The Global Poker League’s (GPL) objective is to grow interest in poker and transition the sport into an easily digestible format. Visionary Alexandre Dreyfus said the goal was to “sportify” the card game, but while it’s widely known that millions around the globe enjoy playing poker, it isn’t as clear if millions also enjoy watching poker.
The GPL has packaged the game into a more traditional sports arrangement with teams of pros competing against other franchises in live tournaments.
The inaugural season launched rather quietly last week, but on Monday fans received added reason to tune in after it was revealed that “Breaking Bad” star Aaron Paul has joined the LA Sunset as a wild car pick by Team Manager Maria Ho.
“I love poker as a game and mind sport, so I’m excited to be part of this new eSports league,” the actor said. Ho added, “We’ve had a lot of opportunities to include celebrities that happen to also be talented players, but in my experience Aaron is one of the most committed to the sport of poker.”
The GPL consists of 12 teams, six in the Americas and six internationally, with six players making up each squad. Team managers have the freedom of going outside of the Global Poker Index’s Top 1,000 players for their wild card selections “regardless of whether they are poker legends, lowkey grinders, outside of the GPI Top 1,000 or outside the poker world entirely.”
Ho’s choosing of Paul, and his willingness to play, is a vital development in the league’s overall brand identity. Regardless of how the 36-year-old actor performs, it’s a win for the GPL and Dreyfus.
Poker’s biggest celebrities, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey, and Phil Hellmuth, have a combined 1.49 million followers on Twitter. Paul has over one million more Twitter fans alone.
The three-time Emmy Award winner for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, the only three-peat winner in the category since comedy and drama were separated, wasted no time in telling his followers about his GPL news.
Accompanying a picture of the star holding a sign that said “DRAFTED,” Paul tweeted, “I’ve been drafted by @mariaho to play with the pros in the @GPL. #TeamLASunset #SecretWeapon #SportifyPoker.”
Though Paul is currently starring in the Hulu original series “The Path,” he’ll likely always be first and foremost known for “Breaking Bad.” On the hit series he played Jesse Pinkman, a drug addict that helps Bryan Cranston’s character Walter White cook meth.
Regardless of his character’s flaws, Paul’s portrayal of Pinkman made him a loveable person. After all, empathy is key to drama.
Then there’s Hank Schrader, a DEA agent related to Walter played by actor Dean Norris. On paper, Schrader would be the good guy in the series, but again, empathy prevails.
Like Paul, Norris is also an active fan of the game of poker and co-hosted alongside Phil Hellmuth the Hollywood Cares Charity Poker Invitational in February of 2015.
Could a Pinkman against Schrader poker GPL showdown be in the works? Poker and “Breaking Bad” fans can only hope.