As an Englishman, I should like cricket.
I would rather watch my wife shopping.
The people of India love it, and in 2007 they created the India Premier League (IPL). Cricket legends aplenty turned out to compete, and by 2015 the league was estimated to be worth $4.5 billion dollars. Today, the Chinese tech company Vivo is the headline sponsor, and it attracts a swathe of mainstream supporters of the highest calibre.
Poker is like cricket.
It’s also boring, and yet people love the shit out of it.
So how do we make poker seem appealing?
Give it to the people of India and let them play with it.
The India Poker League Draft
On Saturday, the India Poker Sports League (PSL) conducted their first draft at the Playboy club in India.
12 franchises led by their founders and mentors, took turns in a snake draft process to choose two professionals, two live qualifiers, and two online qualifiers. Each team will consist of nine players with the addition of a mentor and two wildcard entries.
The PSL was fortunate that the Global Poker League (GPL) had set a precedent when creating the first truly global poker league that focused on entertainment instead of gambling. There was a lot they could learn from the first season in which the Montreal Nationals beat the Berlin Bears in the final to capture the $100,000 first prize.
Here are the 12 teams and their owners (courtesy of PokerNewsDaily):
Bengaluru Jokers – Kunal Shah (Co-founder, FreeCharge)
Chennai Bulls – Girish Mathrubootham (Co-founder, FreshDesk)
Delhi Panthers – Rishi Kajaria (Kajaria Ceramics); Ruchirans Jaipuria
(Jaipuria Group); Abhishek Jain (Leela Jewels); Gaurav Goel
Goan Nuts – Gaurav Mohan (Eventwala)
Gujrat Acers – Harish Bahl and Manish Vij (Smile Group); Mukesh
Agarwal (VITWO LLP)
Haryana Hunters – Amrish Rau and Jitendra Gupta (Co-founder,
Hyderabad Kings – Amit Shah, Karan Bhagat and Yatin Shah (IIFL
Kolkata Royals – Ankkit Bhadur (Playboy North);; Taarun V. Jain
Mumbai Anchors – Mehul Shah (Anchor Electrical)
Pune Sharks – Rishabh Jhunjhunwala (Bhilwara Group); Shamit
Kehmka (Synapse India); Chetan Kaharia (Kajaria Ceramics); Sachin
Punjab Bluffers – Aditya Munjal (Hero Cycles Group); Arjun Jain
(White Fox); Shiva Vig (Anika International)
Rajasthan Tilters – Purrshottam Bhaggeria (Filatex Group)
The first round was reserved for the professional poker players who submitted applications to join the league and also ranked highly in a popularity index.
The second round was dedicated to the players who had qualified for the draft after taking place in a series of 72 live qualifiers held throughout the country.
Finally, the third draft belonged to online qualifiers who had participated in 72 qualifiers held on Adda52.com
What Are The Major Differences Between the GPL and PSL?
When the idea of the GPL first sprouted from the mind of Alex Dreyfus, I envisaged each team being managed by a business person. When the announcement came that each team would have a manager, that manager would be a player, and the manager would also play, I was disappointed.
The PSL has taken a different route with each of the 12 franchises being run by a person of business (see above). Next, you have a mentor (similar to a GPL team manager), and then the teams, which incidentally, are much larger than the GPL teams with nine players instead of six.
The significant difference between the two leagues is their vision. The GPL is seeking to promote poker as a form of entertainment but also a game of skill, with the greatest poker players in the world in direct competition.
The PSL takes a different route by combining professionals with amateurs, and although I like the link, particularly with the online poker rooms, I prefer the GPL’s model of excellence.
That said, the PSL isn’t devoid of top talent with the likes of Henrik Tollefsen (Gujrat Acers), Sam Razavi (Hyderabad Kings) and Patrick Leonard added to the league as wildcard entrants (Rajasthan Tilters).
Finally, the prize money in the PSL is also higher than the GPL with RS. 3.36 crores up for grabs ($525k) against the $100k available for the GPL winners, although it was glaringly obvious during the first season that the players weren’t interested in competing for money – they just wanted to compete.
Did the Online Poker Rooms Miss a Trick?
If India can sort out their complicated laws surrounding online gambling, and poker in particular, then it is going to be a place you want an online presence of you are an online poker room.
I think the inclusion of Patrick Leonard is a big scoop for the future of Partypoker. Fellow ambassador Sam Trickett has had a tie with the Indian market in the past, and various online poker rooms in India have sent online qualifiers to live events that have involved the partypoker brand.
If I were a PokerStars or 888Poker employee responsible for the marketing of my Team Pros/Ambassadors, I would have had the PSL founders Amit Burman, Anuj Gupta, Pranav Bagai, and Nikita Luther on speed dial.
Full details on how the league structure works are still secretive which tells me that are still winging it.
The Poker Sports League Twitter bio states:
“The Poker Sports League aims to sportify poker.”