The International Federation of Poker broke the news some days ago, Zynga is officially recognized as the first Digital Federation in the history of sports. Zynga won’t run an official press release due to its pre-ipo condition.
In my humble opinion this is historic news. The digital world and internet know no-boundaries. Because individuals and users huddle around concepts, ideas or content, and they do so within frameworks of established companies and their apps and products to perform one activity or another, let it be sharing articles, opinions, status, news, blogging, watching videos or simply playing games, the world and its people, of their own accord, are re-distributing the globe in a new and fascinating way.
The world and its boundaries have historically been split and drawn by politicians and generals locked in rooms with rulers, pencils, cartographers and maps. In the same way that the internet landscape was visually arranged in the Web 2.0 summit graphics in Search or Networking related continents, its only logic to draw the mind sports landscape to include digital federations. In what it relates to poker, Zynga obviously is the biggest “digital poker country” in the world with its more than 35 million players and 50 million fans via their Facebook app.
Its important to note that mind sports are those sports as recognized by IMSA (The International Mind Sports Association) thus by Sportaccord. They are Bridge, Chess, Go, Draughts, Chinese Chess and Poker.
Mind sports don’t necessarily require the physical presence of the sportsman where the game takes place, only his mind, being thus perfectly poised to become the future of sports in the technology age, their very own nature embracing the disaggregation of “physical and meta”, hence aligned with the dynamics and behavioral patterns of digital natives, such as poker going through the roof is clearly showing.
Bearing the above in mind, the world governing body of poker, the IFP, has recognized Zynga as the first digital federation in the history of sports.
Whilst its true that there are other tournaments, such as the WSOP, or the EPT, the only titles recognized by an official body within the international sporting community are those of the one and only governing body for the world of Poker, the IFP.
There are two events to be produced by the IFP in London between November 17th and 20th, the Duplicate Poker Nation’s Cup, and the individual poker world championship, named “The Table”.
The first one is a tournament where teams from 11 different nations plus Zynga; including the US, Japan, UK, Germany, Spain or Brazil will fight to win the right to call themselves the world cup winners. Zynga will be sending a team of 6 players plus a captain chosen via Zynga Poker in Facebook to the IFP Poker Nation’s Cup. It’ll be played in the iconic EDF London Eye, players sitting at tables inside the pods.
Beacuse the IFP aims at promoting Poker as a mind-sport and game of skill, and doesn’t do gambling, the Nation’s Cup will be a Duplicate Poker tournament. Duplicate Poker is an evolution from Duplicate Bridge, where the random element is minimised in the way in which cards are pre-shuffled and players play in teams where all end up playing the same hands by sitting in different table arrangements. Even though there have been some Duplicate Poker trial tournaments, such as the one that took place in Oxford University before summer, its the first time Duplicate Poker will be played in a tournament of this magnitude.
The second event, “The Table” is a free roll with US$500,000 in price money where the players that take part in the Nation’s Cup, as well as some other “Presidential Picks”, will compete to win the first official “Poker World Champion” title. This tournament gathers most of the strongest and best players in the world. It will be played in London’s County Hall.
The recognition of a brand as a digital federation, hence a digital nation, and its ranking with almost the same “federation” status as those of other countries, is unprecedented in the history of sports, and opens the door to the evolution of sports into the 21st century.
In my opinion, the above is similar to when a black man first won an Olympic medal, someone decided to roll over his back to jump higher, a French man a long time ago decided to go back and retake sport competition formats from Ancient Greece, or Coca Cola decided to work in the 70′s with FIFA to turn soccer into the most popular sport in the world, in what has effectively become the largest sponsorship deal in history, crafted by the sports legend Patrick Nally.
We are witnessing the first official move to adapt sports to the Knowledge Society in a profound and significant way, which will in turn have a large impact down the road, influencing how individuals consume, enjoy and play sports. There will be many that oppose this breakthrough, it will show the typical tension between the Status Quo and the Innovator, but that’s ok, that’s what innovation is about.
I can only praise the IFP and its President, the remarkable author Anthony Holden, and the visionary behind it, the legendary founding father of sports marketing Patrick Nally for their boldness. Quoting Steve Jobs; “Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do”
Let the games begin!
Francisco Gordillo. Madrid, November 2011