Recently I’ve been introduced to a relatively new concept of team play know as Match Poker
. I have to admit the first thoughts that crossed my mind was that it was a similar service to Lavalife / PartyPoker collabo where they pair you up with fellow poker players where you bond over the game. (Yes, Lavalife the online dating site of the past, innovated a 12 week poker tourney where singles will be able to chat with each other via the poker table’s chat room as they play and hopefully they will walk away with a spot at the final tournament and with a date (More on LavaLife Poker Collabo +
). I couldn’t have been more off.
Match Poker takes a different spin to poker, removing the majority of the luck variables and seemingly focuses on the skill aspect of the game. In Match Poker, the format is played for points rather than a direct exchange of chips. The team based play of Match Poker takes the game to a much broader scope of gaming as a whole. Like eSports, players sync in to their smartphones and can play regionally or globally.
Where did Match Poker come from?
Match Poker was created by International Federation of Poker (IFP) with Patrick Nally at the helm as the President. Nally’s background as a sports marketing rain maker was known for bringing on board blue-chip partners such as Coca-Cola to the International Olympic Committee (OIC) and FIFA in the 70’s. “I was asked to get involved because I know international sport, not because of my prowess at poker. I don’t play,” said Nally.
“Poker did not have a governing body and no real structure. There were groups of people whose view was that poker can’t just be about money. It’s a challenging game, but the focus on the money is quite limiting… I didn’t fancy it but I was convinced by a Swiss sports lawyer who told me that the game had captured an extraordinary space for young people, and that mobile andonline technology had made poker mainstream. He also felt that poker should be backed up by an organisation that could start to organize sporting events.”
Teams in Match Poker are divided onto different tables with one individual from each team sitting in alternating seat positions. All players begin with the same chip stacks and receive their cards on their smart phone. Here’s the catch. The same cards are dealt at all tables which means every player has identical cards. Thus, it is the skillsets rather than luck that should determine the outcome of the match. After a pre-determined number of hands the team that accumulates the most points wins. All action is recorded electronically enabling real-time automated scoring, animated replay and detailed analysis. (More on Match Poker from PokerFed.org +
) (More to Poker than Winning Money?+
In fact Alibaba Sports is partnering up with Oceans Sports and Entertainment to produce a Match Poker product offering its’ services to the massive Chinese market. The objective is to create a player base of two million Match Poker players from China within the next five years. Rather than generating revenues from rake it’ll be from paid subscriptions, pay-per-play, media, and sponsorships.
“The alliance between Oceans and Alibaba Sports creates one of the most powerful forces in sports marketing anywhere in the world,” Nally said. “I am delighted that their energies, attention, and resources will be focused on launching and promoting Match Poker and that they share my belief in its massive worldwide potential.” (+
It makes sense. Since the banning of online gaming in the US markets, the poker industry has been trending downwards. Lack of blue chip sponsors, large online gaming sites being swallowed or shut down, then overnight the incredibly popular High Stakes Poker and Poker After Dark show series went kaput. Without TV coverage the poker boom instantly grinded down to a halt. It’s a natural progression to look for other markets much like the brick and mortar casino counterparts setting up shop in Macau. China is without a doubt an emerging economic might.
Will Match Poker team play become a major force eclipsing chess, bridge, or go? Nally seems to think so.
“Now that we have Match Poker technology, we can launch in countries where they can create clubs, leagues and regular competitions so that it becomes like any other sport,” he said.
“We go live this year in three key markets in Europe – Italy, Spain and probably Poland – but then it will roll out when we have more experience and have road-tested that it all works as well as we want it to.
“It will then, over the next few years, go to Russia, India, China and eventually the US and become the world’s major mind sport.” (Poker eSports +
It’s hard to bet against someone with an extensive background in international sports. IFP with Nally in the driver seat seem to have a very well thought out plan in connecting the dots utilizing digital technology. The real significance of this is having an infrastructure in place with a marketing guru as the driving force to bring back the game of poker to the forefront as a global phenomenon. It is a progressive idea that leads to my final question of the direction of the game.
Is Match Poker the new avant garde poker statement?
~ JJJ ~