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After drafting their teams for the inaugural season of the Global Poker League, the 12 managers of the teams still had some work to do. With two “wild card” slots, they had to entertain two potential ideas:  should I go with getting two players and keep myself out of the mix or do I have only one slot and play myself? For the most part, that question was answered when nine of the 12 teams’ managers decided to call their own number and take a “wild card” on themselves (only two, Sao Paulo Metropolitans manager Andre Akkari and Berlin Bears head man Phillip Gruissem, used both choices on other players; one, the L. A. SunSet’s Maria Ho, has STILL not made her “wild cards” known…what do you have up your sleeve, Maria?).

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In looking at the choices that the managers made, there were some clear winners (the “Best” and some who might be subjected to drug testing for the professional poker league for their decisions (the “Worst”). After all, when television programs like Dancing with the Stars or The Voice utilize a “wild card” process, you can immediately make it known whether coaches/judges are correct in their moves or not. Without further ado, here’s a look at the Best, Worst and Unknowns when it comes to the GPL’s “wild card” choices.

The Best

There were several teams that made the optimum choice when it came down to their “wild card” selections. These choices showed that the team’s managers were definitely working hard in thinking about the best player to round out the four picks they had already made, perhaps to fill holes that were missed previously.  In some cases, it also added to their chances for winning the GPL title.

In the GPL Americas, the Montreal Nationals, the New York Rounders and the San Francisco Rush all made sizeable improvements with their picks. All three teams’ managers pulled their name for the game and added Tyler Kenney (Rounders), Pascal LeFrancois (Nationals) and Jonathan Jaffe (Rush) to their rosters, picks that were outstanding extensions for what had already been superb drafts by their managers. Of the three, it is arguable that Kenney was the best choice of the three.

In the GPL Eurasia, there were also three teams that furthered the depth of their teams with the draft. The two best choices were Randy ‘Nanonoko’ Lew for the Hong Kong Stars and Sam Trickett for the London Royals; both selections demonstrated utter brilliance and Trickett’s selection by manager Liv Boeree put together literally an all-star team in the Royals. The third, the Moscow Wolverines choice of Igor Yaroshevsky as a wild card, solidified an already outstanding team (in these three teams cases, the managers all chose to be the second “wild card”).

The Worst

First, we have to qualify this…just because I call these decisions the “worst,” it says nothing about the people involved. It is simply a statement that, in these cases, there were perhaps better personnel that could have been picked for the “wild card” than the player that was chosen. In some cases, it might have been personal loyalties that led to the pick rather than an in-depth examination of potential choices.

The choice of Scott Ball for Chris Moneymaker’s eponymous Las Vegas squad was one that left many scratching their collective heads. Ball’s $38,430 in CAREER tournament poker earnings don’t exactly jump out at you as being a top talent, especially when you have the pick of a huge crop of players that might have wanted to be a part of the game. The same might be said of Paris Aviators manager Fabrice Soulier’s choice of Alexandre Luneau, who has plenty of holes in his six-year career where he has earned $165,882 (Benjamin Pollak is really kicking himself over his sponsor’s decision in 2015 now).

The spot where it was obviously the fact that it was picking a long-time friend – and that’s because he actually said it when he named him in his “wild card” video – was the choice of Todd Brunson as a “wild card” by Rome Emperors manager Max Pescatori. There is no doubting the talent on the table that Brunson has in both tournaments and cash games, but he wasn’t the first player that would come to mind for the Emperors (with his draft picks, another Italian was thought to be in the mix). Perhaps Pescatori is thinking as to the “long game” here, however; after the World Series of Poker, the GPL matches will move from the online arena to live, heads up matches in Las Vegas…who better to have in those games than Brunson, who has dealt with that pressure previously? (Once again, all of these managers chose to pick themselves to play also.)

The Unknown

Although on paper it looks like a smashing pick, I’m going to hold off giving a grade to Berlin Bears manager Gruissem’s choices of Dan ‘Jungleman’ Cates and Bill Perkins. While Cates looks like a perfect fit with the team, Perkins’ pick was a bit of an oddity. Although he has a vast well of experience in the high-stakes arena, Perkins isn’t exactly going to be useful in the online games. Maybe Gruissem, like Pescatori, is looking towards Las Vegas for Perkins to make his hay.

The Sao Paulo Metropolitans manager Akkari stuck with his Brazilian pals in making his two choices, tapping Felipe Mojave and Joao Bauer for the “wild cards.” While Mojave has well over a million dollars in career earnings, Bauer is a complete unknown with no documentable success in poker. Perhaps Akkari is looking for Bauer to be the literal “wild card” for the Metropolitans, the “X” factor that no one will know how to counteract.

Then there’s the L. A. SunSet and manager Maria Ho. Here we are, with a week of the GPL season already in the books, and the GPL commissioner Kara Scott and the GPL (Owner? Overseer?) Alexandre Dreyfus have not held Ho’s feet to the fire for either her singular pick or the two players who will fill out her roster. Unless there is a promotional reason for holding back on Ho’s picks, this is giving the SunSet an unfair advantage in that opposing teams do not know who they might be facing in a particular matchup. It is one of the things that the GPL needs to rectify and fairly quickly.

Teams are built with several components in mind, so maybe these qualifiers are completely off base for the GPL teams. It’ll all come out in the end when the championship for the GPL is handed out later this summer.

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Earl Burton

Earl Burton has been at the forefront of the poker media for more than a decade. In both print and digital media, Earl is a highly respected voice that has covered the World Series of Poker, the World Poker Tour and several other poker events across the United States. Whether it entails covering the political side of poker, its tournaments and players, the strategy of the game or its other myriad of nuances, Earl brings an inquisitive mind, a player's desire to learn and a journalist's quest for knowledge and tries to pass that knowledge along to the readers.

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