The Global Poker League has completed its inaugural draft and, for the most part, it came off as a success. Now the managers for each of the 12 teams involved in the league have the challenge of coming up with potentially two “wild card” players – that is, if they don’t choose themselves as one of those “wild cards” – to round out their rosters. But which way do these managers go, a player that will add to the overall strength of their team or someone that will add on the side of marketing, a little “pizzazz,” if you will? Here’s a suggestion for each team (sometimes serious – I’ll let you figure out when!) and, come the end of March, perhaps the managers of the GPL teams will have been listening!
@LostInPoker Everybody can be a wildcard. It's up to the managers to select them.— Global Poker League (@gpl) March 10, 2016
For the most part, manager Max Pescatori has been concentrating his attention on the talent that comes from the Big Boot. There’s no reason for him to stop now. Along with naming himself as one of the wild cards (Max won two World Series of Poker bracelets in 2015, solidifying his place as one of the best in today’s game), Pescatori should probably take either Dario Mineri or Luca Pagano with his other pick. Mineri hasn’t exactly set the world afire of late (one cash in 2015), so Pagano would get the edge here. Another potential pick would be Jeff Lisandro, if Pescatori could pry him away from Australia!
It is too easy to see Marc-Andre Ladouceur picking himself for a “wild card” seat here, but let’s go ahead and pretend that there is more than one seat available. Ladouceur literally has a cornucopia of choices from the “Great White North” that could either help the team or help promote it. Players such as Mark Radoja, Greg Mueller, Isabelle Mercier, Matt Jarvis, Cory Carroll and Shawn Buchanan might be willing to step up for the Maple Leaf and Daniel Negreanu and Evelyn Ng – two of the most noted Canadian professionals ever – might welcome a call from Ladouceur. But here’s one that may start a “war” between two teams – Jennifer Tilly. The Canadian actor/WSOP bracelet winner would be coveted by Maria Ho’s Los Angeles Sunset squad…but could Ladouceur sneak in and pull the “patriotism” card on Tilly?
New York Rounders
Manager Bryn Kenney might not need much help beyond the team he drafted, but he still gets two “wild cards” per the rules. Since he’s already locked up the playing side of the equation, how about the entertainment and marketing sides? In New York, why not see if Jay-Z has the time to play some cards (hey, every husband and dad needs a “poker night,” even if your spouse and child are Beyoncé and Blue)? Failing that, former New York Yankees superstar Derek Jeter might be available and he’s a good competitor, or maybe legendary rocker Billy Joel? If we absolutely HAVE to go with a poker player, how about someone like Steve Zolotow (one of the original players at the Mayfair in New York), who would be able to regale the media with how poker “used to be” and how the GPL is going to make poker better.
San Francisco Rush
The Rush could be a sneaky good team, but they might be one player short. As such, manager Faraz Jaka may be looking for a quality player to fill out that last spot, perhaps someone like Mohsin Charania that would be both a strong live and online player. If he wanted to go for someone who would be famous outside of poker and can actually play some cards, San Francisco native and actor Kevin Pollak, who has been on the felt in some of the biggest tournaments in Las Vegas and California, might be a good suggestion.
Las Vegas Moneymakers
There is a big advantage that manager Chris Moneymaker has with his eponymous squad…virtually no one will turn down a call to be a part of his team. He has nearly every top pro around the area there in Sin City and, if necessary, they’d step up (especially if they were also Moneymaker’s teammate at PokerStars). Why not someone like Barry Greenstein or perhaps Fatima Moreira de Melo, who Moneymaker might have to fight some of the Eurasia teams to get.
Not that manager Liv Boeree wouldn’t know what to do with promotion of the team, but there’s one person hanging around in Great Britain that would have an outstanding knowledge of how to promote a burgeoning poker product…the big question is would he be willing to step in as a “wild card” and help. European Poker Tour founder John Duthie might be a good choice here as he’s been through the travails of a startup before, so he would be able to navigate the waters. Add in he’s a pretty decent card player too and you cover a couple of different needs for the Royals.
Manager Anatoly Filatov seems to be creating a new “Iron Curtain” with his mostly Russian squad (save for Poland’s Dmitry Urbanovich, every member is from Mother Russia), so why not go full on “heel mode?” Let’s go with Anna Chapman as the “wild card” pick.
Who is Anna Chapman, you might ask? Ah, how soon people forget…Chapman was the saucy femme fatale who, in 2010, was arrested as part of an intricate Russian spy ring in the United States. Upon her guilty plea, she was sent back to Russia, where she has been cheered as a celebrity by Russian president Vladimir Putin and other members of the Russian government and currently works as a model (and supposedly was “offered” to U. S. cybersecurity expert Edward Snowden while he was in exile in the country).
Chapman could bring some international intrigue (and maybe an international incident or two?) to the GPL, making it just like any other sporting organization that eventually gets affected by politics.
Los Angeles Sunset
We’ve already touched on one of manager Maria Ho’s potential picks – actor/poker player Jennifer Tilly – but Ho could pull a host of Hollywood bigwigs to fill a “wild card” slot. Pollak (also possible for San Francisco), Ben Affleck (newly single and probably looking for something to do), Matt Damon, Mimi Rogers…you couldn’t throw a poker chip without hitting some actor that would jump at the chance to promote the GPL. If you actually want a poker player, a long shot choice might be Alex Outhred, an outstanding poker instructor/player from the area who once worked with the WPT and has only racked up about $500,000 in tournament earnings in his career.
Once again, we find a team that is a powerhouse that may want to use the “wild card” on a promotional spot. Manager Philipp Gruissem put together an excellent squad (counting himself) and could pick tennis legend Boris Becker (a former Team PokerStars Pro) who would be an excellent ambassador for poker and the GPL. Gruissem could also go with former World Champion Pius Heinz or Marvin Rettenmaier, both strong online/live players.
There is one pick that would make sense here for manager Fabrice Soulier and it would probably help to quell a bubbling situation in the poker world. Benjamin Pollak went overlooked in the regular GPL draft despite his #40 ranking in the world, perhaps due to last year’s disagreement between Pollak’s online sponsor Betclic and Dreyfus’ rules for a predecessor of the GPL, the Global Poker Masters. It would be a way to let bygones be bygones – and an outstanding addition to the Aviators – for Soulier to put Pollak on the team as a “wild card.”
Hong Kong Stars
It is tough to forecast what Stars manager Celina Kim may do with any of her moves simply because she IS looking at the big picture. She wants the best team available, but she also wants to have a marketable team for the Asian community. With this in mind, a couple of good “wild card” picks for her are Kosei Ichinose and, if she wanted to grab another female player, Yaxi Zhu might be a good choice.