The poker world is filled with many prominent pros who gain fame and fortune. Those who play a major role behind the scenes, on the other hand, are less visible.
But somehow, Alexandre (Alex) Dreyfus managed to become one of poker’s biggest names despite not being a player. He was by far one of the game’s most-discussed figures in the mid-2010s.
Strangely enough, though, Dreyfus has basically disappeared from the poker radar just a few years later. Who is Dreyfus and how did he drop out of poker conversations so quickly?
I’m going to discuss more on his background, why he eventually left the game, and what he’s up to today.
Who Is Alex Dreyfus?
Alex Dreyfus began his career as a digital entrepreneur. He witnessed the poker boom play out and saw the game’s immense potential.
The Frenchman moved to Malta and set up an online poker gaming platform. It went by the name of Chilipoker and quickly became a success and earned millions of dollars in revenue.
Dreyfus could’ve rested on his laurels and continued operating the successful Chilipoker. However, he had higher ambitions and began reaching fingers into many aspects of the industry.
He started the European Poker Awards, American Poker Awards, Global Poker Index (GPI), and Global Poker League (GPL).
Dreyfus still owns the GPI and The Hendon Mob. However, he’s largely abandoned the other projects that he launched.
Dreyfus’ Mission to Change Poker
The poker boom is largely believed to have ended when the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) took effect in 2006. This law made it much tougher for online poker sites to accept deposits and make payouts to US players.
Nevertheless, some sites continued thriving in the face of the UIGEA. But in 2011, Black Friday dealt another huge blow to the industry.
The poker world spent the next several years wishing for a return to its glory days, which never came. Rather than waiting, Dreyfus thought of a new solution to “sportify” poker.
He didn’t necessarily see poker as a sport in the same vein as football, basketball, or hockey. However, he believed that it could be promoted as a sport.
His vision was similar to NASCAR, which puts emphasis on the drivers, sponsors, points, and rankings. Dreyfus wanted to create a model where fans got to see pros more often, rather than random players winning tournaments.
These ideas all went into creating the GPL. Thanks to a $4.9 million investment from various Chinese venture capitalists, Dreyfus was able to bring his dream to fruition.
He created a league full of teams along with the controversial “Cube,” a $100,000 glass structure that would host the GPL’s marquee events.
As for the teams, they included rosters of drafted players. A few dozen pros liked the idea and participated in the inaugural season upon being drafted.
The Struggles of the Global Poker League
The GPL concept sounded good in theory. However, it didn’t play out quite as planned.
Rather than a live poker league that featured teams from different cities battling live, just like normal sports leagues, it entailed a bunch of online competitions.
The GPL managed to span 180 matches in its first season. However, even those who love poker had difficulty watching these online affairs play out.
But internet poker regulation has moved at a slow crawl. Most states don’t see it as a lucrative venture, given that the ring-fenced player pools produce little revenue.
Dreyfus went back to the drawing board and developed another idea. He wanted to give fans the opportunity to be stakeholders in teams for Season 2.
This concept didn’t work out either. Legal concerns eventually convinced Dreyfus to scrap the stakeholder plan.
The GPL still exists in some format in India. PokerStars decided to sponsor the venture as a marketing tool. However, the league is a far cry from the grand ambitions that Dreyfus had.
Drama With German Poker Pros
Dreyfus’ reputation was dragged through the mud in late 2016. German poker pros Fedor “CrownUpGuy” Holz and Hendrik “ValueH” Latz posted a story on TwoPlusTwo regarding a cash swap gone wrong.
The tale began when Dreyfus approached the poker players in Las Vegas during the 2016 WSOP. He asked Latz and Holz to loan him $20,000 and $10,000, respectively, as a favor.
Dreyfus then promised to transfer an equivalent value of euros to both players later that day. Such cash swaps are common in the poker community when players travel between continents.
Latz and Holz didn’t really need to worry about the money, so they forgot about it. However, Latz eventually realized five weeks later that he hadn’t received his $20k.
Holz didn’t even remember the missing $10k until Dreyfus emailed an apology. The latter noted that the GPL was having financial difficulties and asked if he could wait until the next month to repay both players.
He offered an additional 5% interest on top of what he owed. However, the poker pros still felt that they should make others aware of the incident.
To be fair, he did pay back the money and apologized multiple times afterward. But his behavior certainly wasn’t befitting of a trusted poker entrepreneur.
Move to the Cryptocurrency World
Dreyfus was eventually able to work out a deal with PokerStars involving the GPL. As mentioned before, Stars is now using the league as a marketing/entertainment tool in India.
However, his poker reputation was definitely damaged from the league’s underwhelming performance as well as his dealings with Holz and Latz.
Instead of opting in for creating something like an Bitcoin online casino, Dreyfus switched gears and transitioned into the cryptocurrency industry in a different manner. He revived his Chili brand under “chiliZ,” which is a sports and esports blockchain project.
ChiliZ is patterned after Spanish football’s “socios,” which describes how thousands of Barcelona and Real Madrid fans have a voice in how their favorite teams are run. Sports and video gaming fans will get an opportunity to do the same with their favored teams through chiliZ.
Here’s an example on what they can vote on with esports:
- Skins used in matches
- Which pros will start matches
- Which pros will be on the bench
Like many cryptocurrency projects, this one is tokenized. The chiliZ token (CHZ) will allow users to perform a variety of functions within the project’s blockchain.
The general public is often hesitant about cryptocurrencies. After all, the majority of these projects are either scams, bad ideas, or efforts to draw funding on previously failed concepts.
It’s difficult to say where Dreyfus’ project lies. This blockchain could very well go the same way as the GPL.
But he at least has a good vision and is looking to fill a real void in sports and gaming. ChiliZ has also netted some high-profile partnerships, such as the Roma football club, Paris Saint-Germain football club, and OG esports squad.
Alex Dreyfus is one of the most dynamic entrepreneurs to have entered the poker world. After originally starting with an online poker room, he expanded his empire to include award shows, a player rankings system, and the largest poker tournament database.
But what Dreyfus is best known for is starting the Global Poker League. The GPI represented an ambitious attempt to start a pro-centric poker league that fans could enjoy.
However, the GPI is just a fraction of what it was intended to be. The format wasn’t quite what many expected, and the online-match format just wasn’t very appealing to the average poker fan.
Aside from the GPI not taking off as expected, Dreyfus also had a cash-swap controversy. He borrowed a collective $30k from two poker pros and failed to pay them back in a timely manner.
Dreyfus began slowly fading away from the poker world after these incidents. He’s now focusing on a cryptocurrency project called chiliZ.
Once again, the Frenchman is aiming for big things with this platform. He hopes to tokenize the sports and esports worlds while giving fans a bigger say in their favorite teams.
Can chiliZ be the ultimate success that will come to characterize Dreyfus? Or will it go the way of the GPL? The next few years should answer this question and define the rest of Dreyfus’ professional career.