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Random Drug Testing in Poker Tournaments
By Brodey Sheppard - June 26, 2016
After the Global Poker League’s move to transform poker into an even more entertaining sport, many now wonder if random drug testing should be introduced to poker tournaments. With the live streaming format of the 2016 Global Poker League and other major events, poker is being delivered into the homes and mobile devices of millions of people across the globe.
Before, casual poker games, as well as poker tournaments, were considered to be outside the bounds of the sports industry. However, with the Global Poker League’s decision to bring the tournament closer to a bigger audience, the game is starting to fall in between the casino and e-sport categories.
Random Drug Testing in E-Sports
In an interview, professional Counter-Strike: Global Offensive player Cory “Semphis” Friesen admitted that he, along with his teammates in Cloud9, used Adderall when they competed for the $250,000 prize money at the Katowice 2015. Organisers of the tournament, as well as the Electronic Sports League (ESL), were not too happy about his revelation. Weeks later, the ESL worked with the World Anti-Doping Agency to introduce Olympic standards random alcohol and drugs testing in e-sports.
In a statement, the ESL said, “As the world’s largest and oldest eSports organisation, ESL has an ongoing commitment to safeguarding both the integrity of our competitions and that of eSports as a whole.”
Adderall is a prescription drug primarily used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, when it is used by individuals who do not have the condition, it can become quite a powerful performance-enhancing drug geared towards cognition.
Some university students use it to stay awake and keep their mind alert and active while they are studying. In the world of poker tournaments, a number of players have admitted using the drug to keep themselves ahead of the game. Some players smoke weed while others take amphetamines to keep them alert through long shifts at the tables. In the past, Brandon Adams appeared on 60 Minutes and talked about the benefits of taking Adderall before going to the table. Other poker stars, such as Phil Hellmuth have talked about the benefits of the drug for poker players.
Poker as an Entertaining Sport
Matches in the Global Poker League are quickly becoming more and more popular. Patterned after famous e-sports tournaments, the GPL also has team drafts, franchises and team managers. A commentary team is also present and it includes hosts, the stars, and interviews. Just recently, a lot of people tuned in the live coverage of the first match inside The Cube where Breaking Bad actor Aaron Paul won his first GPL match.
Alex Dreyfus, one of the organisers of the Global Poker League, understood that there are limits to how much poker can do as a spectator sport. Hence, they have developed a new poker game called HoldemX. This poker game from the fundamentals of poker, but borrows one or two ingredients from the most sought-after games in the e-sports industry. Analysts have mentioned that there may be a future wherein the e-sports sector recognises the GPL as their own.
Random Drug Testing in Poker
Long before the start of the GPL, Dreyfus has mentioned that their committee is serious about changing the dynamic of poker and gaining the attention of a wider audience. Clearly, poker has gone a long way since its days when it is simply viewed as a casino game. However, if the GPL wants to realise its dream of turning the game into a sport, random drug testing may be necessary. After all, the tournament may suffer negative exposure if it is ever discovered that the eventual winners used performance-enhancing drugs through the competition.
The GPL has to protect its image if it wants to become a truly successful e-sport. In entertainment sports, sponsors are vital in backing the games. Needless to say, the GPL has to build and maintain a clean image in order to attract sponsors like Nike, Reebok and Ford to invest in the game.
Online Poker and Drug Testing
A lot of people who prefer to play in online poker tournaments on WSOP.com and other sites also wonder what the random drug testing proposition meant for their sector. Poker analysts have said that it would be quite difficult to implement this rule. It is hard enough to ensure that the player behind the account name is actually who they say they are. Hence, it is even more difficult to ensure that they do not have any performance-enhancing drugs in their system.
In terms of live and online poker tournaments, it is still quite early to provide clear and solid answers regarding the benefit or problems that banning these substances would bring. However, for poker tournaments gearing towards the sports or e-sports sectors, doing so indeed brings the integrity of the game to a higher level.