After the Global Poker League showed the poker world that they are deadly serious about turning poker into an entertaining sport, Lee Davy wonders if this means the eventual introduction of drugs and alcohol testing.
Kory “SEMPHIS Friesen is a top notch professional Counter Strike: Global Offensive player. This summer, during an interview, he admitted that both him and his teammates at the time, Cloud9, used Adderall whilst competing for their share of $250,000 in prize money.
The tournament in question was Katowice 2015 and the organizers, Electronic Sports League (ESL), were not very happy to say the least. Several weeks later and the ESL linked arms with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to introduce Olympic standards random drugs and alcohol testing.
The ESL released a statement that read: “As the world’s largest and oldest eSports organization, ESL has an ongoing commitment to safeguarding both the integrity of our competitions and that of eSports as a whole.”
In 2014, more than 27 million viewers tuned in to watch the League of Legends Championships on ESPN. That’s more than the 17.9 million that tuned in to see San Antonio Spurs beat Miami Heat in Game 5 of the 2014 NBA Finals.
The popularity of eSports has boomed beyond everybody’s expectations. Professional teams are now playing for millions of dollars. It’s a professional sport, and it needs to be respected as such – hence the introduction of random drug testing.
A few days ago Alex Dreyfus released the first few slithers of information on how the Global Poker League (GPL) will work. It’s pretty exciting stuff. Tracking his Twitter feed the reception his news release got was exceedingly positive.
The crux of the matter is this. Dreyfus wants to turn poker into an entertaining sport, and he is going to break down walls to ensure that it happens. His mantra is to try, fail and fix, and he will start the first part of that sequence by paying players to compete by using revenue to create the prize pools.
Sponsorship in poker has always been the Holy Grail for some. But since Black Friday, the likelihood of being sponsored has reduced dramatically. Poker rooms instead referring to look towards world-class sportsmen and women with global pull. Non-poker companies are rarely in the picture.
If the GPL is the success that Dreyfus wants it to be, then there will be a flurry of activity in the area of personal sponsorships, with poker players wearing more patches than my old man when trying to give up the cigarettes.
Professional sports and drugs don’t mix.
Ask Ben Johnson.
If eSports believe the use of drugs and alcohol, whilst competing, can damage the reputation of the burgeoning sport, why would Alex Dreyfus want his players heading into The Cube either high as a kite or stoned out of their skull?
Remember, they will have to stand and play!
Poker has the power to make extreme emotional connections. The turning of the flop, turn and river is right up there with some of the most exciting moments in sport.
If Dreyfus can somehow manipulate the game, remove the stuff that makes us yawn, and can somehow create a made for TV product that embraces all of the good stuff – with some Netflix style characters thrown into the mix – then the only logical conclusion is poker will become a powerhouse just like eSports. And when it reaches its true potential, the people in control will want to ensure policy exists to protect their new baby. Policies like random drug and alcohol testing.
Poker players, who like to take drugs whilst playing, will probably read this and think (a) it will never happen, and (b) if it does they won’t play. I remember when my old railway company decided to introduce random drugs and alcohol checks. So many people said they would (a) leave, or (b) ignore the rules and carry on regardless.
This didn’t happen.
The fear of losing their jobs meant radical changes were made throughout the entire company. Drinking alcohol on the job was virtually wiped out (except for a few idiots), drinking alcohol on the eve of a working day was severely reduced, and the use of recreational drugs was handled in a completely different manner. I don’t recollect one sacking as a result of a failure of a D&A test as a result of drug use, but there were sackings as a result of failing breath tests for alcohol.
Poker players would be forced to choose what they love, and it’s my opinion, that if they love this game, and there is the opportunity to be paid to play for doing what they love, then the necessary changes to their lifestyle will occur.
Either way, I think it’s coming.
What about you?