With the recent announcement of Global Poker League India, we decided to exchange a few thoughts with Alexandre Dreyfus, CEO at Mediarex Sports & Entertainment, on the Indian poker industry, the creation of Global Poker League, future plans and the fate of poker in India.
Here’s what Dreyfus has to say:
Answer: I’m personally involved in the poker industry since 2004, I was the co-founder of Winamax in France sold in 2006, and then Chilipoker – a European poker room, that I sold in 2012 to a Las Vegas based group. Since Then, I’ve invested few million dollars in helping poker to be “sportified”. Our vision is that poker is very fragmented globally, as an industry, and there are many things that can be done to help poker to become more mainstream and seen differently. We acquired GPI – the poker ranking authority, and TheHendonMob.com. Eventually, we also raise almost $5m from Asian investors to develop GPL – the global poker league.
Our ambition is to create a global platform to promote poker, with regional initiatives. We are a mix of IPL, NBA, F1, WWE and Esports.
Answer: GPL was initially launched in 2016 with 203 top GPI players who signed to be draftable. 72 of them got drafted in 12 different teams that we created. GPL owns 100% of the teams. We are a “single-entity” league. In order to start a League, we believe that you need to control all the environment to focus on the game, the entertainment element, etc.
We produced 180 matches over a period of 9 months, with a mix of Online Matches and Studio Matches. It resulted in 400 hours of live content, viewed 8 million times on Twitch and other platforms.
GPL aims to innovate and disrupt the way poker is seen, and in a way, played. So we like to experiment many things, like having players standing up when they are live in our “The Cube”, or we have our own online platform for broadcasting purpose.
GPL is very polarising, some people are total fans, and some don’t understand what we want to achieve. I guess there is a very important need for educational process about our vision, our product. Our goal is not to be a gambling league, but a skill game/mind sport. That’s why players don’t wager or gamble anything, and actually, that’s why we don’t have Team Owners as well, at this stage.
We learnt a LOT from our Season 1, and we are preparing next Global seasons, while we are rolling out our Regional initiatives like China or India.
Answer: It is very different because there were Live qualifications in almost 12 different cities in China mainland. So it was much more connected to the local poker community, which is a plus. The season 1 starts the 9th of September with a mix of online matches and live matches in Studio in Beijing. China community is very much excited about that, and I believe it’s a great signal for India for us.
Answer: Not yet on its way, first we wanted to announce our investment into India, now we are working with some partners to establish the right strategy and schedule that we have in mind and execute it. There will be a strong element of grassroots/qualifications like we did in China.
Answer: I think that Indian Poker Industry is very small for now, likely around $50m – it’s almost a niche. But we believe there is a big potential for growth, especially through the skill game/competitive gaming angle. That’s our speciality and expertise. I read that Pokerstars is looking to invest in India, having leading international companies like them coming over will reshape the whole industry, due to their expertise and their marketing budget.
Answer: China and India are really two different animals. I wouldn’t ever compare their culture, model and market. While China’s market will definitely be bigger in term of poker, I believe that India could use the competitive gaming strategy to grow the game locally. It’s a long journey, but as the precursor of poker league in the world, we wanted to ensure that a new emerging market like India is on our map. I think people do need to acknowledge that poker will take time to take off to become a strong market, but at the same time with the e-commerce and mobile penetration, all the tools are being set-up. The regulatory framework is not necessarily hostile to poker, so it is a matter of working ethically and building a good narrative around the game.
Answer: Interestingly, India is one of the smallest poker markets today but the most ‘competitive’ in ‘poker leagues’. It’s healthy but also a frustration, cause there is no money to be made or to share at this stage. Operators need to understand that it is a 3 to 5 years investment, need to put millions of dollars to make it work.
Each league operator chose a specific model, I know well the PSL management, and I like them. I don’t know Raj, but I know very well MatchPoker/IFP. I don’t believe at all in that model, and I think it is flawed and doomed, unfortunately. We are in the entertainment business. I’ve been in the internet industry since 1995. The only downside of having several operators is that not all of them will survive, and when one disappears, it affects all the others negatively in term of PR. On the long-term vision, I’m not worried about our approach.
Answer: I hope they like the fact that GPL comes to India, will invest money and resources to innovate and create entertaining content and games. I hope they will understand that we are here to stay and that some will have to make a choice to support X or Y initiative. We are very lucky because we have GPI and we are representing all the best poker players in the world including in India. We are also considering to expand our GPI rankings and awards to India. Players can count on GPI & GPL to be a driving force in poker in India, but we will need support too.
GPL after its success around decided to capture the Asian market, by launching the event in the world’s most populous country. Following a huge success in the Chinese market, the owners announced their further expansion in the Asian continent, by launching its yet another event, GPL India. The company is hoping an equally overwhelming response from the second most populous country in the world, India.
GPL India will present six city teams in the country. This will help in creating a national team based league which will help promote poker as a sport throughout the country. It would also bring India closer to the world poker community.
To find out more about GPL India, click here.