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India is fast acknowledging poker as a mind sport and poker leagues, with their team-based, sportified format central to this change. Brought to India by Mediarex-owned GPL in partnership with PokerStars India, Global Poker League (GPL) India debuted in 2018 as the country’s first long-run poker league.
Online qualifiers for GPL India ran on PokerStars India from June-end last year. If making it to the shortlist for six city-based GPL India teams was tough, the next challenge was even more daunting! The Bootcamp was where the 60 online qualifiers met the Team Managers and expert judges and were evaluated on their skills, ability, and personality. Once the five-member teams were drafted, they engaged with one another on the felts leading to the finale where the winning team won five Platinum Passes, each worth ₹20 Lakhs, for the PokerStars Players NLHE Championship (PSPC), hosted in the Bahamas in January 2019.
The TV broadcast of GPL India Season 1 is now running on Colors Infinity and Colors Infinity HD since March 9. While the first four episodes encapsulated the excitement of the Bootcamp and the subsequent Draft Day where the teams were announced, coming up next is the league’s Regular Season. With two episodes being aired every Saturday from 7-8 PM, the GPL India fever is catching up fast on TV!
Episodes 1-4 – Bootcamp & Draft Day
The Bootcamp brought the 60 online qualifiers face-to-face with their Team Managers – Vikram Kumar, Muskan Sethi, Abhishek Rathod, Kavin Shah, Aditya Agarwal, and Vidwath Shetty, celebrity judges and each other. It was not only a thrilling rollout of live poker action; it also put the 60 online qualifiers, 10 for each team to the litmus test of skills, ability, personality, and experience.
Only two members were selected for each team. The first, by the three-membered panel comprising of the Team Manager, GPL India celebrity judge Gunjan Utreja and GPL India commentator Richard Haridasoham. Each candidate was scored by the Interview Panel, and the top scorer from each team won the first seat into the respective squad. The remaining nine online qualifiers then clashed over a Sit-N-Go (SNG) with the winner becoming the second inductee into the team.
On Draft Day, names of the two selected online qualifiers from the Bootcamp, along with the wildcard entries were divulged, and the teams finally took form, with their members coming on stage together for the first time where the respective team jerseys were unveiled.
The first two episodes that were aired on March 9 introduced the league and format to the audience. The Bootcamp footage of three teams, Chennai Sharks, Delhi Diehards, and Pune Alphas was broadcast.
On March 16, episodes 3 and 4 were all about the Bootcamp footage of the remaining three teams – Bengaluru Hackers, Kolkata Creators, Mumbai Jetsetters followed by the Draft Day ceremony.
GPL India Season 1: The Teams
Team Chennai Sharks: The team has Vikram Kumar as the manager who chose online tournament specialist Ashish Munot and cash game specialist Gaurav Gala as his wildcard pros.
Mithun Mahesh was chosen by the Interview panel in the Bootcamp for his technical knowledge and passion for the game. Mahesh just about managed to edge ahead of another well-known online pro Ujjwal Narwal to win a seat in the Chennai Sharks. In the SNG match, Suyog H took down a massive three-handed pot where he hit two pairs against Vaibhav Bhatia and Naman Khettry to win a seat into the team.
Team Delhi Diehards: The team is captained by Muskan Sethi – #1 GPI-ranked female player in India and PokerStars India Team Team Pro. Sethi handpicked young Arsh Grover, who is one of the more technically sound players in the country today and cash game specialist, Niharika Bindra as her two-wildcard pros.
Ajitesh Bhargava won the interview round while Albetrose Alex won the SNG poker round. Alex wasn’t active on the table initially but quickly changed gears when the play got down to 3-handed and ended up winning his way into the Team Delhi Diehards.
Team Pune Alphas: Elite poker coach and manager of the Pune Alphas, Abhishek Rathod chose two of the best cash game pros as his wild card entries in Nitin Jain and Kanishka Upreti.
The three were joined by interview round winner Vishal Bajaj who impressed the judges with his technical acumen in the game. Taking down the SNG match was the surprise find at the GPL India Bootcamp – Haryana`s Vikas Dhull. Dhull comes from the rural part of Haryana, and his passion for the game shows how popular the mind sport is even in remote parts of the country.
Team Bengaluru Hackers: Bengaluru Hackers manager Vidwath Shetty brought with him online tournament specialists Abhisek Panda and Rahul Melwani.
Shetty chose Shiv Bhargava from the Interview round while the SNG match was won by Arun Sriram who was a close second to Shiv in points after the interview round and hence started the poker SNG match with the highest chip stack. Sriram maintained his lead throughout to win the last remaining seat in the team.
Team Kolkata Creators: PokerStars’ first Indian Pro and manager of Team Kolkata Creators, Aditya Agarwal selected online tournament specialist Jayjit Ray and heads-up specialist Rishab Jain as his wildcard pros.
The interview round was won by seasoned player Gokul Raj whose passion for the game, thirst to get the GPL India ticket and impressive interaction with the judges saw him scoring the highest points among the entire lineup of online qualifiers in GPL India Season 1!
The SNG match was taken down by Jai Saha who won two crucial three-way pots eliminating four players and then cruised his way to victory after defeating Shital Godara in the heads-up match.
Team Mumbai Jetsetters: High stakes specialist, and manager of the Mumbai Jetsetters, Kavin Shah roped in online tournament specialist Vivek Singh and cash game veteran Ramandeep Gujral as his wildcard pros.
Saurabh Sindhwani impressed the judges with his experience and theoretical knowledge of the game to win the Interview round and outran Himanshu Dwivedi who was also a strong contender and trailed Sindhwani by only 0.5 points. Aneesh Gopinathan won by SNG to join the Team Mumbai Jetsetters.
GPL India Teams
|Team||Team Manager||Interview Round Winner||SNG Match Winner||Wildcard Pros|
|Chennai Sharks||Vikram Kumar||Mithun Kookkiri||Suyog H||Ashish Munot & Gaurav Gala|
|Delhi Sharks||Muskan Sethi||Ajitesh Bhargava||Albetrose Alex||Arsh Grover & Niharika Bindra|
|Pune Alphas||Abhishek Rathod||Vishal Bajaj||Vikas Dhull||Nitin Jain & Kanishka Upreti|
|Bengaluru Hackers||Vidhwath Shetty||Shiv Bhargava||Arun Sriram||Abhishek Panda & Rahul Melwani|
|Kolkata Creators||Aditya Agarwal||Gokul Raj||Jai Saha||Jayjit Ray & Rishab Jain|
|Mumbai Jetsetters||Kavin Shah||Saurabh Sindhwani||Aneesh Gopinathan||Ramandeep Gujral & Vivek Singh|
What’s Coming Up?!
So with the Bootcamp and the Draft Day now over, what comes next for the audiences to watch out for?
Coming up this Saturday are episodes five and six that bring you the highlights of all the on-felt clashes between the teams leading up to the semi-finals as the Regular Season kicks off. There’s going to be the Manager’s Brawl that kicks off the Regular Season in the right spirit. All six team managers clash to score points for their teams. The Qualifier Showdown comes next and features two back-to-back matches between the six online qualifiers.
The next two episodes to be aired on March 23 will showcase the six wildcard pros playing against each other in the Battle of the Pros followed by the Manager’s Finale where once again, the team managers will come back to play one last time in a bid to win crucial points for their teams.
The final two episodes cover the semi-finals between the four selected teams and the subsequent Grand Finale where the final two teams will clash in a best-of-five heads-up format. The winning team gets five shining Platinum Passes to the PSPC!
For poker zealots, the GPL India Season One is a TV show they just cannot miss. For others, it is a delightful introduction to the strategic thinking and competitiveness that the game of poker personifies.