GPL aaron paul

Paul won the first match in 46 hands, and the second match went to Soulier after some key double-ups and solid comeback play. By the third game, the exhaustion for both players was clear, and the two started that last game a bit quieter than before. But both clearly wanted those last three available points for their teams, and the play got rather intense. Soulier even said at one point, “Man, you see through me. It’s unbelievable,” putting some voice to the frustration on his face. Eventually, Paul lost his time bank and had to act within four seconds for each move, which led to a few missteps, but after more than 100 hands, Paul pulled off another win.

With six points for the LA Sunset, Paul was clearly excited for the victory and a solid debut in the GPL. He and Soulier were complimentary of each other, shaking hands and showing off the new GPL team jerseys.

For a recreational player, even one who has been playing for 15 years, Paul was a severe underdog going into the game against a longtime pro. But Paul proved that he was no flash in the pan, and he was able to compete and, further, win with some great plays and poker skill.

After just one game of the GPL Summer Series, many poker fans – this one included – are excited for what is to come.

How much do you know about Aaron Paul? Check out our video: Did You Know – Aaron Paul Edition!


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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.