The 2016 International Dota 2 Championship has broken the record for the largest prize pool in the history of eSports, and Lee Davy has a dream that the same thing happened in poker.
I had a dream last night.
Would you like to hear about it?
Alex Dreyfus and I were lovers. One day he choked to death on a big piece of garlic that had accidentally found its way into his French onion soup.
His funeral was sad.
ElkY and Fabrice Soulier helped me carry the coffin.
And at the reading of his will he left me the Global Poker League (GPL), lock, stock, and a smoking cube.
Within a year I had the greatest players in the world begging me to play in the league. It had surpassed every tournament operator regarding prize pools, and our professional players weren’t paying a penny to play.
The other tournament operators had to react.
They picked up on my secret sauce, spread it all over their tournaments, and their prize pools also rose to gargantuan amounts. We were all earning bucket loads of cash, and we were also donating millions of dollars on an annual basis for effective charities.
The queen knighted me.
And then I woke up covered in ants, sweating my bollocks off, and desperate for a piss as you do when you are 40 and are living in LA.
So how do we turn a dream into reality?
The Key Arena in Seattle will play host to the likes of Gwen Stefani, Blink-182, Maroon 5, and Kanye West in the coming months. Squeezed in between those singing sensations will be a group of young geeky looking kids competing in a computer game competition called The International Dota 2 Championships.
The tournament will be six years old on Aug 3rd. Fans will pay $100 to watch the action live and the hosts Valve Corporation will forget about their Counter-Strike: Global Offensive skin betting headache for ten whole days.
Cologne, Germany was the venue for the first International. Valve put up the $1.6m prize pool. The winning team Natus Vincere took home the $1m first prize. It was a huge success. In 2012, Valve did it again. This time, the venue was the Benaroya Hall in Seattle, Washington. Valve once again put up the $1.6m prize pool, and Invictus Gaming defeated the reigning champions in the final to take the $1m first prize back to China.
These eSports teams were being paid to play, and also rewarded big time when they won.
An entirely different way of life from a professional poker player who has to contribute to the prize pool via a rather expensive buy-in and then hope they can defeat thousands of players to walk away with a profit.
Listen to this.
In 2013, a wizard in Valve came up with the idea of creating a Dota 2 Compendium that would go on general sale and they would use 25% of the total revenue to increase The International prize pool in addition to the $1.6m put up by Valve. The idea created a $2,874,381 prize pool, a world record for an eSports event, and Alliance beat Natus Vincere in the final to take home the $1,437,190 first prize.
The idea caught on.
The following year the prize pool was $10,931,103, and Newbee beat Vici Gaming to win the $5,028,308 first prize. Last year, the prize pool rose to $18,429,613, and Evil Geniuses beat CDEC Gaming to win the $6,616,014 first prize.
As I kill another ant, the prize pool for 2016 has reached $18,852,668 and climbing. The in-house purchase these days is known as a Battle Pass. The cheapest Battle Pass is $9.99, and prices rise to $26.99. 25% of every Battle Pass bought between now and August 13 will find its way into the new world record-breaking prize pool.
To put this into perspective, Fedor Holz paid $111,111 to PLAY in the ONE DROP High Roller, at the World Series of Poker (WSOP), and earned $4.9m for his win. The winners of The 2016 International will be PAID to play and will receive somewhere in the region of $6.6m-$7m.
How Can Poker Learn From This?
Two things leap out at me here.
1. It is a brilliant business model.
2. There is a huge demand for the Battle Passes
Whether it was stamps, rubbers, or sticker books. Children love to collect things.
And guess what?
We don’t change.
We grow grey pubes and pretend that we are too old for all that nonsense, but secretly we still love to collect stuff. I have a 15-year old son, and he loves playing video games. It doesn’t matter what genre he is playing they all sell something ‘additional’ to enhance his gaming experience, and he is always asking me for money to buy them.
I sound like a broken record, but the cost of his FIFA 15 Ultimate Team in-house packs means it has cost me close to £500 for him to enjoy a game that used to frighten the life out of me because I had to pay £40 on an annual basis to keep up with transfers.
Winamax is currently running an Expresso Poker promotion called Expresso Eleven where you have the opportunity to win €500,000. The French online gambling operator has introduced 11 playing cards each representing a member of Winamax Team Pro.
When the Expresso shows the prize pool multiplier, it will also show one of these 11 cards. If you win the event, you get to keep the card. The more cards you have, the bigger prizes you can win until you reach the jackpot by holding all 11 cards. There is also the interesting caveat that should you earn a card you already own you lose the card from your collection entirely.
What Winamax are doing is playing with the idea of in-house purchases. Sure, people aren’t buying the cards, but can you see where this is heading. The desire to have all 11 cards will drive gamers crazy. Losing one will send them into cardiac arrest.
And This is Where HoldemX Comes In
There are two ways of looking at this opportunity.
An online giant like PokerStars can create a battle pass like collectable and then use a portion of the money to make the prize pools even larger. The game would remain as it is today. Players would still buy-in, but the added prize money would inflate prize pools. PokerStars could even use a portion of the new funds to save starving children in Africa, stop chickens having their beaks clipped in El Salvador, or to stop Arnold Schwarzenegger type machines from invading the earth.
You could let online poker continue to die. There is no future. It’s only a matter of time. In the meantime, you create a game like HoldemX. You make it fast, furious and fucking awesome. People are falling over themselves to play it, and you create an in-house battle pass system that will blow people’s minds.
Olivier Busquet becomes more famous than David Beckham.
Sky Sports opens a GPL channel.
Jesse May becomes the new John Motson.
And Alex Dreyfus looks down on me from heaven with a big smile on his face knowing that I sportified battle-packed the hell out of his little baby.