Global Poker League, a team-based poker competition, is set to enter the Indian market with the launch of GPL India.
The regional league will include six teams covering India’s “largest and most poker-friendly” cities, Tuesday’s press release reads. Teams from Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata and Ahmedabad will have a mix of Global Poker Index (GPI) pro players as well as “grassroots” qualifiers.
The national team-based league “will function as a promotional platform for poker as a sport throughout the country and help tie India into the game’s worldwide community,” it was stated.
The company is aiming to start GPL India Season 1 in the first quarter of 2018, PRO has learned.
The announcement of GPL India follows on from the completion of the international Global Poker League Season 1 last December, and the launch of the first regional tour, GPL China, is currently underway. Season 2 of the GPL is still expected next year.
“GPL India will take all the lessons learned in GPL’s first season, as well as GPL China’s current successful rollout, to create the most legitimate—and, perhaps more importantly, most appealing—poker competition witnessed in India until now,” it was stated.
As hinted in the press release, GPL will not be the first live spectacle under the “league” name to debut in India. The Poker Sports League (PSL), founded by Indian online poker room Adda52, is a team-based league that ran its first successful event this year. It concluded with a final in Goa that was live-streamed on Facebook. More recently, Match Poker League (MPL) announced its inaugural season with eight local franchises.
While both appear on the surface to be heavily inspired by the GPL concept, the actual structure of each is quite distinct. The PSL culminated with a single, five-day poker tournament. The MPL, backed by the International Federation of Poker, is based around Match Poker, a form of duplicate poker played on a mobile app which seeks to be considered a game of sport by removing much of the luck.
Alex Dreyfus, the founder of Mediarex Sports & Entertainment, the parent company of the GPL, told PRO that he welcomes the existing local initiatives. While each event aims to showcase poker as a game of skill, the execution of each is quite different.
“We have a five-year experience in sportifying poker,” Dreyfus said, and they will use what they have learned to execute the format successfully in India. The season-long structure will help attract viewers and create more engaging stories.
While the legality of online poker in many Indian states remains murky, the country is considered a potential opportunity for growth in the sector. There has been an explosion of local online poker sites and networks dealing real money games denominated in Rupees—Adda52, PokerBaazi, Spartan Poker and Khelo365 are among the most recognizable.
This, in turn, is attracting attention from both live tour operators and the big European online poker companies. WPT recently announced it would be bringing its WPTDeepStacks brand to India through a partnership with Adda52. MPN operates an online poker network in India, and while still small, it recently added a new skin, Mercury Poker.
And then there is The Stars Group. Executives have stated in recent earnings calls that they are working with local partners to launch a localized online poker room in India, which is expected to be another segregated online player pool with tables denominated in local currency. While there was notably no mention in the latest earnings call, PRO understands that a launch by the end of the year is still planned.
When asked about sponsors or partnerships in the country, Dreyfus stated only that he “is in active discussions with several key partners from the regulated online poker space in India.”
The Global Poker League is one part of a fast-growing portfolio of poker products owned by Mediarex, which has the overarching goal to “sportify” poker. It includes the Global Poker Index ranking authority, the Hendon Mob player database, and the European and American Poker Awards. Mediarex has inked deals with PokerStars and both raised money and struck deals in China to further its goal.
In May, the company’s ambitions grew even further when it announced a transition from a poker-centric model to a broader “Gaming Player Index” that will also rank esports titles. The company envisages a “cross-game hub” to aggregate and rank player performance across a variety of video games.
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