Eric Danis: Inside The Engine Room of The Global Poker League

Eric Danis: Inside The Engine Room of The Global Poker League

Lee Davy sits down with Eric Danis, Head of Poker Content at the Global Poker League to talk about his first meeting with Alex Dreyfus, how he got the job, and how he has responded to the pressure of being front and centre in the most talked about enterprise in poker.

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Some people work in poker to pay the rent and feed the kids. Eric Danis isn’t one of them. He works in poker because he loves the game, and you can see that love spilling out of him whenever you engage in his favourite discussion.

Eric Danis: Inside The Engine Room of The Global Poker League
[Image from Eric Dani’s Instagram Account]
Danis has transitioned from a guy standing in the Rio Hallway trying to get you to sign up to the Global Poker Index (GPI) Fantasy Poker Manager app, to being one of the people instrumental in creating the most exciting format of poker ever devised – the Global Poker League (GPL).

I sat down with him to talk about his background, his relationship with Alex Dreyfus, and lessons learned throughout the GPL Summer Series, and this is what he had to say.

What follows is an abridged version of the audio.

How did it feel to announce Mike Gorodinsky to declare ‘Shuffle Up and Deal’ at the WSOP Main Event?

“It’s an honour of course. It doesn’t get any easier. I did it for George Danzer last year and honoured Mike at the Hall of Fame this year. I am cool, until the moment that Ty {Stewart} mentions my name, and I start to get very nervous.”

What were you doing before the GPI?

“I was a nine to five job guy with a passion for sports statistics and that’s how I fell in love with poker. In the mid-80s I figured out something was going on in Las Vegas, but it was only a passion of mine. One day a friend suggested I started a blog about poker stats so I did. Then I quit my job, took a dumb risk, and here I am.”

Talk about that ‘dumb’ risk.

“There is a good guy in the world called Jeff Walsh. He was on Quadjacks and wanted me on his show once a week. I turned him down. He pushed me to do it, and I am so glad he did. Then Alex Dreyfus recognised I had talent when it came to rankings and stats, and that’s how it happened.

“My mother is a banker, and my financial advisor, I went to her and said,  “I wanted to take this risk”, and she said, “Go for it.” I thought if my mum believes in me that much then I believe we are good to go. Four days after I quit my job I got my job at the GPI.”

How did you first meet Alex Dreyfus?

“At first, it seemed unusual, but now I know it’s normal. Alex added me on Skype and asked me what I did for a living. I told him I quit my job, and he said you are going to come and work for me. There was no discussion of money. When Alex wants something he goes and gets it.”

Talk about the GPI, is this a dream come true for you, or were you just happy you got a job soon after leaving your old one?

“Working for either the WSOP or GPI working on stats would have been a dream for me. It’s what I do and what I love to do. I am so passionate about it. I do think I am the best candidate to manage the GPI and Hendon Mob.”

The GPL has been all action, and that sometimes means you are sometimes left holding the can when there are production issues and the like. How does that make you feel?

“It’s fine. It’s stressful. People like Joe Stapleton and Kara Scott do amazing work. Joe is the funny guy, and I am the stat guy. I would prepare these beautiful documents full of stats, and he would never read them. We had fun with that throughout the summer.

“When you say a stat, and you doubt yourself and people tell you within half a second that you are an idiot – you have to take those risks. I am not getting any younger. I can’t remember everything. We aren’t 12 anymore.

“I would have preferred a more polished product, but Alex is a ‘go and get them’ type of guy. I admire that. It allows us to take risks. We had different commentators in Malta, and they didn’t want to come here, and that’s fine. We got Joe, and I became the co-host. I am the patch guy, and he knows he can trust me. To be honest, I wouldn’t be where I am today without someone like Alex taking risks and giving me a shot. He believes in his people. He knows you will make mistakes, and he is fine with that.”

Alex seems loyal to his people.

“You mention Alex being loyal. He is towards the people who work very hard. It takes some time to earn that loyalty. Talking about being polished – he is a very polished man, especially at presentations, but he gets into the trenches with us. We had a lighting issue yesterday, and he’s up the ladder. It makes you realise that if the boss is like that you have to be like that.”

Lessons learned from the Summer Series?

“The players still believe in the project, and that’s the biggest thing. They had fun. Some players didn’t want to be in there. Kevin MacPhee had a bad time playing Six-Max events online where he finished last twice, was gutted, didn’t want to play in the league, and Bryn Kenney said I want you in The Cube. And he came back two days later because he loved it so much. MacPhee was the revelation of the summer. His moves were amazing.

“The players give us good feedback. Igor Kurganov stayed for an hour after his match; I love that. On the downside it’s tough. The reasons we’re here during the WSOP is because everyone is here. But we forgot that people are here to play the WSOP and might not necessarily want to be in The Cube. It was a huge challenge getting players here. For example, the other day George Danzer was secured, he made two final tables; Davidi Kitai replaced him and then couldn’t play, and Fabrice Soulier has to bust or double up in a tournament. I don’t want Fabrice to be in that situation.”

What have we learned from Jungleman’s involvement?

“People want to get back to High Stakes Poker and the characters. We want to see the superstars, but we also want to see the likes of Hevad Khan, remember him? They want bad guys and want to see them lose. Jungleman has sparked a bad guy thing in almost a WWE way, and he was up against the beautiful Xuan Liu, and everyone wanted Xuan to win. And she did win. Jungle was great, funny, and hilarious, and respectful before and after the event.

“Nobody gave Scott Ball a chance and he won all three of his matches in The Cube. Chris Moorman was upset playing him because he uses trash talk and Ball won. He is one of the top scorers in our league. He has used the league somehow differently. He is looking at it saying I am a GPL player first, whereas others are poker players first.”

If I gave you 10,000 hours to work on anything that would make the GPL better what would you do with them and why?

“I would try and find the time where you don’t bother the players, and they can just focus on the league. So perhaps use those hours to work with the other circuits to see what we can do together – maybe an EPT Barcelona stop, or a WPT Five Diamond stop. I think a lot more would come from us having matches in live spaces, and it would make a buzz. We are still very much unknown. We need to find a way to expose our best players.”