By: Paul Hewson
It’s been a while since the city of Montreal had a champion. The Canadiens haven’t won the Stanley Cup since 1993, the last Grey Cup for the once-mighty Alouettes was in 2010, and Georges St-Pierre hasn’t fought in the Octagon since 2013. Maybe the Montreal Nationals won’t get a parade, but at least they won the first season of the Global Poker League, beating the Berlin Bears in the Finals and taking down the top prize of $100,000.
On pure talent alone, the Nationals (Martin Jacobson, Marc-Andre Ladouceur, Jason Lavallee, Pascal Lefrancois, Xuan Liu, Mike McDonald) figured to be one of the top teams in Season 1. Everything went according to plan; Montreal led the GPL in points almost from wire-to-wire, earning the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. Then, with the Finals tied at 5-5 going into the last round, Lefrancois – the team captain – beat Brian Rast heads-up in the Cube to give Montreal the championship.
Better Call Paul
But will the Nationals get to defend their title? Interest in the GPL faded as the year wore on. The Finals, which were supposed to take place at Wembley Arena in London, were instead held in-studio without much fanfare – or viewership. Merchandise wasn’t even available until midway through the season, well after those swank team logos were revealed to the public. And league CEO Alexandre Dreyfus had some cashflow problems to contend with.
On the positive side, the GPL provided countless hours of pro-on-pro poker action, giving the world a look inside the minds (and strategies) of the top players in the game. On top of that, the appearance of Breaking Bad actor Aaron Paul as a member of the LA Sunset helped bring in some extra spectators. If Dreyfus and his people can sign up some more celebrity players, improve the quality of the presentation, and trim some of the fat from the schedule, Season 2 might give the GPL the foothold it needs to stay in business.
In the meantime, the Montreal Nationals are the champions of the poker universe. You could see how important the title was to the players, who were biting their fingernails as they slugged it out with Berlin in the Finals. As McDonald said after the hard-fought victory, it was about the poker instead of the money, and by that measure, Season 1 of the GPL was a success.