The inaugural Global Poker League draft seemingly went off without a hitch on Thursday. Broadcast live from the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA, as the precursor to the 2nd Annual American Poker Awards, it was just the thing that was necessary to whet the appetite for the broadcast of the awards show later in the evening and to tease the upcoming GPL season. With this said, there were a few things that didn’t quite go off as planned; some of them were pleasantly surprising, some of them were big mistakes on the part of the GPL and its management and some just obviously couldn’t be foreseen. In this final part looking at the inaugural GPL Draft, here’s the Best and the Worst and maybe next year the Worst will be a smaller list.
General Organization – You have to give it to Alexandre Dreyfus and his team, they had the draft room set up to look like a top notch operation. From the video boards and the “draft clock” to the 12 individual tables that held the managers of each team, it looked like the draft room for a professional sporting league. There could have been a few more of the potential “top” draft picks in attendance, but that’s a nitpicky point. Kudos to Dreyfus and the GPL staff for pulling off a quality draft.
Holly Sonders – For those that weren’t aware, sideline reporter Holly Sonders was a late addition to the GPL broadcast and she brought professionalism to the event. Known mostly for her work on the Golf Channel and with Fox Sports as a course reporter at the U. S. Open, Sonders showed some decent interview talents in speaking with some of the managers during the draft. With some more prep time (this is supposed to be a long-term deal for Sonders to do sideline work with the GPL live events), Sonders will grow more accustomed to the players and knowledgeable about the game, then we’ll see if she can really shine on the sidelines.
The Mood – Maybe it was because it was in California or maybe because there was some fun being had by the participants off camera, but the mood around the draft room kept everyone loose during the draft proceedings. It was particularly funny when, in the first round, Sao Paulo Metropolitans manager Andre Akkari started to announce “Igor…” as his first pick – meaning Igor Kurganov, the paramour of London Royals manager Liv Boeree who was set to pick next (and did pick Kurganov) – and then looked at her and said, “Just kidding, Liv.” There were those little moments like that which kept the atmosphere loose and was something that could be noticed by the viewers.
No Uniforms? – Each of the draft tables held a card with the team logo emblazoned on it, but on the rare chance that one of the players drafted showed up (such as Jason Mercier when he went to Bryn Kenney’s New York Rounders), there weren’t any jerseys made up with the different team’s logos on them? That photo of the first round draft pick holding the team jersey with the Commissioner (or the team’s manager) is what the newspapers are always looking for; you can go back 5-10 years and find the picture of the first round draft pick holding the jersey with the Commissioner in most every sport, even those picks that have since faded from memory.
It would have been even better to see some team branding around the room in the form of jerseys, the managers wearing some sort of logo on their clothing, logos on the walls…something to demonstrate that this is a team event and that there would be merchandise that the general public would be able to purchase at a future date (some of the chat on Twitch even asked if there would be something along those lines).
Trim The Announcing Box – I don’t know if there is some secret contract that states if Daniel Negreanu is doing something poker-related that Phil Hellmuth has to be there too but, if there is, let’s burn that contract now. Both are legendary players, both are quite knowledgeable about the game, but both are unbearable when they try to top each other in the broadcast booth at the neglect of the proceedings. I’d have to say that, if there was someone to take out of the booth, it might be Hellmuth; he does have a way of annoying the viewers with making everything that is going on all about him and, after the first five times, that starts to wear thin (that and his continual discussion about “white magic”; within 30 minutes, I was praying for a warlock to come in and hex him).
The same could be said for the play-by-play announcer. Although Joe Stapleton and Eric Danis were complementary with each other, there’s only room for one director of the dance in the booth. A two-man booth – the traditional format, play-by-play and color – would have worked much better with the Twitch broadcast and it wouldn’t have caused the next problem…
Four Hours…REALLY? – To spend more than four hours to pick 48 players for 12 teams was excruciating for those watching the event over Twitch. The first hour was perhaps the most torturous as it timed out to almost an hour and a half on its own (more than 10 minutes per pick). The reason for this were videotaped “promos” for each manager and their team (roughly three minutes) that really didn’t seem to do anything and then anywhere from 5-7 minutes of debate (normally between Negreanu and Hellmuth) that, even when Kara Scott and the manager were standing at the podium waiting to announce the pick, continued to drag on.
Fan Commentary…Welllll… – At its peak, there were around 8785 viewers that were watching the first round of the GPL Draft. Now that might look good on the surface, but let’s hold that up against some other Twitch numbers. Jason Somerville’s record Twitch broadcast of his WCOOP final table run peaked at 37,500 viewers in 2015. Both of those numbers pale, however, when looking at professional “League of Legends” player Mike Petersen, who has the record for the most Twitch viewers of all-time when he had 137,769 concurrent viewers for one of his matches. I don’t know what Dreyfus and the GPL will consider “successful” as to the Twitch streams, but a regular season Twitch match between the Moscow Wolverines and the Hong Kong Stars is probably not going to draw these types of numbers.
Additionally, the commentary from those in the Twitch chat room ranged from those that thought it was Tryout Night at the Chuckle Hut to those that seriously needed examination for schizophrenic issues. There were various sexual comments – and let’s just say they weren’t complimentary – about the female managers from some social outcasts in the chat. If you’re going to be representing yourself as a “sport,” misogyny is something that cannot be tolerated. The GPL should have someone who is a responsible moderator in these chat rooms for these events that isn’t afraid to wield a banhammer like Mjölnir, which will send a message to the fans that there is a certain modicum of decorum expected from their side also.
As to some comments…two stood out in particular. One viewer on Twitch commented, “This has the XFL (the ill-fated attempt by Vince McMahon of World Wrestling Entertainment, then the World Wrestling Federation, to start a competing football league with the NFL) written all over it.” Another commenter was also a bit harsh in stating, “These broadcasters are making paint drying seem interesting.”
The inaugural GPL Draft definitely had both its good and bad moments. It is a learning process and, when the draft rolls around next year, there are things that Alexandre Dreyfus and the GPL will probably have changed for the festivities. But the draft is behind us now…the true fun is about to begin with the naming of the “wild cards” (any celebrities? Sports stars?) and then the actual business of competition!