It was a historic moment in Los Angeles Thursday night as the Global Poker League, the brainchild of Global Poker Index chairman Alexandre Dreyfus, came to life with its first ever player draft. Over the span of four rounds, the teams filled out their initial rosters and, with only 12 teams involved in the league, it was hard to see any missteps by the managers for the teams. With that said, some managers did much better with their selections than their compatriots did.
Here are three reads on the results of the draft; in Part 2, we’ll look at the biggest snubs from the 2016 GPL Draft and, in Part 3, we’ll actually look at how the draft came off for the GPL – from the live telecast over Twitch to its length (ugh!).
Regional Ties Were Important
For the international teams, it did seem imperative to the managers to have people that their fans would be able to recognize.
For Hong Kong Stars manager Celina Kim, it seemed to be a requirement that she draft players that the majority of the poker community had never even heard about. Players such as Wei Yi Zhang and Raiden Kan are very popular in the Asian community (not to mention being outstanding card players) and should be marketable in that area. If they team can perform well, then it achieves the goal on both the marketing and competitive fronts, which is paramount to the success of the GPL.
Moscow Wolverines manager Anatoly Filatov also fell into that Russian-centric route, in fact it was one of his statements that he put together a strong Eastern European team. The reason we have to say “Eastern European” is that his first pick was Poland’s Dmitry Urbanovich, only the hottest player on the planet right now. Filatov didn’t waste the other picks either, going with Vladimir Troyanovskiy, Andrey Pateychuk and Sergey Lebedev. That’s a solid roster.
Canada and Italy also followed this path in building their squads. Rome Emperors manager Max Pescatori utilized the first pick in the draft to take countryman Mustapha Kanit and he stayed inside Italy with second-round pick Dario Sammartino. Pescatori would get Timothy Adams (ironically from Canada) in the third round but rounded out his team with Walter Treccarichi, perhaps the ONLY surprise to come up in the entirety of the four rounds.
Montreal Nationals manager Marc-Andre Ladouceur also scoured the “Great White North” for his talent. Three of his four picks – first rounder Mike McDonald, Pascal Lefrancois and Xuan Liu – all wave the Maple Leaf proudly. The only time that Ladouceur stepped away from his home country? Just the 2014 World Champion, Martin Jacobson from Sweden.
You Didn’t Necessarily Have to Be There
Arguably the best draft of the 12 teams involved would go to manager Philip Gruissem and the Berlin Bears. The funny thing about this was the fact that Gruissem wasn’t even in the Western Hemisphere for the draft on Thursday afternoon!
Gruissem, utilizing Skype and the Twitch stream of the event, employed a “second” to get his picks to the stage and Commissioner Kara Scott (here’s a question…when did Scott become the Commissioner of the league? Must have missed that memo). World Poker Tour hostess Lynn Gilmartin stood in for Gruissem and, in some cases quoting the exact reason for his picks, drew a stunning squad of Brian Rast, Sorel Mizzi, Dominik Nitsche (who will be champing at the bit to ruin the days of managers who forced him into the third round) and Jeff Gross. Whatever Gruissem does with his two “wild card” picks will be gravy because he already has a solid foundation.
Enough About the Internationals – Who’s The Best U. S. Team?
There are two teams that particularly stand out regarding the U. S teams in the mix. The New York Rounders and manager Bryn Kenney had an outstanding draft, with Kenney scoring Jason Mercier, Tom Marchese, current World Series of Poker Europe champion Kevin MacPhee and Jason Wheeler as his four draft picks. When Kenney and Wheeler can potentially be considered your “weak links” on a team, that’s a strong group.
If you want to choose a “dark horse” for the GPL World Championship, you don’t have to look any further than manager Maria Ho and the Los Angeles Sunset. Ho was masterful in her selections, taking Fedor Holz, Olivier Busquet (not sure he was on anyone else’s radar, but a really good pick), Eugene Katchalov (maybe a reach, but if he comes through strong, a big score) and Chance Kornuth (hotter than a mail-order pistol in the tournament scene right now) in her four selections. Ho will round it out with “wild card” picks (might see one of Ho’s old friends, such as Vanessa Rousso or maybe Tiffany Michelle, make an appearance here) that some might question, but that will be strong players for a sneaky good team.
With the teams filled, who are the obvious snubs in the inaugural GPL Draft? And how did the GPL do overall with the production of the draft itself? Stick around and we will look into those subjects in Part 2 and Part 3.