Global Poker League Announces Expansion into China

GPLThe Global Poker League has announced a partnership with China-based Sina Sports that will greatly increase its exposure in the Chinese market.

Just two weeks into its inaugural season, the GPL’s deal with the online sports platform calls for a new team to represent mainland China in 2017. The 2016 season kicked off in early April with 12 teams sprinkled around the world, including the Hong Kong Stars.

Sina Sports provides sports coverage over the Internet, boasting 15 million users and almost twice that number who tune in daily through mobile devices. Beginning next month, those users will be treated to a new poker channel that will include comprehensive coverage from around the poker gaming world.

Long-term Partnership

The new long-term deal calls for Sina Sports to become the Official Digital Media Partner of GPL in China. More than 400 hours of GPL action and events will be live streamed in the hopes of building a strong culture and following among Chinese sports fans.

Chinese people are used to poker-style games through playing traditional Chinese card games and are looking for more diverse ways to play

said Sina Sports GM and Senior VP Arthur Wei.

The GPL is the brainchild of President Alex Dreyfus, whose vision is to present poker to the masses in a new way that is heavy on competition and interaction with fans. While the GPL players compete and keep score with chips, no money ever changes hands. The dozen GPL teams are vying for a championship and the winner will be decided come November in London.

Just Beginning

The first two weeks of GPL action has been played online and was frought with mistakes which were to be expected. Growing pains are par for the course in such an undertaking. Should the project reach its ultimate goal, poker would take on the role of being a sport rather than gambling.

GPL action will eventually include in-studio and live play, with players competing quickly while situated within a huge cube. Players will stand during the live action, a far cry from the typical slow-paced play common to poker throughout the years that finds players seated.

Prior to launching earlier this month, the GPL partnered with USA Today. And just a few days ago, a Hollywood star, Aaron Paul, was selected as a player for the team based in Los Angeles, the L.A. Sunset. Paul’s presence is expected to draw considerable attention to the GPL, although his poker skill level in no way compares with the professional poker players who make up the league.

Will it Work?

Sina Sports has been providing sports action in China since 1998. Partnerships with more than 90 sports properties has allowed Chinese sports fans to be entertained with notable sporting events such as the NFL, English Premier League, UFC, European Champions League, Australian Open, AFC Champions League, and WTA Zhuhai.

Poker has long been a game played individually and for money. Making the transition to a spectator sport in which teams are the main focus and money is removed from the equation is not an easy sell. But then again, there are tons of play money poker players throughout the world and some may be attracted to the team concept that the GPL offers.