Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Other Opening Day: Global Poker League Starts Next Week

Looking at this schedule for the first season of the Global Poker League, just announced today. Matches involving the 12 teams start on April 5th and continue all of the way through to November 22nd when the finals are scheduled.

That means baseball gets going on Sunday, but on Tuesday there will be this other opening day that I might have to check out as well.

It appears as though there is a 14-week “regular season” schedule broken into two parts (the first lasting eight weeks, the latter one six), with a series of six “Summer Heats” coming in between that will coincide with the World Series of Poker playing out in Las Vegas (from early June to mid-July).

Each week of the regular season starts with some 6-max matches involving representatives from each of the six teams in each division (Eurasia and Americas), then has teams squaring off against one another over subsequent days.

I’m still in the dark regarding where and when all of this happens. If I’m following the press release correctly, these weekly matches (both the 6-max ones and the team-vs.-team ones) will all be online, “livestreamed and following an esports broadcast format.” Then the “Summer Heats” will be in person (I think), “filmed live on location in GPL’s Las Vegas Studio.” (Is that where the cube and playing while standing up comes in?) Then the final will apparently happen at the SSE Arena, Wembley (a place that seats 12,500).

It all remains pretty abstract, although my sports nerd side enjoys looking at schedules and imagining standings and statistics and associated whatnot. I think there will be a lot of interest in these first streams next week, at least among the poker community during a bit of a dry spell, tourney-wise. I wonder if that’ll drop off afterwards, or if there will be any appeal at all to fans of other esports who might gravitate over.

I think actually the whole project in a way is attempting to create a different, somewhat abstract version of the game -- one in which certain core elements (namely the investment of money and the individual participation) are being jettisoned in favor of highlighting other facets, including (I’m guessing) in-game strategy, personalities, and city identities.

We could step back, of course, and think about how tournament poker is itself a kind of abstraction of cash game poker, although not a hugely dramatic one. Much we take for granted about how tournaments work were once wholly new and strange -- not that long ago, in fact.

Such a long season -- I guess by the end it won’t seem so strange anymore, at least among those who stick around to follow it.

Image: Global Poker League.

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