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Yesterday (August 29, 2017) was a red-letter day for poker in India with the Global Poker League (GPL) announcing their entry in the Indian market with the new GPL India League.
The inaugural league will feature six city-based teams that will compete for the bragging rights and glory of winning the first-ever GPL India league. Additionally, the winning team will also be invited to compete against the toughest GPL teams from around the world in GPL association’s World Championships.
PokerGuru spoke to Alexander Dreyfus (cover image), CEO of Mediarex Sports & Entertainment that owns and controls the GPI and GPL brands about this new development. In an exclusive interview with PokerGuru, Dreyfus shares with us the tentative dates, format and proposed structure of GPL India along with other relevant details about the debut league. Dreyfus also spills the beans of how GPL India will be different from the current leagues in the country and future plans of GPL India. Here are the excerpts –
Hello Alexander, congratulations on the announcement of GPL India. Please tell us about the inaugural GPL India and its format. Are the dates for GPL India decided yet?
Like most of our initiatives, we always start to announce our projects before disclosing everything at the same time. At this stage, we have a clear picture about the schedule of Season 1 of GPL India. It will be 8 to 12 weeks long and will be starting in Q1 next year. This will be followed by Season 2 after summer. It will be a mix of Online Matches, Studio Matches, and Live Matches.
There are six regional teams for the inaugural version. How were the team names and logos selected?
The cities were chosen based on the feedback of several partners we are working with, for their poker-friendly community and legal framework. Names and logos were chosen by asking some of local partners and by our own central marketing team.
The logos are following our global guidelines, that we have internationally and in China, as we believe it is important to have a clear recognition. They are all made to be easy to read, etc. as you can probably see the difference with some of our competitors. First and foremost, we are a marketing company.
How will the teams be assigned? Will they be given out at franchises sold to interested parties or will they follow the previous GPL structure with notable players heading teams?
While we understand why some operators decided to choose that path, we believe it is way too early and not profitable at all. Also, we believe it brings some legal issues as owning a team could be seen as gambling.
Our vision is to build an entertainment platform, a sports product. We are a single-league entity, at this stage, where our company – GPL – owns all the teams and invest to develop its exposure, marketing opportunities and sponsoring opportunities.
Players are a key element of GPL, obviously, and we aim to mix both top GPI Indian Players, Leading Ambassadors of the game and also a lot of grassroot/ amateurs connection.
Please tell us about the format of the league. How will the players get drafted in respective teams?
We are reviewing our options and what will fit the best in term of entertainment value, between a Draft or some qualifications or both.
Please tell us about the venues and events for the first GPL India edition. Can you share some info on prizes etc.?
It is too early to disclose this, but clearly we will be very different from the existing initiative or new attempts.
What will be the similarities and differences between GPL India and GPL China/GPL international?
We learnt a lot from GPL International Season 1, where we produced 180 matches, 400 hours of content. It was too much; it became a bit boring and dry. So, we need to innovate more on the format, need to ensure the hype and fun.
GPL India will be a bit closer to what we do in rest of the world for GPL Season 2, but also will have some key elements of GPL China (grassroots, amateurs, etc.)
We will leverage our TV Studios to create content and streaming, and building up a real League and framework.
How will GPL India make poker mainstream in the country? What promotions/marketing plans are in pipeline?
It`s way too early to disclose that. I think it is important to understand that it is a long journey, don’t expect GPL to change the face of the game in year 1. That will not happen. We are investing and building-up a platform to help poker to be seen as a sport, skill game and structure it like a League in order to connect with mainstream media. There is a lot of education to be done.
What are your expectations and what can the poker circuit expect from the league?
I think the most important thing is to make it happen. We will learn while walking. We have 13 years’ experience in the poker industry through our previous ventures, and more than five years in “sportifying poker” with our leading authority GPI/HendonMob and GPL. We are in a unique position in India, as much as the rest of the world.
I don’t have expectations; I just want to offer the best experience for players and for fans, in order to create engagement. We want to link the poker community together.
We are not a competitor to DPT, WPT etc. and this is not our business. One of our businesses is to report them (GPI/HendonMob), but GPL is in a unique environment.
What will be the future plans of GPL for India?
It is a 10-year ambition, so I’m pretty sure we will have time to talk more about it.
What are your views on the existing leagues in India?
It is exciting that India is probably one of the smallest poker markets today, but the most competitive in term of poker leagues. That will not be sustainable, unfortunately, as we know more than everybody how expensive it is and not profitable at this stage. GPL being a global initiative, funded by investors from Asia & Europe, and being able to share its infrastructure globally (TV studios, technology, etc.) we are in a premier position in India.
Competition is healthy obviously, and some of our colleagues have very good managers and entrepreneurs. It is always easy to criticize, so I will try to avoid this game as GPL had a lot of flaws in its first season, but let’s say I’m not impressed by what I’ve seen for now, neither by the new comers. For example, the format chosen by Match IPL is extremely boring and not entertaining at all. A league is about entertainment. We are in the show business.
Thank you for talking to us Alex and good luck for GPL India!