The 2016 World Series of Poker (WSOP) will be testing out the notion that poker is a sport this summer when it introduces the concept of team play to the festival.
Announced earlier this week on the RMC Poker Show by WSOP spokesperson Gregory Chochon, the new team event will be yet another addition to the 2016 series.
Although the full schedule hasn’t yet been finalized, the WSOP announced before the holidays that this year’s series will run from May 31 through to July 18, and feature a combination of old favorites and new innovations.
Alongside the $10,000 Main Event, this year’s World Series will see the return of recent favorites, such as the Colossus and the Millionaire Maker.
Moreover, in keeping with the spirit of evolution that’s characterized the WSOP in recent years, the organizers will also be hosting thrice daily deepstack events throughout the series. Taking place in the Rio and costing between $135 and $235, the low stakes tournaments offer a quick fire way to play (30 minute clocks) poker at the WSOP without breaking the bank.
However, following Chochon’s radio interview earlier this week, those announcements have been overshadowed by the prospect of a team event.
While the full details are still somewhat unclear, the main premise seems to be that teams of between two and four players will work together and progress through the event in the same way that tennis players do in the Davis Cup.
One potential scenario, according to the WPT’s Executive Tour Director Matt Savage who has organized similar events in the past, is that players could switch places at predetermined times.
“I’ve always done it with alternating levels and even allowed them to rotate in cash games as well,” tweeted Savage.
For one person, however, the format doesn’t really matter as long as it’s “fun.” After hearing about the WSOP’s decision to host a team tournament, the CEO of the Global Poker Index (GPI) and founder of the Global Poker League (GPL), Alex Dreyfus, expressed his delight via Twitter.
“Excited that @WSOP will have $1,000 Team event, like a tag team format, with a bracelet for each player/team. #SportifyPoker #RippleEffect,” he tweeted.
Not missing a chance to use his trademark phrase “sportify poker,” Dreyfus is confident that 2016 will be the year when team poker becomes a major part of the industry.
In fact, Dreyfus himself is promoting a similar idea with the GPL. Currently organizing a player draft that will take place on February 25, Dreyfus will be pitting 12 poker franchises against each other in a season-long series of tournaments similar to the NFL.
By introducing a new format for players to participate in and fans to follow, Dreyfus hopes to revive sponsorship interest in poker and “legitimize” the game as a sport.
While the WSOP appears to be coming at the issue from a slightly different angle, it’s clear that tournament organizers are also willing to embrace the idea that poker is a sport, which could lead to more innovations in the coming months.