We’re now four weeks into the experiment from Global Poker Index mastermind Alexandre Dreyfus called the Global Poker League and it has been intriguing to this point. The play has been highly competitive between the players drafted/chosen by the team managers and, once people captured the nuances of the GPL, they seem to be having a good time watching the “sportification” of poker. But what may be the best development that Dreyfus and the GPL have come up with is something that they use – the software for the online matches played in the league.
The GPL, rather than contracting with an existing company to use their online poker software, invested in developing their own platform for playing league matches. While it might lack for bells and whistles in the visual department – it looks as if someone laid a poker table on a basketball floor with a scoreboard over it and is replete with side board sponsorship shout outs – it is a very practical layout that gets the necessary information to the viewers. The part of the software that should be looked at by online poker sites is the innovation that the GPL software team came up with in the area of time banks.
Normally on an online poker site, players have approximately 20 seconds to make a decision before their hand is sent into the muck. They can do this over and over again without punishment and, if they really want to get abusive, also have an “extra time” bank that will allow them to push the edges even further. During a sit and go or a multi-table tournament, this can become quite annoying as it slows down the action and cuts the number of hands players can see during a particular level (especially annoying during an MTT).
The GPL seems to have come up with a way to counter this and it is something that I wish they would give to the online poker world as a gift. With the GPL sit and go/heads up matches, the players start with a 15-minute time bank. When the action comes to the player, that clock begins to tick downward. A player can, under the GPL rules, take as long as they like because that time bank is theirs to use. Once it runs out, however, the player has to make a decision in two seconds or their hand is immediately mucked.
There are ways to replenish that time bank under the sit and go rules. When a player is eliminated, that player’s leftover time bank is divided up between the remaining players in the event. Thus, in theory a player won’t drain that time bank, even if they are able to make it to heads up play. It also ensures that the sit and go/heads up match is concluded rather rapidly as the faster play brings out more aggression also.
With a few tweaks, this could be implemented on sites like PokerStars, 888Poker, Partypoker and others and be an outstanding advancement in the online game. You can keep the 20 or 30 seconds to make a decision in before mucking the hand (let’s be honest, we wouldn’t want players who aren’t online to drain off their 15-minute time bank and keep other players from action), but implement the 15-minute bank and let the players have a little power in deciding how to utilize their time on the virtual felt. It seems most practical for the sit and gos/heads up matches – the way that the GPL is using the innovation – but, with a few adjustments, could also be used in a multi-table tournament setting.
In a multi-table tournament, the time bank would be a powerful weapon later in the tournament as, if you’ve banked some time through advancing through the event and collecting the time of those eliminated, now you’ve got some “wiggle room” if there’s a decision to make come the final table. (In theory, we’d cut off the 20-30 second “fold” mechanism once we reach the final table.) It would become more like a live event, where a player could actually take some time to make a decision on his/her hand rather than being rushed (as the online system now is wont to do).
It seems that the players in the GPL like the time bank method too. Tom Marchese of the New York Rounders used it as a bluff in the very first week of play, allowing several minutes to run off his bank before pushing all in with a bluff against the Las Vegas Moneymakers’ Anthony Zinno. Thrown by the delay in action, Zinno ended up folding the winning hand on the river after the four-minute tank by Marchese; Marchese would go on to win the heads up match 6-3 over Zinno.
There’s still plenty left unknown about whether the GPL will be successful. Little innovations like the time bank developed by the software geeks for the GPL are something that can be utilized in the “real” online poker world. Hopefully we’ll see something like that in the future with online poker rooms…and let’s hope they give the Global Poker League credit for doing it first.