Poker entrepreneur Alexandre Dreyfus debuted a number of new ideas and initiatives during 2014.
Dreyfus announced the formation of a professional poker league called the Global Poker League and a companion event dubbed the Global Poker Masters where teams of players compete for their country a la the Ryder Cup.
2014 Also saw the expansion of the long-running European Poker Awards, with the announcement of a second award banquet, the aptly named American Poker Awards. Both award ceremonies will be preceded by the inaugural Global Poker Conferences – another Dreyfus creation.
Dreyfus also unveiled a new news website called PokerToday.us and continued to increase the reach of the Global Poker Index, the Hendon Mob, and the company’s Fantasy Poker leagues.
On top of the numerous press releases Dreyfus’s Mediarex issued over the course of the year, a close look at the Global Poker Index and Hendon Mob websites also reveals a USA Today Sports Digital Properties logo – scroll down to the bottom of the homepages and you’ll see it.
And to tie it all together the GPI and Hendon Mob owner created the tagline “We Sportify Poker.”
Throughout the year Dreyfus has worked tirelessly to turn poker into a mainstream “sport.” Dreyfus has taken to calling poker players “heroes,” in hopes that the general public will see them as inspirational figures they can aspire to become.
Sportification started in 2014, but it will be make or break in 2015, as Dreyfus stated in a recent press release:
We want poker to be more mainstream, to be more legit and to be bigger. To achieve this vision, we sportify poker by bringing innovative solutions and disruptive projects. We want to be the Lab of the growth of poker for the next years. We aim to ‘own poker as a sport’ and give it a larger global exposure in the next 24 months. Poker is a old game, but a young industry. It is a long journey and that’s why its fun:-)”
Will it work?
This is of course the million dollar question.
To work, Dreyfus will need to get land-based poker operators, online operators, players, media, and affiliates to work together and push the same narratives and strive for the same overarching goal. In other words, he is asking each segment of the poker industry to sacrifice some amount of personal gain/freedom for the greater good of the game.
At the same time he has to change 150+ years of public perception regarding poker and its practitioners.
Obviously, this is not an easy task, and if I was a betting man I would put my money on Dreyfus falling short of his ultimate vision.
So why did I include something that I think will fail? Simply put, it’s one of the most ambitious undertakings we’ve ever seen in poker, and Dreyfus is both tenacious and hands-on in his approach, having peppered the poker landscape with innovations and marketing efforts throughout the year.
I want it to work, and hope I am proven wrong. I’d also add that from my dealings with Alex, if anyone is going to pull it off, Dreyfus is the guy for the job.
It will also be interesting to see how “Sportification” continues in 2015, particularly the success or failure of the Global Poker Masters and Global Poker Leagues, both of which seem to be the most ambitious offerings in Dreyfus’s stable, and ideas whose precursors have failed.
In some ways, Sportification has already succeeded
The idea of poker as a sport still has a long way to go, if it ever gets to that point, but Dreyfus has already had a number of mini successes.
The Global Poker Index has gone from a novelty asset of the failed Epic Poker League, to the ranking system for a number of major awards and tournament Player of the Year races.
Integrating the Hendon Mob tournament base with the GPI was also a major step forward for poker, as was the Hendon Mob’s partnership with PocketFives.com, which added online statistics to the Hendon Mob’s live tournament database.
Furthermore, Dreyfus has people talking and opining about poker, and how the game can take the next step or steps.
I for one do not agree with some of Dreyfus’s ideas and visions, but he is willing to debate, articulate, and listen. Dreyfus doesn’t have all the answers (neither do I or anyone else), but his desire to flesh out and work on these problems is something poker sorely needed.
The message is the most important part
For my money, his greatest success was simply explaining to the poker world why it’s important for everyone to move forward in unison. Why the WPT and EPT should realize that when one succeeds the other also succeeds. To make online poker and land-based operators realize their fortunes are intertwined. And for players and companies to understand that poker doesn’t exist without both parties.
Whether this will ever happen is up in the air, but the message is on point.
The NFL has 32 individual teams competing with one another for supremacy, yet the league speaks with a single voice. This is what poker needs: An atmosphere of divergent goals and fierce competition between operators, and poker tours, and players, but also a singular mission everyone can get behind. And this is what Alex Dreyfus is trying to deliver with his “We Sportify Poker” message.