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Poker Sports League (PSL), a poker league and brainchild of Amit Burman, Adda52 co-founder Anuj Gupta and Pranav Bagai was launched last year with the mission to establish poker as a sport in the country. It was then the country’s first professional poker league that gave an opportunity to state level teams and all poker lovers to become a part of the league while learning from the best poker minds of the country.
The inaugural league had 10 city-based teams owned by various entrepreneurs. These were Bengaluru Warriors, Delhi Panthers, Goan Nuts, Gujarat Acers, Harayana Hunters Kolkata Royals, Mumbai Anchors, Pune Sharks, Punjab Bluffers and Rajasthan Tilters.
Delhi Panthers, owned by Rishi Kajaria of Kajaria Ceramics won Season 1 and walked away with a cool ₹1.5 crore in prize money. The league in the inaugural season itself became an instant hit and the fact that the live stream of the League registered 4.5 million views on FaceBook says it all. The PSL Final Table recorded 1.28 million views, which is 10% more than the WSOP 2015 Main Event Final Table views on ESPN!
Now after the successful inaugural league, the team behind the league has announced the next chapter that will unfold next year and this time, there will be 12 city-based teams in the running!
Two New Teams and Increased Prize Pool
With a ₹150 crores commitment spread over eight years, 10 franchises have already been locked in with the addition of two more teams that are still open for bidding. These 12 teams will consist of a total of ten players each (one mentor and captain, two pro-players, two players from free live qualifiers, three players from free online qualifiers and two wild-card entries).
Last year, each team featured nine players with four among them qualifying through free online and live qualifiers. This year, five players will get a chance to make it into each team through qualifiers so that’s 60 amateur players from across the country.
PSL’s Co-founder & CEO Pranav Bagai explained the addition of two teams for the season, "Two teams are up for grabs. There are interests. The league owners are looking to get the best of the best on board. We are opening up two teams for bidding to give an opportunity to all the poker lovers across the country to be a part of this fantastic growth story. Interested parties are welcome to connect with me through the Poker Sports League Website”.
The prize pool for this edition is a whopping ₹3.6 crores and the league will roll out with qualifiers from the third week of December with 72 live and 72 online free events. The grand finale will be hosted in Goa in May 2018.
While there is only a marginal increase in total prizepool, there is an exponential increase in players’ remuneration and incentives to perform well. The mentors, pros and qualifiers get a 400% increase on average in base remuneration for being drafted into the teams as compared to Season 1.
How Do Teams Make a Return on Investment?
According to the PSL press release, the commercial model of the league assures instant break-even opportunity with a potential of certain growth with minimum efforts. What works in investors’ favor is the year-on-year fee structure. The right to enter costs ₹57.5 lakhs. Add ₹14 lakhs on account of players’ salaries to this and the team gets ready to vie for a stake in the season’s prize purse. The annual fee grows with the commercial growth of the league.
Franchisees get a workable business model with assured returns from the central pool income and a certain inventory to generate their own sponsorship revenues. From the central pool income, 50% is distributed among the franchisees. There is no cap or limit to each franchisees’ share from this pool which consists of media rights, sponsorships, merchandising and other licensing revenues.
Each franchisee also gets a defined sponsorship inventory on TV, digital and social media platforms, live streams and offline branding along with exclusive branding (80%) at minimum six Live Qualifier Events per team.
Elimination of Luck Factor
Based on the design, PSL is also eliminating the factor of luck in the league. For instance, poker players who want to make it to the “Online Draft” need to play 24 out of 72 deep stack online events and need to perform well across all the events in order to stand a chance of getting drafted.
All qualifiers are free to enter contests and as such PSL qualifiers are not constrained for permission to host such qualifiers anywhere since there is no betting or wagering happening.
TV Broadcast and Live Streaming
That’s not all, as in order to reach a much broader audience, the upcoming season’s plan also includes broadcasting the league not just online but on television too. Apart from TV, PSL is also speaking to multiple over-the-top (OTT) platforms for live streaming of the event.
PSL Season 2 which has an enhanced budget for the league`s marketing, media activation, fan engagement and broadcast production is currently finalizing a media rights partner for the second season.
Commenting on the advent of second season, Amit Burman, Founder of PSL said, “The first season was only a trailer of what is set to become India’s first and only credible and fully carved out poker league. We received a sizeable response from both aspiring players and corporate's in the last season and are pleased to note, that the interest has only grown manifold.”
Anuj Gupta, Co-Founder, Poker Sports League added, “With the emergence of massive online poker tournaments and fantasy leagues, the time is ripe for the Poker Sports League to formalize the poker story in India. With over twenty thousand qualifier participations pan India in the very first year, one can safely infer the potential of poker in the country. PSL in some sense is laying the foundation for an International tournament and has the right ingredients to become a global brand. It isn’t wrong to say that PSL hopes to complete India’s growing poker eco-system.”