Chris Moneymaker bullish on Global Poker League
By Gary Trask
To his credit, Moneymaker has been very selective in deciding what he actually attaches his name to, and that discipline has been beneficial for a variety of reasons.
The first annual Global Poker League draft will be held Thursday, Feb. 25 in Los Angeles. It will be a "snake" draft with each team selecting four players. In the week following the draft, team managers will announce a one "wild card" pick, completing their roster. Below is the draft order for the first round, along with team manager bios.
1. Rome Emperors – Max Pescatori
Better known to many as "The Italian Pirate," Pescatori is a trailblazer for poker in Italy. The four-time WSOP bracelet winner has spent more than 10 successful seasons on the live tournament circuit with 17 career wins, including four WSOP gold bracelets), 100 Top 10s and $4,176,786 in live tournament earnings.
2. Montreal Nationals – Marc-Andre Ladouceur
One of Canada’s top poker players, Marc-Andre Ladouceur, a former tennis star at UNC Greensboro, had two close calls in back-to-back years at the WSOP Main Event, finishing 63rd in 2011 and 13th in 2012. He has one career win, 12 Top 10s and $1,704,611 in live tournament earnings.
3. New York Rounders – Bryn Kenney
One of the game’s most consistent pros, the New York state native has stayed within the GPI Top 100 Global Rankings for more than five years, with a majority of that time spent as one of the Top 10 players in the world. He has seven career wins, 48 Top 10s and $8,574,979 in live tournament earnings.
4. San Francisco Rush – Faraz Jaka
The former WPT Player of the Year has been one of the most consistent pros on tour for almost 10 year with two career wins, 27 Top 10s and $5,008,642 in live tournament earnings.
5. Las Vegas Moneymakers – Chris Moneymaker
The man responsible for igniting the poker boom, Moneymaker turned a satellite victory into a win for the ages at the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event. He has six career wins, 18 Top 10s and $3,587,316 in live tournament earnings.
6. Sao Paulo Metropolitans – Andre Akkari
A Sao Paolo native, Akkari jumped from software development into poker through a chance encounter. Since then, he’s become one of the biggest stars in Brazil with two career wins, 12 Top 10s and $1,442,127 in live tournament earnings.
7. London Royals – Liv Boeree
The former EPT Sanremo Champion & co-founder of the Raising for Effective Giving charity organization remains one of the most recognizable players in poker. She has three career wins, including an EPT title in 2010, 22 Top 10s and $2,977,203 in live tournament earnings.
8. Moscow Wolverines – Anatoly Filatov
The Russian-born pro has over $1.6 million in online cashes, in addition to $1,298,838 in live tournament earnings, including a runner-up finish in the 2012 EPT Vienna High Roller. He has two career wins and 21 Top 10s.
9. Los Angeles Sunset – Maria Ho
One of the most recognizable faces on the poker circuit, Ho likes to compete on and off the felt. She also participated in Season 15 of “The Amazing Race.” She has one career win, 13 Top 10s and $1,708,584 in live tournament earnings.
10. Berlin Bears– Philipp Gruissem
A former No. 2 ranked player on the GPI World Poker Rankings and one of the most successful tournament players in German poker history, Gruissem represented his nation at the 2015 GPI World Cup in Malta. He has eight career wins, including a pair of WPT Alpa8 titles, 22 Top 10s and $9,717,201 in live tournament earnings.
11. Paris Aviators – Fabrice Soulier
A legend on the French poker scene, Soulier, a former television director, is an 18-time winner of the live tournament poker circuit, including a WSOP bracelet in 2011. He has 69 Top 10s and $5,815,738 in live tournament earnings.
12. Hong Kong Stars – Celina Lin
A multiple-time winner on the live tournament circuit, Lin is one of the biggest names in Asian poker and one of the most successful streamers on Twitch. She has four career wins, 43 Top 10s and $577,577 in live tournament earnings.
Source: Global Poker League
So, when Moneymaker signed a two-year deal to become one of 12 team managers for the new Global Poker League (GPL), you can be sure it was done with a heavy dose of discretion.
With the first annual GPL draft scheduled for Feb. 25 in Los Angeles, Casino City spoke at length with Moneymaker minutes after Tuesday's draft order was selected to discuss his involvement in the new venture, why he thinks it could be successful, and how he plans to build the roster for the Las Vegas Moneymakers.
Casino City: How did you get involved with the GPL?
Moneymaker: About a year and a half ago, I started talking with (GPL CEO) Alexander (Dreyfus) about how I thought a league is really the next great thing that could make poker relevant again. I don't want to go all Joe Hachem on you and say poker is dying, but at the end of the day poker is not what it used to be and we need to draw people back into the game. We need to make it fun again, and the GPL has the potential to do that.
Casino City: There have been other similar ventures that have failed. What makes the GPL different?
Moneymaker: One of the main reasons I got behind it is that there is no investment required for the players, other than their time and skill. So, unlike some of the other ventures, there is no risk to the players. They will be paid for their time and reimbursed for travel expenses, so I really like that transparency. I also know Alex's story and his history. He's a good guy and a smart guy. Poker has been a tough medium to try and grow, but we need to do something. If this doesn't work, I'm not sure what will, outside of legislation (to legalize online poker).
Moneymaker: Obviously, you need spectators. We have to find a way for the spectators to be engaged. I know Alexander has some wrinkles planned with that in mind.
I'm not really a NASCAR fan, but one of the things that makes NASCAR cool is that you are able to go down to the track and talk to the drivers before the race and you're able to actually engage with them. You don't see that in any other sport. I think that's where NASCAR really gets their fan base from, because no one really wants to watch cars go around a big circle. I think the biggest thing NASCAR has going for it is the fan interaction, and I think poker needs the same thing in order to be successful.
I also think as the league takes hold the teams need to develop personalities and really identify with their cities and the fan bases that follow them. The players need to reach out to the fans and communicate with them. We have to create a fan experience.
Casino City: Will you keep all of that in mind as you build your team?
Moneymaker: Absolutely. I have a vision for what I want my team to be, and I think it might be different than any of the other teams. I think I may end up having the perceived, quote, unquote, "weakest team," potentially. But they are all going to be quality guys and quality players.
My biggest thing is that I want people on my team who want to be involved with the GPL. I want people who are going to help promote the league. People who are active on social media. They want to get on Twitch or post on Twitter and do media appearances and interact with the fans. I want players who will have the GPL at the forefront of their mind. I don't want them saying, "Oh, shoot. I've got to play in that GPL thing this week." I want them to be excited to be a part of this.
I'll also be looking for the sort of player that fits my story. I'm looking for the guy who has played in the smaller buy-in events and because he has a family, he is always grinding and has never really been given a shot to be on the big stage and play in front of a big audience. I would love to give a player a chance to have the GPL be his shot at playing big-time poker.
Casino City: The Las Vegas Moneymakers drew the fifth pick in the first round of the GPL draft. Now that you know where you stand, what will your strategy be going into the draft?
Moneymaker: I have been strategizing with my friends who will be helping me out, and we had a plan for what we would do if we were at the very top of the draft order and one for if we were at the very bottom. We really didn't have a super solid plan if we got a middle pick, so with that, along with the addition of a sixth player, we have some work to do.
Before they added a sixth player, I really felt that the European teams and the Hong Kong and Latin American teams would all be drafting for national pride, which would leave us with a lot of Americans to choose from.
Now that the sixth player has been added, I think teams can try and grab a top 10 superstar with their first pick and then go national pride with the other picks. There's a lot to consider now that we know the draft order and that we have an extra player to choose.
Casino City: What will you be doing between now and the draft?
Moneymaker: I know a lot of people in poker. But we have a pool of the top 1,000 players in the (Global Poker Index) to choose from, and I certainly don't know them all. So, I want to hear from people who I don't know or who I haven't met, and hear their thoughts on the GPL and why they want to be a part of it.
I'll be talking to pretty much everybody that we have at the top of our board to see how they would jibe with the other people I've talked to. It's really going to be all about interviewing people and seeing what their desires are, breaking down their strengths. Alex hasn't announced the official format yet, but I know it's going to be a lot of online play and a lot of heads-up, so that has to be part of the equation.
I think any player in the top 1,000 is going to be a great player, but the GPI is skewed to higher buy-in events. Is a guy that's in the top 10 really so much better than a guy who's 200? Those are the things we are going to be looking at because there may be a guy out there that has earned his way into the top 200 just by playing a bunch of $1,500 events. That doesn't mean he's that much worse than a guy who has a big bankroll and plays bigger events.
Casino City: Considering your background, your story and the fact that your team is based in Las Vegas, does your team have the potential to be one of the more popular in the league?
Moneymaker: Honestly, being the most popular team isn't a priority. The priority will be making the league popular, not my team. If the league is popular, everything will grow.
But I know the players I will be drafting will be generally well-liked. And, like I said before, I will make sure they are fan friendly and that they want to make appearances to promote the league.
Casino City: Team managers have the choice to play for their teams, or just manage. Have you made a decision on what you will do?
Moneymaker: I've gone back and forth, but as of right now, I think I am going to play in Season 1 and then see how it all plays out. Season 2 may be a different story; I'm looking at a couple different options. But I expect that I will give up my seat to someone else.
Casino City: Speaking of your playing schedule, what does it look like from now until the start of the GPL?
Moneymaker: Very busy. I'm still playing full time. I leave (Wednesday) to make an appearance at the Daytona Beach Kennel Club and Poker Room, and I'll be there all weekend. Then I'll be in LA for the GPL draft, and then it's on to Toledo for a Hollywood Poker Open (at Hollywood Casino - Toledo) and then another Hollywood Open in St. Louis. Then I'm going to play SCOOP on PokerStars, so I have to go to the Bahamas or Canada to play in that. I'll wrap it up with a few more Hollywood Poker Opens and maybe go to the EPT Monte Carlo and then it will be time for the World Series of Poker. I basically divide up my year into two halves: pre-World Series and post-World Series. I've got the pre-World Series schedule pretty much set.
Casino City: How many WSOP events will you play in?
Moneymaker: Probably just three or four. I probably play in the least amount as anyone else. But, to be honest, that's my vacation time. I'm traveling so much of the year, when the kids are out of school in the summer, I try to make family time.