Fantasy Poker has been around for years, but if the amount of interest generated in the $25,000 WSOP fantasy draft is any indication, Fantasy Poker is the latest phenomenon and here to stay.
The Fantasy Poker League was the brain child of poker pros Daniel Negreanu and pal Erick Lindgren. Both banked on the fact that the popularity of Fantasy sports has been growing at a phenomenal pace since 2007 when the Fantasy Sports Trade Association estimated 29.9 million people in the USA and Canada played fantasy sports, they both felt it would be a huge hit.
To get the ball rolling, a Fantasy Poker draft party was held at Aria recently. The auction style draft saw each team bidding on nominated players until they acquired the eight players needed to go the distance for the entire 2011 World Series Of Poker. The draft attracted 15 teams/individuals that paid $25k each to create a whopping $375K prize pool. Points are awarded to players for finishing in WSOP events and at the end of the first week, co-founder Erick Lindgren was second in the league with 77 points, due to his final four finish in the $25K Heads-Up Championship.
All of the poker pros involved in the Fantasy Poker league are excited about the new level of competition added to this year’s WSOP, but none more so than co-founder Daniel ‘Kid Poker’ Negreanu who has 23 WSOP final table finishes under his belt. Being a huge fantasy sports fan, Negreanu compared winning a fantasy hockey league to winning a WSOP bracelet. Since he has been a regular Fantasy Sports player for quite some time, he believes poker works great as a fantasy game. Currently in the middle of the Fantasy Poker league standings with 41 points, Negreanu commented, “I’ve actually already come up with a couple ideas for next year to make it even more fun.” Those ideas for next year include adding special categories to the draft, such as drafting female and No-Limit Hold’em players. “It would add even more strategy and make it more position-based,” Negreanu said. “It would be like drafting a quarterback in fantasy football.”
Although Poker is a relatively new fantasy sport, it seems to be finding its niche in the massive fantasy league culture and according to poker players like Eric Froehlich, it’s popularity is easy to understand, “People want a piece of the action and fantasy sports let you have that.” Froehlich believes that for the pros, “The fantasy leagues for professional poker players give us more people to cheer for and more sweats. It’s a really good thing.”
There was so much excitement and buzz about this years’ poker pros fantasy draft that web developer Stan Magusiak created the website www.25kfantasy.com, to give poker fans and players a place to follow the fantasy draft this summer.
Talking about why fantasy sports are so big, Magusiak said, “I think the appeal of fantasy is twofold: it’s camaraderie and competition paired with gambling and fandom.” He also added, “Most fantasy leagues are started within friend circles and the concept of a draft basically merges every aspect of being a ‘dude’. Sports knowledge, camaraderie, competition and, most importantly, friendly trash talk.”
Asked whether he thought Fantasy Sports and Poker were a good mix, Magusiak was reluctant to say he thought it was a good pairing, answering, “It does and it doesn’t.” Explaining his thoughts, he said, “Poker’s at a big disadvantage there because most people don’t have the knowledge of the player pool available to them as they do in other fantasy sports. “Don’t get me wrong, ESPN does a nice job with the time they have but good luck finding Yueqi Zhu or even Scott Seiver in any of the archived ESPN shows.” Despite the drawbacks however, Magusiak did
say Fantasy Poker had some great upsides, such as some the most famous poker players in the world taking part in the fantasy draft, “You could compare it to the top 20 football players in the NFL doing a draft of their own every year, which everyone could follow.’
No matter how big it grows, or how small it stays, one thing is for sure, the Poker Fantasy league has added a whole new dimension to the already huge 2011 WSOP events, where the team players have been seen chatting up their standings and their chances of winning for their team.