"Aaron Paul has a commitment to poker" - Alex Dreyfus

We talk to the Global Poker League boss to talk about its reception so far and why they invited the Breaking Bad star to play.

Alex Dreyfus
Alex Dreyfus

I've been surprised at how well received the GPL has been so far. I think the big factor for me to why it is enjoyed is being able to see the players on webcam and their genuine reactions, it reminds me of when I play online.

Alex Dreyfus: When we had the early conversations, the Team Managers wanted the players to be able to see each other on webcams and banter and trash talk with each other. I had to fight against their point of view because I thought they wouldn't talk to each other, like in live poker. Instead I wanted them behind a webcam talking to us an audience, so then there is much more engagement.

Is the viewership close to what you anticipated at this stage?

Alex Dreyfus: We have decent numbers for something that didn't exist a few months ago without a fanbase. The basis of the league is very long and slow, there is nothing at stakes right now. After June the stakes will get much bigger as four teams will be eliminated in the Playoffs.

Right now we are reaching around 100,000 uniques per week. This is probably 1% of what I would aim for, we are five years away from what we want to achieve.

”We made sure the format wasn't intrusive”

global poker league

I presume you are a way off before the fans are starting to develop allegiances to particular teams? Is that a realistic goal?

Alex Dreyfus: The concept of a team is against the basics of poker. The concept of supporting a team that didn't exist a year ago is very challenging. In the first few days we had a lot of haters on the Twitch chat, but now we are seeing a trend where there is an attachment towards the teams, as well as the human need to attach themselves to a team as a habit.

When we say we want to 'sportify' poker, we mean we want to create a tool that helps fans support one team or hate another. Sport is about the contextualisation of what we do, it's all about creating a story.

One clear success has been how much the players are promoting the events on social media, it's been pretty hard to avoid them talking about it.

Alex Dreyfus: We never asked a single player to promote it. It became natural for them to do it, especially those who embraced it. The success of the GPL is reliant on the players' interest. We have managed to have a league structure that is not intrusive, it's not a hassle to enter, it's fast matches, there is no gambling so they can play anywhere in the world. We want to excite them to keep that going.

”Aaron Paul has a real commitment to poker”

Aaron Paul playing poker
Aaron Paul

The inclusion of Aaron Paul was a huge shock to everyone, how did you go about picking him?

Alex Dreyfus: We worked with some agents and looked at lots of A-list and B-list names that were keen to participate. I even had a sports celebrity who told us they would pay to be part of the GPL. Maria and I chose Aaron Paul because he is our generation. He is a young guy, he plays video games and is at the top of his game in terms of celebrity.

Most importantly he was a guy who put in his own money, put on his hoody and his sunglasses, and went play in the WSOP. Nobody paid him to go, he went by himself. That to me is a commitment to the game. I don't know if his game is good, but he does like the game of poker.

It's great he is included but doesn't his inclusion go against the ethos of league?

Alex Dreyfus: Having celebrities was a big question mark for us, because by definition this is a professional league. But it's one person out of 72, we want the league in newspapers and TV shows, and no offense but none of the players are bringing that. We had three team managers prepared to sacrifice their financial involvement in exchange for having their team known. Maria wants the LA Sunset to win but she believes the GPL is a long term format.

And when will we see Jesse Pinkman at the tables?

Alex Dreyfus: I know the date, but I cannot tell you. By mid-June he is going to play.

Thanks Alex good luck with the League.

You can watch the Global Poker League right here.

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Comments (1)

  • wasy8

    #1

    I like that Aaron Paul is in the league, but the statement that someone who puts up less than 1% of his net worth (presumably) to do something they enjoy isn't proof that they have "commitment to the game".

    The more relevant info here, that is not widely known, is that he apparently used to grind HUSNGs before Breaking Bad gave him his big acting break.