PokerStars has announced a rebranding of its collection of live tournament tours—including the European Poker Tour, PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, and the Latin American Poker Tour—in favor of the formation of PokerStars Championship events and PokerStars Festivals.
The PokerStars Championship series will include top-tier events that will visit the most exciting and prestigious destinations worldwide, similar to the much-loved European Poker Tour. The PokerStars Festival events will “have a more regional feel, positioned as an action-packed poker vacation,” said Director of Live Events Edgar Stuchly, in a PokerStars press release.
The Championship events “will include top-tier events that will visit the most exciting and prestigious destinations worldwide,” per the press release. These events will include over 100 tournaments, taking place over 10-11 days. They will feature a €/$5000 main event and a variety of cash games.
In addition, PokerStars in integrating a Player of the Year-style leaderboard at every stop. The winners will receive a VIP package including a main event buy-in and accommodations for the first PokerStars Championship event of the following year.
Winners also receive entry into a special invitational tournament with a $100,000 winner-take-all first prize.
Beginning in 2017, the first PokerStars Championship event will be at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas (Jan 6 – 14), with stops planned for Panama (March 10 – 20), Macau (March 30 – April 9), Monte Carlo (April 25 – May 5), and Barcelona (August 2017).
While PokerStars Championship events hope to maintain the grandeur of the EPT, PokerStars Festivals will be geared toward creating a lively atmosphere, without the high-stakes pressures.
These festivals will “have a more regional feel, positioned as an action-packed poker vacation,” PokerStars said in their press release. With the intent to attract recreational players with their smaller buy-ins and relaxed atmosphere, PokerStars Festivals will include a $1,000 – $1,500 main event.
The first PokerStars Festival will be hosted at Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, NJ from Oct. 29 – Nov. 6. It will feature 50 tournaments with buy-ins between $100 and $5,000, including a $1,100 main event and a $2,200 high roller event.
The Festival will feature a StarsFun skills zone, replete with a mini golf hole-in-one progressive, a Hoops Fever progressive and a Pinball progressive, each carrying cash prizes. There will also be a StarsFun casino festival, which will feature blackjack, roulette, and video poker tournaments.
The Festival has also scheduled a Run It Up day with Team Stars Pro Jason Summerville and a Survivor “Immunity” Tournament with Tyson Apostol and ‘Boston Rob’ Mariano.
The next festival stop after NJ is slated for London in January 2017.
In addition to the new tours, PokerStars hopes to include new technological improvements to its stops to speed up registration and provide more access to information.
“We are always thinking of how to bring the best experience to players, through the variety of tournaments we sponsor, the ease of finding information, how we communicate to players and media, and the overall experience,” said Edgar Stuchly, Director of Live Events.
These changes include improvements to the PSLive registration system, upgraded with a component allowing players to register online for tournaments prior to events.
The changes also include a new mobile app for all Championship events, a new website with information on Championship and Festival stops (PokerStarsLive.com), and the integration of all PokerStars live event social media to a single @PokerStarsLive account, starting January 2017.
There will also be self-serve terminals to accelerate the registration process at each Championship.
While these changes mean the end of popular regional tours, they could result in expanding the game and making it more accessible.
Fedor Holz weighed in on Twitter:
IMO great change that could be amazing to grow live poker! Always wanted to go to Panama ? https://t.co/TpgItlPnjq
— Fedor Holz (@CrownUpGuy) August 24, 2016
Whether these changes are for better or worse, PokerStars has a tough act to follow in the EPT’s 13-year run. The last EPT event will be EPT Prague, taking place on Dec 08 – Dec 19.
EPT (And PokerStars Championship) Payout Changes
PokerStars Head of Live Operations, Neil Johnson, took to the Pokerstars Blog in August 16th to announce future changes coming to the EPT that will likely also apply to the PokerStars Championship series. Among other, well received, changes, Johnson announced a change in the payout structure from 15% to 20%.
In his statement, Johnson assured that the change would not have the drastic top-end impact as many would think, reasoning that the minimum cash for players who fall in between the 15% and 20% range will be 1x-1.2x of the buy in. He added that this decision has been extensively scrutinized internally to make sure the impact on the poker economy is a positive one.
15% has been the industry standard ever since the EPT itself introduced it in its sixth season. The WPT, a staunch opponent of the 15% structure, decided to acquiesce to the new industry standard this year.
The Poker Community Reacts
The payout change has been a controversial one. Many of it’s opponents fear this becoming an industry standard, which is exactly what happened when EPT introduced the 15% structure seven years ago.
So far, featured Upswing Poker coach Doug Polk has been a vocal voice in opposition to this change, explaining his reasoning on his popular web series ‘Polker News: This Week on Two Plus Two.’ Hear his comments for yourself or read the transcription below the video:
‘‘I think it sets a bad precedent and it’s a step in the wrong direction… let’s say 100% of the field was paid out, then what would happen is that you buy in and you would get your buy in back, minus the rake… the closer you get to this, the less people will get to be winning players, because they have a lower ceiling on the amount they can win…
I understand that for bad to medium players this is good change that will help them, but I don’t think that’s what poker is all about. If we take away the skill from poker, then why would anyone want to play and you can’t even be a professional poker player over the long run. No one wants to see an ecosystem where people can’t play poker and make a living.
We need to do and say whatever we can to stop this from coming into effect. Obviously with the EPT, it’s a done deal, it’s going to happen. But as a community we need to use our voice and we need to make this tournament organizations know that this is not a change that we find acceptable.
We need to make sure the game of poker is a game of skill and luck. That’s fair, it allows for the bad players to sometimes win but for the good players to win in the long run. That’s what makes the ecosystem complete… There needs to be some kind of line there on what can happen and what can protect the sport of poker to allow good players an opportunity to make money.
… I do think it’s good that there are people looking out for recreational players, because that is best for the ecosystem, but you can’t take away the dream of becoming a top player. If you take away the dream then what’s left for poker?
The dream is what keeps poker alive, the dream is what makes poker great and I want to make sure the dream is protected moving forward, to make sure that this game is just as great in 30 years as it is right now.’’
For the past month Doug Polk has been attempting a 10K Bankroll Challenge with the expressed purpose of proving the poker dream is alive.
The pro poker coach also cited knockout tournaments, spin and goes and, to a lesser extent, Zoom Poker as examples of game types that keep weak players in but handicap the win rates of good players.
His opinion has been echoed by many in the poker community.
Neil Johnson defended the decision in an interview with PokerNews, assuring future positive effects on the live tournament poker economy.
‘‘To keep a healthy poker economy, a solid liquidity for live tournament poker, you need more winners. You need more people able to buy in and play so the fields continue to grow. You don’t want to see a situation where it just stagnates, which happens if there’s not getting new money in.’’
-Neil Johnson, PokerStars Department Head of Live Poker Operations.
(Serious about improving your poker game? Check out the Upswing Lab! Doug Polk and Ryan Fee collaborated on this A to Z poker training course and the great reviews keep rolling in!)