Edgar Stuchly, EPT President
Edgar Stuchly, EPT President
The head of the PokerStars.com European Poker Tour talks live poker in Europe, the new EPT season and plans for the future with Paul Cheung
Based on stats alone, you could say the EPT is in decline. Back in season 6 the tour visited 13 stops, attracted almost 10,000 players and amalgamated a prizepool of over $56 million. As of the eighth season the total player number dropped to just over 8,000 players and the combined prizepool was $10m less than season 6. But in reality, while the EPT may not be at the height of its power, ‘decline’ doesn’t seem the right word to describe a tour that pulled in over 1,000 players at the PCA and put on a nine-day Monte Carlo Grand Final schedule with a record-breaking €19m in prize money.
Nevertheless, newly-appointed EPT President Edgar Stuchly is resolute that one of his key priorities is to put the tour back on an upward slant. While he acknowledges the EPT could easily rest on its laurels and post healthy profits year after year, Stuchly is determined to take things to the next level. ‘It’s wrong to wait to make improvements and wait till you see numbers dropping. We are targeting the mark of 1,000 players [per event] and we are not prepared to go somewhere we can’t deliver a good experience.’
With such an ambitious goal, it’s no surprise the EPT is a much more streamlined beast than in previous seasons, seemingly going back to its early roots. The number of stops is now reduced to eight – the same number as season 3 – and incorporates only major cities like London, Barcelona and Berlin. The more novel, experimental tournaments like Snowfest have been wiped off the schedule. ‘I think it’s not the future goal of EPT to run a lot of events throughout the year where we can maybe expect 400-450 players,’ says Stuchly.
Suffice to say, as the man who essentially took over John Duthie’s critical role, Stuchly wasn’t picked at random. The Austrian was head of poker at Casinos Austria for four years, founded the Casinos Austria Poker Tour (CAPT) and was voted Poker Staff Person of the Year in 2009. His appointment officially began this time last year, but he says his influence will only really be felt as we head into season 9 – which kicked off in Barcelona last month. ‘This is really the biggest change since the EPT was created,’ he says referring to the myriad of tweaks that have been incorporated according to player feedback. ‘We want to deliver the best poker experience on the planet.’ InsidePoker Business spoke to Stuchly about the changes he’s rung into the tour, his hopes for the future and how he plans to make the player experience better than ever.
InsidePoker Business How did you feel season 8 of the EPT went?
Edgar Stuchly It was a very busy, tough and successful season with a lot of action. We are building on that success and have made some huge improvements and changes to Season 9. When I joined the company on September 1 last year, a lot of contracts and strategy was already done. I was able to make small amendments of course, but my first real imprint onto EPT will be in Season 9.
IPB What are your plans for the upcoming ninth season?
ES Our goal is to make the tour even better for the players, because in the end every change comes down to making this a better tour for the people who make this tour what it is. We listen to the players’ feedback very carefully and identified some core areas that need improving. We will also be making each of the tour stops larger, more inclusive and exciting. This is really the biggest change since the EPT was created. We will do a lot of other improvements regarding blogs, webcasts and side events. We will really create the kind of sports atmosphere at our events. I’m very excited to see the first time our new sports design of branding and artificial walls, creating a more vibrant and interactive feeling.
IPB Are you trying to push the sports aspect at the EPT?
ES Poker is a mind sport and these changes reflect the direction of creating the kind of sports fanfare you would expect from a huge sporting event, where the players feel comfortable competing, but are also put on a pedestal when they succeed. If they have to play a seven-day main event, sometimes 12 hours a day, they have to feel really good there. We have to create the kind of atmosphere that is both exciting and comfortable. We want to deliver the best poker experience on the planet.
IPB From a gameplay point of view, will there be any dramatic differences?
ES For each festival it will be at least 10 days, up to 50 events. In Barcelona we had 47 events and we achieved a greater variety of things. We had a lot of fun working with our players and tournament staff to create some new games. We are widening the buy-in range to cater to more players. That’s true at both ends of the spectrum. We are adding a greater number of lower buy-in tournaments and we’ve also included more exciting high-roller action in S9. There will be a €10k tournament at every stop for high-rollers and a new €50k event at the first stop in Barcelona. There will be a €100k and a €25k high roller at the PCA and at the Grand Final. Throughout the year there will also be a new €10k Championship series for players of games in a variety of disciplines, including heads-up, pot-limit Omaha and Eight-Game.
IPB What changes can we expect from the online qualifying process?
ES During season 8 a total of 2,100 people qualified for EPT events and season 9 will feature more players qualifying from PokerStars then ever before. There will be more opportunities to qualify online for the EPT, for players of all levels and bankrolls. We will extend the qualifying periods for each individual event. We have created new and exciting qualifying formats, like the Players Choice satellites, where once you’ve won the package, you can choose which EPT you want to use it for. In addition to big buy in events, we are aligning EPT tour stops with the local tours and offering more accessible buy-in levels to increase the volume of local players in the EPT festivals. For example, at EPT Barcelona players had the chance to play the Estrellas Poker Tour and many other smaller tournaments. We are enhancing the overall player experience at each festival by providing more services to players, like the introduction of the EPT Concierge Service. It’s a dedicated service that caters to players’ needs during our tournaments.
IPB So why has the EPT succeeded where other tours have failed?
ES This is quite obvious. EPT works because it has a great partner in PokerStars – the biggest and best online poker site in the world.
IPB What is the interplay like between the EPT and PokerStars?
ES We take decisions and include PokerStars’ point of view. EPT is funded by PokerStars. The site runs satellites for us and this is the most important part of its involvement. The EPT and PokerStars are really close.
For part 2 click here