Monday, March 23, 2015

GPM Afterthoughts

On Friday I was noting how that Global Poker Masters event was coming up over the weekend, and indeed I ended up having the show -- streamed via Twitch -- up and running for most of Saturday and Sunday while my attention was divided somewhat by the NCAA basketball tournament.

Both events took up the majority of waking hours on both days, although the basketball featured multiple contests starting and ending (with clear winners and losers) while the team-style poker tournament was a lengthy, multi-stage competition that eventually whittled down to just two teams with Italy defeating Russia in the end.

I gave kind of a hasty summary of the GPM format here on Friday, although by the time things got going Saturday they might have tinkered further with it a bit, or at least that’s what commentators Joe Stapleton and Jesse May indicated at one point when talking about the players having made suggestions at the drawing party in Malta Friday night.

In any case, while Saturday’s sit-n-gos were easy enough to follow, I’ll admit I got a little lost on Sunday with what was happening, no doubt due in part to that aforemention division of my attention between the cards and hoops. Checking in over at PokerNews’ live reporting helped a lot, actually, when it came to sorting out how the teams were doing relative to one another as well as how the entire event was progressing toward its conclusion.

I did notice a couple of very interesting hands along the way. For example early on Saturday there was a hand that saw Dario Sammartino open with a raise with two red aces and Igor Yaroshevsky call from position with A-K. The flop then brought the case ace and what appeared the set-up for an inescapable knockout of Yaroshevsky, but the Ukrainian managed only to call a flop bet, check behind on the turn, then fold quickly to a decent-sized river bet by Sammartino.

In any tournament or session, a single hand is only a small part of the larger narrative of conflict involving many combatants. However, in this case the significance of this one hand was obscured even further by the complicated format. In other words, while in a regular tournament it would be easy enough to see how the hand might have affected the subsequent fortunes of the two players involved, here it didn’t seem all that meaningful occurring amid the early levels of one of 25 eight-player sit-n-gos played as the initial stage of a two-day, multi-stage event.

I guess what I’m saying by this observation is that while there were obviously some highly-skilled players participating and there were occasions as well for that skill to be displayed, I’m not so sure the format necessarily provided a consistent test of skill, nor too much chance to demonstrate that skill in ways that viewers could readily appreciate. (The fact that on Saturday the “hard stop” rule for the SNGs ended up encouraging a lot of gambly all-ins to conclude each of them didn’t help, either.) Contrast, if you like, those NCAA tournament games where individuals’ contributions to team goals were unambiguous, as were the results of those efforts during and at the conclusion of each contest.

There’s a lot else to say about both the event and its presentation to an audience, to which this is really just a very specific response alluding to just one small part of it. I thought it was interesting to hear GPI’s Alex Dreyfus on the stream discussing how one purpose for the Global Poker Masters event was to create a poker event that could attract non-poker coverage, thereby bringing poker to a wider audience. I’ll let others decide how well that goal was realized over the weekend.

Meanwhile, the first GPM did give us a number of things to think about, among them the idea of “team poker,” the efficacy of Twitch and other media for covering poker events, to what extent poker can hope to attract audiences (and new players) not already involved in the game, and what exactly is meant by attempts to “sportify” the game and/or its presentation.

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