The Global Poker League (GPL), hoping to ride an ever-increasing wave of eSports popularity in Asia, is planning to break into the Chinese market in 2017 with a tournament specific to that market.
Even though the ultimate feedback has yet to be interpreted on the inaugural season of the GPL’s international competition, the organizers have just announced the eight teams set to contest a new Chinese event. Set-up specifically to take advantage of the popular eSports scene in China, GPL China will run separately from the organization’s central league, which wrapped up recently when the Montreal Nationals were crowned champions.
Another Brick in the GPL Wall
Although the new league will be distinct from its international counterpart, it will share a number of similarities and, importantly, build on the lessons the league learned during season one of the GPL. Although mostly well-received by the poker community and beyond, early GPL matches experienced a number of teething issues.
Problems with streaming, some criticisms over the commentary, and a few minor mistakes in the overall production were all present this year, yet understandable given it was the event’s first run. While GPL Season Two will be a chance to rectify these problems, GPL China will presumably have a first run with fewer of these glitches.
China has often been seen as the Holy Grail of poker markets and thanks to the GPL’s local backers, a specific league seems a natural fit. In fact, GPL founder Alex Dreyfus has long said that he wants to “sportify” poker and there are few markets as hyped on eSports as China.
Emergence of eSports in China
According to a recent article by the South China Morning Post, China has overtaken the US as the epicenter of eSports, with around 170 million fans generating some $4 billion in revenue back in 2015. On top of this, China has close to 400 million active gamers spending $17.6 billion each year.
Tapping into this market, even in a small way, would not only significantly boost the GPL’s reputation, but the popularity of poker as a sport. In fact, to ensure GPL is seen as an eSports contest, the eight teams will feature pros, qualifiers, and celebrities. Moreover, the online and live events will be streamed across the internet via the GPL’s local and international media partners.
Although GPL China doesn’t have a firm start date just yet, the action is projected to get underway after the 2017 Spring Festival with the following eight teams:
- Beijing Great Dragons
- Shanghai Golden Tigers
- Guanghzou Pioneers
- Shenzhen Eagles
- Hangzhou Legends
- Xi’an Warriors
- Chengdu Pandas
- Tianjin Guardians
Fans can expect the team captains to be named within the next two months, with player announcements coming soon after that.