Aaron Makes His GPL Debut: "I Have a Lot of Respect for This Game"
Breaking Bad references intertwine withAaron Paul's daily routine, and even on the set of the Global Poker League he can't get away from attempts at getting him to reenact his famous line from the show, "Bitch!" However, Paul's appearance on the GPL might bring a change to that for the poker audience that so far only knows him as the three-time Emmy award winner that he is.
This Monday, Paul made his debut in the GPL's revolutionary Cube, as he played for his L.A. Sunset team versus Fabrice Soulier of the Paris Aviators. PokerNews was there to talk to Paul, his team manager Maria Ho, and the father of the GPL, Alex Dreyfus, about his love for the game and being a part of this thrilling new concept.
Paul's unlike other celebrities who have been in the game of poker, as his energetic demeanor and approachable attitude work wonders for the overall vibe in the GPL studio, and he spoke candidly about his relationship with poker.
A Love To Gamble
"I've been playing games my whole life — card games — but I didn't get into poker until about 12 years ago," Paul said before turning to Ho. "That was right before the big boom?"
Ho confirmed Paul's read on the poker boom timeline before he continued.
"I just love gambling as well, and poker, and I just really see eye-to-eye," he said.
In 2015, Paul made his debut at the World Series of Poker, as scheduling conflicts had been an issue in the past for the Breaking Bad star. But, this wasn’t the first time he came to Las Vegas for poker's biggest spectacle.
"A couple of years ago, I went out [to Las Vegas] with my buddy Dave who was playing for the first time, and I just wanted to see what it was all about," Paul recalled. "Last year was the first time I actually had a week off, so I could play. I went out, I played terribly, but it was a blast. I had a great time, and I would love to play again some time.
"I'm just obsessed with this game."
Finding a celebrity with as much love for the game as Paul does is highly unlikely, and someone who's willing to commit to something like the GPL is even more rare. But Paul's here, he's committed to play, and Ho's ready to put him in.
"He's willing to play as many matches as I put him in," Ho excitedly said. "That's cool, and obviously I'm going to see how he plays in the Cube today and weigh that against all the other players I have on my team. We have a full summer of matches in the Cube, and I think that his experience today will only make him want to play more matches."
Getting Paul to Play the GPL
There will be 33 straight days of heads-up matches in the Cube in Las Vegas, and every single minute of it will be streamed on the GPL's Twitch channel. With Paul getting in on a few of these matches, viewership should only increase. That's something that makes Dreyfus, the mastermind behind the GPL, very happy. He chimed in about Paul's involvement in the GPL, although it wasn't a given to even have a celebrity on the show to begin with.
"It was a big debate internally, whether or not we should have a celebrity on the GPL," Drefyus said. "The GPL was meant to have the best poker players in the world compete, and it's safe to say that Aaron's not one of them. But the reality is, that out of 72 players we decided to have just one. We decided to pick someone who's committed to the game of poker. We didn't take someone we needed to pay to get exposure, we wanted someone who likes poker and is committed to the game.
"Aaron went to the WSOP last year and played the Main Event without being sponsored. He loves the game, and the way he plays shows that he's actually a very good player. For me, it's more a tool to promote the league, but it's nothing critical and it's not going to change the whole face of the league. It's just going to help us penetrate the Californian market because that's where he's at and L.A. Sunset as well."
Paul's poker playing might not be on the highest level, but it's his passion for the game that makes him fit in perfectly.
"I'm terrible," Paul laughed when talking about his own skills on the felt. "I'm OK. I play a lot, and we have home games all the time. I'm definitely not an expert, but I'm pretty confident in my game."
The home games aren't the famed Hollywood ones we've heard about in the media from time to time with the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire, but rather your everyday home games like the ones we all like to play.
"I tend to be a little too aggressive sometimes, but it works in my home games," Paul said. "It's super low stakes. We'll do a weekly $50 buy-in, unlimited rebuys for the first five rounds."
Paul has graduated from home-game play to the big stage, and before he made his debut in the GPL's Cube, he spoke with praise about the concept and being drafted by the L.A. Sunset.
"I think it's great that the audience is able to see the hole cards live, the in-studio audience as well," he said. "I think this will be exciting for audiences to watch in person, and thankfully Maria has drafted me into this game and I appreciate the hell out of her.
"[The Cube is] new, and it feels like we're ahead of the curve with this. I'm excited to be a part of this, even though it's completely out of my league. I don't want to get people confused, as I'm nowhere near a professional poker player, but I do love the game. I appreciate the game and I respect the game a lot. I'm just happy to be here. I'm going to try to play as many of these as possible and collect points for my team."
Paul showed off some more of his poker prowess by referring to his online play back in the day, plus made a reference to the darkest day in poker history.
"I got a pretty neat online game," he said. "I used to play all the time when it was still legal, and then one day I signed into my Full Tilt Poker account and I saw the FBI notice. That was devastating, the infamous Black Friday."
Breaking in the Cube
After Joe Stapelton, Liv Boeree, and Eric Danis introduced Paul and Soulier, the action kicked off and turned out to be very exciting to follow. All three matches went back and forth, and PokerNews chatted with Ho during the second match.
"It's kind of awesome to see him break in the Cube," she said. "What better way to showcase the Cube than have someone like Aaron play, who's obviously very talkative and gregarious, and he's going to be interacting with his opponent a lot? I think that's the fun part of the Cube, because we get to hear everything they are saying, we get to see the hole cards, and I think that the interactive experience is actually going to play into Aaron's strength as a poker player."
Ho also said she didn't have to do much convincing to get Paul on the team.
"Everyone in the poker community has always known that Aaron Paul's a fan of the game," she said. "So that part didn't take too much convincing, as he was very excited to play. It was more so explaining to him what it entailed, because this was so new and different from anything that has been done before.
"Also, Aaron's playing against some of the best poker players in the world, so that could also be a little intimidating for him. I definitely wanted him to know that he can hold his own with this crew, and that if he ever seeks for any advice he can get that from our stacked team. He has the world at his fingertips."
And while Ho's support, along with the rest of the L.A. Sunset behind Paul, will help push him further, it's clear to Ho that Paul already has much of what it takes to succeed — respect.
"Every conversation I've had with Aaron so far about poker starts with, 'I have so much respect for this game, and the people that play it,' and I think that having a deep-rooted respect for this game is something that is going to help propel this league. The question with celebrities playing poker is always, 'How much do they love poker?' and 'Are they any good?' because the GPL is trying to further the game of poker and take it to that next level and it's so important that someone like Aaron is willing to step in as a celebrity poker player, love the game, play the game, be good at the game, but also wanting to do something for it and its industry."
Paul Takes Down Soulier
Dreyfus shared Ho's sentiments and went on to say that he hopes his friend, Soulier, loses to Paul to get him more excited for what's still to come.
"I actually hope he's going to win today, because that's going to motivate him to be more involved in the league," Dreyfus said with a smile.
The GPL's now headquartered in Las Vegas for the foreseeable future, and Dreyfus added that having 33 straight days of matches is the perfect test.
"This is really an experiment to test the Cube, the technology, and how we can highlight the players, the stage, and the public for bigger events," Dreyfus said. "After all, what we try to show is not just the cards, because it's an entertainment proposition and we have to learn how to do that and show that. The best way to learn is actually to do it.
"The most important thing for me is that it works. The public was there, they see the cards, they see the stats, and you can see them rooting and enjoying the drama without damaging the integrity of the game."
After the match ended, after Paul beat Soulier 2-1, the star of Hulu's The Path gave praise to his teammates for helping him to prevail.
"It was great, the pressure was on," Paul said with a smile, as he got poker tips from Olivier Busquet and Ho in between matches. “They were just giving me some inside information on how Fabrice tends to play, and I've watched him play quite a bit, but it's always tough when you're going up against a true pro. He really does this for a living, and I do this for fun. But I also take myself seriously and I came in here prepared. I played some matches here and there and played a lot of home games, and they were giving me some techniques to try."
Paul once again reiterated that he's a huge fan of the game, and when the project he's working on cleared him to come out here for the day, he started preparing for it.
"I'm a huge poker fanatic, and I jump at these opportunities as often as I can," Paul said. "I heard that Maria wanted to draft me, and I thought it wasn't going to work out with my show, but I asked if I could have this day off and they cleared it.
"I'm obsessed with gambling, winning and losing money! What's so great about poker is that you can play it for your entire life. You can play against a pro and sometimes win. It's unlike any other sport. And I think it is sort of like a sport."
Paul did say that he doesn't think he'll be able to make it back to Las Vegas during the remainder of the Summer Series for more matches, but he didn't completely rule out the possibility. Poker would love to have him back, and the more involvement the game can get from him the better.
*Photos and video courtesy of the GPL.