This weekend Alex Dreyfus unveiled the crown jewel of his master plan to Sportify poker, the Global Poker Masters.
If you’re looking for the results of the inaugural GPM you can find those here. This column will deal with the event itself, with my initial thoughts on the GPM, as well as some constructive criticism for the organizers moving forward.
I would mark the GPM down in the success column, but it was not the complete victory the American Poker Awards and Global Poker Conference were. The GPM had its share of issues, which I’ll outline below. But first, let’s deal with the positives.
The early ratings look promising
The Global Poker Masters was streamed live on Twitch as well as PokerStars.tv, and over the course two-day, 20-hour, competition some million viewers tuned in to see what it was all about. At any given time there were between 4,000 and 5,000 viewers on Twitch, making the GPM one of the Top 20 channels on the website.
These are pretty solid numbers.
My one fear is many viewers (like myself) were tuning in to get a first look at this idea called the GPM, and much like the original Big One for One Drop, once the novelty of “what’s this all about” is gone it’s hard to recapture the audience. Especially considering the issues that were all too obvious once the contest got underway.
Competitive drive was evident
I also found the strategy of team play interesting (it brought a new layer of strategy into the game of poker) and was happy to see pretty much every player who competed took the game seriously and wanted to win – even though this was an event where the winning team got little more than bragging rights.
This was nice to see as it puts to rest the idea that poker can only be played for money, and pros won’t take the game seriously without a lot of it on the line.
GlobalPokerMasters was intense but immensely satisfying! Thanks to a great co-anchor @EricDanisPoker, GPI, all the crew, media & players!— Kara Scott (@KaraOTR) March 23, 2015
That being said, to keep the players coming back for future GPM’s, and to keep viewers tuned in, the following things will need to be addressed.
*I’m not saying these are THE answers (or even good ones) for all of GPM’s issues, as these were just what I came up with in a 24 hour period following the event.
How complicated is the GPM format?
Here, take a look for yourself:
Bear in mind this criticism is coming from a guy who is a staunch advocate of the “if you can explain you can play it” rule in home games, and played a 12-Game Mix at Aria.
My suggestion would be to do away with all but the most basic scoring rules, and make all the matches the same structure, with the only change being the number of teams still remaining.
So, during the preliminary heats (with 8 teams competing) each table is 8 handed. The top 6 teams could move on to the next round, so tables would now be six handed, then four and finally heads-up in the finals.
There is simply no need for weighted chip stacks, no bye’s, no jumping between heads-up and back to 6-max, keep it as simple and fair as it can be.
Too long of a grind
I understand that poker is a slow-paced game, and to really hone in on the skill component you need slow structures, but when you have 12-hour days, and a player falling asleep at the table you may want to consider speeding things up a bit.
A full round of a golf tournament runs for a comparable amount of time, but each individual player is only invested for 4-5 hours, and TV execs are astute enough not to show the whole thing.
My suggestion. Drop down to either three or four heats and pick up the coverage at the tail end of Heat 1 or Heat 2. This would not only make it easier on the players but also the viewers.
You’re asking too much of poker pros to compete for two days, 12 hours at a time, especially when there is no money on the line. And you’re asking too much of a viewer to watch at 8 AM and stick around until the end at 8 PM.
Too confusing to watch
Here is another lesson poker could take from golf, Stagger the start of each table.
Golf has learned that even though it would save you a lot of time, you can’t put every guy out on the course at the same time, each starting at a different hole – or in the case of the Global Poker Masters, every guy spread across five courses at the same time – so staggering the start of each table in a given heat (by perhaps 20 minutes) would give the viewers a chance to switch their focus and watch as each table play down to the winner.
The current format makes the end of each match too chaotic. Even the announcers were having trouble keeping track of eliminations and chip stacks.
As an aside, the GPM would benefit greatly if they could accurately track each players chip stack in real time.
Too many insignificant hands
One of tournament poker’s issues has always been making the entire process (from the first hand to the last) interesting.
Tournament poker has a natural buildup in anxiety levels as the final table approaches, but the GPM’s format (which utilized a hard stop) caused not only the beginning of the tournament to be relatively inconsequential (when the blind to stack ratio is relatively large), but also the end as well, since players with big leads have no vested interest in playing a hand as the hard-stop approaches, since they have already locked up maximum points.
I’ve given this a lot of thought, and my suggestion would be to institute a “knockout” bonus. Here are the current scoring allocations:
- 1st: 9,000
- 2nd: 5,000
- 3rd: 2,000
- 4th: 1,000
What I would do is add a bonus to the first place finisher if they win the table by elimination rather than by default:
- 1st by knockout: 12,000
- 1st by default: 9,000
- 2nd: 5,000
- 3rd: 2,000
- 4th: 1,000
This won’t eradicate the problem, but it should be enough of an incentive to make sure most matches are contested right down to the wire.