Tuesday, June 07, 2016

The Cube Debut

Tuned in to some of that first “Summer Series” heads-up match of the Global Poker League featuring the debut of the much-advertised “cube.” Not really eager to do a big, comprehensive review of every little detail of the sucker, but I did want to share just one initial impression.

After eight weeks’ worth of online matches -- all of it streamed live and archived on the GPL twitch channel (whatzit, 200 hours? more?) -- the league took a week off, then cranked back up yesterday with live heads-up matches taking place inside the large glass box. Celebrity player Aaron Paul of Breaking Bad fame was pitted against Fabrice Soulier for the first best-of-three match, in prime time no less.

Was curious to see some of the comments both on Twitch and Twitter as the sucker played out. On Twitch came a lot of head-scratching, with viewers who’d wandered over from other channels rightly wondering if they were watching some kind of new game show. Which they were, I guess, with the sparse set, fluorescent glow, and ambient music evoking that sort of vibe. (More so than a sporting one, which had been the talk back when the cube was first announced.)

On Twitter the comments were less frequent and more informed, with the occasional snark (“Not sure what to think about 2 guys standing in an aquarium clicking buttons,” said LivePokerPro) tending to stand out.

Laughed at Change100’s comment estimating the lighting as being “somewhere between spin class and tanning bed.” Dr. Pauly’s questions “When do they flood the cube? Or release the snakes?” earned a grin. And Haley Hintze’s idea that “the walls should slooowly move in to crusssssshh the players” was rightly inspired by the evil-villain’s-lair look of it all.

It looked different, that’s for sure. But then I realized -- it looked familiar, too. It was live poker, made to resemble an online game.

The players’ hands are shown on tablets, with a screen in the middle displaying hole cards and chips, timers, blinds/antes, and everything else also recorded on screens. In other words, there are no chips, no cards, and no dealer. The players stand as well, which produces some novel-seeming types of non-verbal communication, and probably affects the talk, too.

But it all adds up to a strange approximation of “live-ish” online poker -- like the players were standing and walking and talking inside a big computer monitor. That’s what inspired my one cheeky contribution to last night’s banter: “The player-sims are incredibly lifelike.”

They’ve got six weeks’ worth of “Summer Series” heats lined up. Guess we’ll see how things are standing after that (pun intended).

Image: Global Poker League

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