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Global Poker League's inaugural season kicks off with Hong Kong in the lead

7 April 2016

The virtual cards went in the air this week with the much-anticipated start of the inaugural Global Poker League regular season. In the six weeks since Draft Day, much has transpired within the GPL, including the completion of the first two days of the regular season preceded by the unveiling of team wildcard picks, the league format and the Season 1 schedule.

The GPL team logos provide an identity for each team in the league.

The GPL team logos provide an identity for each team in the league.

To recap, the Global Poker League is made up of 12 teams, six in the American Conference and six in the Eurasia Conference. Each team selected four players at the draft in February, and since that time every team except Maria Ho's LA Sunset has added two "wildcard" players to its roster. (Casino City reached out to the GPL as to why Ho had not made her selections and did not receive clarification). Only two managers — Philipp Gruissem of the Berlin Bears and Andre Akkari of the Sao Paulo Metropolitans — decided not to include themselves as players. That leaves each team with six available options on the roster, and every player must compete in at least six matches across the regular season.

After the draft, we predicted that the London Royals would be the team to beat, and nothing has changed. Manager Liv Boeree added herself to the roster, along with Sam Trickett, who at one point ranked No. 5 on the Global Poker Index. The 29-year-old is the all-time money leader from the U.K., so he'll bring his $20.5 million in career earnings to his home team and join teammates Igor Kurganov, Boeree's first-round pick and boyfriend; Vanessa Selbst; Chris Moorman; and Justin Bonomo, the WSOP bracelet winner who stormed back in a heads-up match against Rome's Timothy Adams on Wednesday to help his team get off to a fast start.

Another team receiving a huge boost was the Moscow Wolverines, which added team manager Anatoly Filatov and Igor Yaroshevsky, the No. 1 player in the Ukrainian Global Poker Index, who finished 15th in the GPL Player of the Year Index last year.

The New York Rounders also built a formidable team during the draft, and then manager Bryn Kenney added himself and his younger brother Tyler Kenney as his two wildcard picks. Bryn has nearly $10 million in earnings — including $2.7 million this year — and at one point was the No. 2 player on the GPI, while his 26-year-old brother has excelled in live play with nearly $1 million in earnings.

The GPL regular season is being live streamed on GPL.tv and Twitch, and has been broken down into four segments:

• GPL Regular Season (April 5 to Sept. 26).
• GPL Summer Series (June 6 to July 8).
• GPL Playoffs: (Dates TBA).
• GPL Finals (Nov. 22-23).

The regular season kicked off on Tuesday with an online structure consisting of six-max and heads-up matches. Every Tuesday, all six teams from each conference face off in two six-max sit-and-gos. Home team managers get to pick their players after the visiting teams announce their lineups. Points are awarded to all teams except the sixth place finishers of each match, with first place getting seven points, second place five points, third place three points, fourth place two points and fifth place one point.

On Wednesdays, the six Eurasian teams play in three heads-up games against a fellow conference team, with three points going to the winner of each match for a total of nine points available. Players start with 50,000 chips, and blinds are raised every four minutes. Every Thursday, the American Conference teams do the same.

The highlight from the first two days of action was the heads-up matches between two of the most well-known players in the league, Berlin Bears wildcard pick Daniel "Jungleman" Cates and Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier of the Paris Aviators.

"ElkY" outlasted "Jungleman" to capture two out of the three matches in what was the most spirited action of the first two days, with both players letting loose and letting their emotions run wild. Cates won the first match, the longest of the first two days, in a back-and-forth tilt that saw the chip lead trade hands multiple times. But Grospellier prevailed in the final two matches, making quick work of his opponent in the second stanza, which ended with "ElkY's" aces-and-jacks full house besting a dumbfounded Cates, who held a jacks-tens full house that he thought would get him back into the match. In the third match, it was Cates who jumped out to a big lead before Grospellier rallied to pull off the victory, giving him six out of nine points.



Despite the fireworks from that match, it was the Hong Kong Stars who sat atop the Eurasia Conference standings after the first two days with 18 points, followed by Paris (16) and London (12), prompting some good-natured Twitter trash talking from Hong Kong manager Celina Lin.




On the American side, heading into Thursday's heads-up matches, the New York Rounders and Las Vegas Moneymakers were tied for first place with 10 points each after Day 1. The first day of action was highlighted by New York's Jason Wheeler picking up seven points and Anthony Zinno accumulating five points:



Many supporters of the GPL came out on Twitter to applaud what they witnessed during the first two days:









After eight weeks of online play, the league shifts to live play with the start of the Summer Series in Las Vegas, filmed in the GPL's Las Vegas studio. Teams will face off in cross-conference, heads-up matches in six heats every day for five weeks. Once again, each match is worth three points.

The regular season continues with six more weeks of online arena play, beginning Aug. 16 and ending Sept. 22. The pressure during this stretch will ramp up, since when it is completed, the two bottom teams in each conference are to be eliminated. The remaining eight teams advance to the playoffs, which will take place in an unnamed location the GPL promises will be an "epic venue in North America."

Using a "revolutionary 3 vs. 3 format," the GPL playoff field will shrink from eight teams to four. The postseason schedule has yet to be announced, but it will be highlighted by the introduction of The Cube, the GPL's signature gaming ring.

The final four teams will then compete in the GPL Finals in London at The SSE Arena in Wembley, Nov. 22-23.

"London gives us the opportunity to build a fully immersive, interactive experience for the GPL Finals thanks to its regulated online sports betting environment," said GPL President Alex Dreyfus. "We are going to connect fans with one another as well as the GPL players at a leading entertainment venue. The experience is more than just 'sit and watch' — it's full engagement."

Global Poker League's inaugural season kicks off with Hong Kong in the lead is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
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Best of Gary Trask
Gary Trask

Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT
Gary Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT