Alex Dreyfus can be summed up in three words: he thinks big.
In the past year Dreyfus has launched an all-out assault on the poker industry’s traditional business models as he attempts to “sportify” poker.
First, the American Poker Conference and American Poker Awards. Next came the Global Poker Masters. And then there is his current project, the Global Poker League.
Dreyfus doesn’t think poker is a sport; he simply believes it can be sold as a sport, with a full fan experience.
“NASCAR highlights the driver and the sponsors,” Dreyfus said. “With steady rankings we can help build a narrative and sell the top players.”
Dreyfus noted that in the current poker world, there are more “random” players making finals, which is good for the customer experience but not the fan experience.
By having more control of the content – who is invited to play in Global Poker League events for instance – Dreyfus believes he can create a NASCAR-esque model that will engage poker fans, and allow them to, for the most part, see the same players week in and week out.
Dreyfus recently announced he had raised $4.9 million in investment capital (most coming from mainland China) that will help him achieve this goal.
According to Dreyfus, the money will be used to shore up current plans like the GPL, and to bring on sports marketing consultants to increase the company’s network and awareness. Dreyfus also plans on increasing his current team of 15 to as many as 25.
These people will ask the right questions and challenge the company to be better, Dreyfus said.
U.S. will be the primary market
Even though the investment capital is coming from Asia, Dreyfus called the U.S. the birthplace of poker, and sees the U.S. as the linchpin to everything he is trying to accomplish.
“The U.S. and North America will account for 50% of our marketing,” Dreyfus said. 30% will focus on Europe with Latin/South America and Asia getting a 10% share.
One hurdle in the U.S. will certainly be the lack of legal online poker.
While Dreyfus is a proponent of legalized online poker, this is one hat he doesn’t think he should wear. In fact, Dreyfus seems wary of hitching his wagon to any particular online poker site, partly to avoid conflicts of interest, but also out of vigilance.
“We are cautious of building through online poker,” Dreyfus said. “It can have a toxic effect sometimes.”
According to Dreyfus, he will not be directly lobbying for online gambling legalization in the U.S., but sees his products as beneficial to the cause. “We are a tool to help the online poker lobby,” Dreyfus stated. “We will help poker more and more through exposure on TV.”
“We can’t hurt,” Dreyfus noted.
Dreyfus wouldn’t disclose the exact locations of Global Poker League events, but did intimate that many would be held in the U.S.
Interestingly, most will not be held in casinos, as this is part of Dreyfus’s plan to remove his version of poker from gambling.
The reason the GPL can be held outside of casinos has to do with its structure. Players do not post buy-ins; they get paid to participate, which eliminates the gambling element of the game.
The basics of the GPL are as follows:
- The top 1,000 or so players on the GPI will be draftable players.
- These players must consent to be part of the league. Dreyfus expects maybe 40-80 to opt-in.
- Players will then be drafted in a live draft by different “teams” complete with a salary cap.
- These players can then be traded or cut, with new players drafted each year.
So when a fan sees a certain team will be playing a GPL match, he knows precisely which players will be participating. And teams will have some, but not a lot of turnover from year to year.
Instead of 100 to 1,000 players fighting for six final table spots, where poker fans are lucky to recognize more than a couple of players, the GPL will consistently showcase the best of the best.
The sum is greater than its parts
Dreyfus has taken several small poker brands and combined them into a powerful company.
First was the Global Poker Index ranking system, which Dreyfus has repositioned as the ranking system for virtually every major poker tour and tournament series, from the WSOP to the WPT and EPT.
With the GPI at the center of his growing empire, Dreyfus added the Hendon Mob and the European Poker Awards, and created the American Poker Awards, Global Poker Masters, and Fantasy Poker Manager out of whole cloth to create a formidable list of assets, all of which play off of one another brilliantly, and help shape the Global Poker League.
The Hendon Mob is a tournament database.
The GPI is a tournament ranking system.
The European and American Poker Awards ceremonies highlight the top GPI players from each country.
Fantasy Poker Manager allows users to draft fantasy poker teams.
The Global Poker Masters (which will now be called the GPI World Cup) was a team poker event featuring top GPI players from eight different countries.
And of course, the Global Poker League.
The bottom line
Dreyfus is taking a big gamble by trying to take the gamble out of poker, but he is certainly the right man for the job.
The synergy he has already created in what were previously independent brands (GPI, Hendon, British Poker Awards) is remarkable in its own right, but it will be the success or failure of the Global Poker League that will be the opening line of his bio.