European Poker Tour Update
We've had a few weeks to recuperate and regroup following the European Poker Tour (EPT) Barcelona. It was a busy and record-breaking EPT Main Event with 1,785 players, which was won by 21 year old Sebastien Malec for €1,122,800 who qualified for just €27. That was a great story and the final hand will rightfully go down in poker history. It was a fantastic festival with almost 6,000 players combining for over 22,000 entries and multiple records falling thanks to the incredible player support for Barcelona. But we also know that some people weren't happy with a few of the changes that we introduced, including the payouts.
Specific to the payouts, while we listened to feedback at the time and made changes to two of the events then and there, we've listened and read even more since. As mentioned in discussions during Barcelona, we strongly believe (and have crunched the numbers and the available data as well) that paying out a slightly higher percentage of players is better for the overall growth of the game we all love. It allows for approximately 5% more players to go home feeling like they won something and/or have another shot at winning top prizes at final tables in a new event. We also spoke with the High Roller community as there are definite differences in the poker economy between players playing five and six figure buyin events and players playing three and four figure buyin events (point #1 below).
The two biggest discussion points were about 20% being the floor (lowest possible payout) or the ceiling (highest possible payout) and what exactly a min-cash should be. To the first one we have decided to flip from having 20% as the floor to it being the ceiling (point #2 below). To the second one, that was an interesting discussion as many players were ok with a 1.1x type cash but many felt like they just got their money back and didn't 'win' anything. Since one of the key points in our change was to create more winners and more winning moments and the 1.1x cash doesn't necessarily qualify as a winning moment to some of our players an amendment was needed. Therefore we decided to go back and raise the min-cash to something with more substance and it is now in the 1.5x range (point #3 below).
So, taking all of the above into account, the following payouts will be in place for EPT Malta and EPT Prague.
• All events of €10,000 or more will retain the previous 12%-15% payout structure.
• All other events will payout an expanded 17%-20% of the field, but a 20% ceiling will be in place.
• For the expanded payouts, we have made adjustments to increase the minimum cash and give all players a more meaningful return. We have also flattened the incline to eliminate the double bubble effect that took place during EPT Barcelona. The new min-cash should fall around 1.5x the buyin of the event.
Another concern that came up in Barcelona was the early start times for the Estrellas (1B/1C) and EPT (1B) Main Events as well as the Estrellas High Roller. While this was mentioned in some social media posts prior to the event, we want to reiterate that this was a necessity in Barcelona due to the large number of players that enjoy that Festival and is not a new standard on the EPT. Simply put, without that change, we couldn't have had two 3,000+ entry events running at the same time. As you'll see in the Malta and Prague schedules, with the standard Satellite exceptions, all of the events start from 12:00 onwards.
We're very passionate about creating a player experience that players look forward to coming back to again and again and making our events the best that they can be. We've always been willing to try new things and experiment with new formats and new activities (try the miniature golf at PokerStars Festival in New Jersey, it should be fantastic!) and we believe that is something special about our live events. We've grown the EPT from stops with a handful of tournaments to truly world class experiences with 60, 80, even 100 tournaments of all kinds, including Hold'em, Stud, Draw, Omaha (even Chess!) and multiple variations of each - not to mention the significant expansion of High Rollers and Super High Rollers. And all with amazing coverage provided by EPT Live, PokerStars Blog and PokerStars social media channels if you're following along at home.
We'd like to think that we've got a lot more things right than not, and we're proud to say that we will keep trying new things and pushing boundaries. It's not always an easy balance to maintain when you're weighing up data, planning the next event, playing with new ideas and trying to factor all that against how we think you, the player, will like it.
We run frequent surveys, after each and every event in fact, so I'd really like to encourage anyone that comes to an event to take part in that process. We're also investigating others ways to have meaningful conversations with players across the board. While we want to hear what tour regulars think, we also want to understand what motivates the player who's come for their first or second time - or even is yet to come. We want to create more winning moments for more players and keep growing what we believe are the best poker events in the world.
As always, we welcome any feedback so please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any suggestions or thoughts about anything PokerStars Live related.
Neil Johnson is Department Head, Live Poker Operations for PokerStars. Follow him on Twitter: @NeilJPoker.