"It’s a long journey; it’s a very ambitious and arrogant mission, but it's really needed by the whole poker industry." Only few days after the announcement of the first-ever Global Poker Index (GPI) paper magazine, French businessman Alex Dreyfus is again on the front cover with his latest creation, the American Poker Awards.
The event, which is going to be held in Los Angeles, California, at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills on February 27, 2015, aims to bring together all the top names of the poker industry and help the game to develop globally.
"I think we are at the eve of a new boom," Dreyfus told PokerNews explaining how he believes this to be "the perfect time" for an initiative like the American awards.
Few hours before the announcement was made public, we have reached Dreyfus to discover more about the upcoming American Poker Awards and his views on poker in the United States.
Let's start with the basics. What are the European Poker Awards going to be?
The GPI has been very successful in Europe during the past 18 months, so now we want to do the same in the US. The awards are a way for us to plant a flag and say "hey, this is our territory now". I am sure we will be even more successful in the US than we already are in Europe.
The awards are going to be a big industry gathering with 250 to 300 invitees. We plan to invite top players and nominees as well as directors of the main poker rooms in US and North America. We aim to bring the top of the poker industry together.
We are also in touch with a sports celebrity who really loves poker and who could become the president of the award's jury.
Earlier in 2014 we announced a deal with Boris Becker to be the president of the jury of our next European Poker Awards; now we want to try to do something similar in also in US.
The whole point of the American Poker Awards is to reward performances and players, to promote poker as a sport. That's also why we need to connect the poker industry and the sports industry at our event.
Among other things, we are also planning to organize a special charity poker tournament during the event.
Why did you choose to organize the awards in Los Angeles and not, as one would expect, in Las Vegas?
Well, there are different reasons behind our choice. We took into consideration the idea of running the awards during the World Series of Poker (WSOP), and that would have been great. Yet, the WSOP are so big that our event would have been probably very small in relation to the Series.
Then, consider that the American Poker Awards will reward the best of poker that happened between January 1 and December 31. And this means that we needed to run the event somewhere between January and March.
During that time there are not a lot of big international events on that side of the world. There are only the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA), the Borgata Open and the LA Poker Classic (LAPC).
Although we don’t work as an affiliate event for the LAPC, we have decided to do it at the same time of the six or seven weeks poker festival that is going hit the Commerce casino.
I believe this is a good choice to get the poker community onboard, especially America's side of it.
Is it only because of this?
No. People don't always really realize it, but California is the biggest poker market in the world, much bigger than Vegas.
If you remove the World Series of Poker from Las Vegas, then the game field in California is much bigger than in Vegas. Much bigger than anywhere else in the world.
Also, let’s keep in mind that online poker is going to come soon to California. This means that the attention will be very high there, and to organize an event like the awards at the right time and in the right place is important both for us and for poker, as it will help local media in California to talk about the game.
Last but not least. Los Angeles is a sort of ideal "capital of the awards". That’s where the Oscars and the Grammys ceremonies are held, and if we want to promote poker as entertainment, I believe California is the right place.
Right before going ahead with the launch of the American Poker Awards, the GPI inked a deal to take the European Poker Awards over. Can you expand on that?
I know you would like to talk about numbers, but I will not do that here. We took that over as GPI aims to become an authority in the poker world, and so it make sense for us to control the awards that reward the industry.
I can tell you that we have decided to buy the European poker Awards also to keep the legitimacy of the name and the way the whole award is organized with several nominees and a jury.
I believe that to have a jury and not to simply let users to vote, is a way to achieve better results and eventually even rewards great personalities that wouldn’t manage to get to the top spots otherwise.
Take the European Poker Awards from two years ago, when the jury selected Ole Schemion as 'rookie of the year'. At that time he was 19, and the way he went sky high during the past two years proves he was a good choice. Yet, without a jury, this would have probably not happened.
We want to have an independent and neutral jury with a panel that really represents the industry. In Europe we had 80 people who were part of the nomination panel. Now we are going to involve even more significant actors of the poker industry.
Can we get a concrete example?
PokerNews is going to be part of the organization. PokerNews journalists will be an active part of the event and we hope to add already from next year a live stream of the ceremony in order to make it even more significant.
In the US, we hope to involve also some TV channels to have interviews and give more visibility to the event. We have signed a deal also to have Ante Up and All In Magazine as media partners in the US, and we are also going to welcome all the mainstream media that will choose to help us to make this a very big event.
Is the GPI officially going to try to hit on the American market?
I am a strong believer of poker in the US, and that’s why I think that the poker awards are a perfect fit.
Only during the past year, the live poker industry went up 15% in the US,and we believe now is the best time to invest in it and make it become more structured and better organized.
The GPI can help building the foundation of the future. Our ranking system, the awards, the magazine we just launched at the World Series of Poker: all of this will help.
The goal here is not to compete against other actors within the industry, but to work together. Today we all have to work together to make poker bigger. It’s a long journey; it’s a very ambitious and arrogant mission, but it's really needed by the whole poker industry.
You said you are a "strong believer in poker in the US". Do you mind me asking why is it so?
Right now, the absence of online poker from North America and from the US caused a reduction in investments and innovation. That's why if you manage to be a little bit more aggressive, to bring innovation and quality in, I am sure you can do a lot to make poker much bigger in the States.
If this happens, then there is what I call the "butterfly effect". The United States are still the "American Dream", and whatever is successful there, is going to work and help poker on a global scale.
See this example. The day online poker will be live California, all the money that partypoker and other operators will spend there, will help the game to grow all over the world.
The more I think about the aggressive expansion of the GPI over the last two years, about all the projects you have launched, the more I wonder: is there anything that you think didn’t work as good as you wanted?
Of course there is. It may be because I am impatient, but I feel that everything is too slow, especially monetization.
Project-wise, I am never satisfied. Even today, I am not happy about the product we have released, and I believe it could literally be 2 or 3 times better. But you can’t do everything you want in the time you expect. I believe for a small team of 15 people or less, we are doing an OK job.
I should have acquired the HendonMob earlier, I believe we made a strategic mistake there. Everything is always a matter of timing, that's why I think that an initiative as the American awards, makes sense right now and right in California.
I think we are at the eve of a new boom. In every industry there are cycles, and poker makes no exception. There are people who were around 15 years who cannot afford to reinvest fresh money and bring fresh ideas to innovate the poker industry.
Then you have new guys like me, opportunists if you want, but who are trying to get their position.
Lead image courtesy of the Global Poker Index.