People are generally taken aback by change. Poker players seem to have a tougher time with change. And when PokerStars announced that it was ending the European Poker Tour and other regional tours in favor of two global live series, the initial response was not altogether positive.
The EPT, LAPT, UKIPT, APPT, etc. have been turned into PokerStars Championship and Festival events. Reaction?— Kevin Mathers (@Kevmath) August 24, 2016
The change is so massive, in fact, that players in all parts of the world are going to be affected by the replacement of the regional tours with the PokerStars Championship series and PokerStars Festival events. Beginning in 2017, the entire process will be consolidated.
From 12 Tours to Two
As PokerStars has grown in various parts of the world, the tours have become a part of that growth. Each tour is then comprised of a schedule of events in a variety of cities, each tour with its own director and staff. That list currently includes events like the Aussie Millions and PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, as well as the aforementioned EPT and the Latin American Poker Tour, UK & Ireland Poker Tour, Asia Pacific Poker Tour, Australia New Zealand Poker Tour, France Poker Series, Estrellas Poker Tour, Brazilian Series of Poker, Italian Poker Tour, and Eureka Poker Tour. And there continues to be a need to expand further, such as into the United States to accommodate New Jersey.
These will now be divided into only two categories of live events.
The PokerStars Championship tournaments will be scattered across the global throughout the year and last approximately 10 days each. There will be a plethora of tournaments at each stop – up to 100 – and include a $/€5,000 buy-in Main Event, as well as a tournament leaderboard for each stop, culminating in a Player of the Year competition.
The PokerStars Festival events will be only 6-7 days and offer a Main Event with a buy-in of $1,000 to $1,500. These stops will offer more than just poker, as evidenced by the lineup for the inaugural event scheduled for New Jersey from October 29 to November 6. That stop will host more than 50 tournaments starting as low as $100 and going up to $5,000, as well as special themed poker tournaments and blackjack, video poker, slots, and roulette tournaments.
Of course, the consolidation makes stellar business sense. The costs for running the events will decrease significantly by hiring fewer staff members to handle the tours and dealing with one simple schedule for each tour. There is also the cost savings of setting up one PS Live online registration system, fewer social media accounts, fewer POY leaderboards, and better relationships with the participating casinos. PokerStars and Amaya will greatly benefit from downsizing and merging its live tours.
As for the players, there are some positive aspects to this move. Players will have two schedules at the beginning of each year from which to plan their travel and accommodations. They will have fewer tour stops, which means less airfare and fewer complications with regard to hotel rooms. Even the stress of handling language barriers and transferring funds will be lessened by the new schedules and processes.
Players will not be disappointed in their favorite stops. Places like the Bahamas, Monte Carlo, and Macau are still on the schedule, as are places like London and Barcelona. The full schedule has yet to be announced, but the most popular locations from all of the tours will likely be incorporated into either the Championship or Festival series.
There are disappointments with the announcement that are different from simply being opposed to change. Players who depend on the regionalized tours as a part of their livelihood will have fewer locations on their schedules and will have to travel further in order to attend more events.
Cue the "how dare you decide to rename the product you provide" complaints in 3…2…1…— Liv Boeree (@Liv_Boeree) August 24, 2016
For example, the UKIPT in Season 4 offered 10 stops for locals in the UK and Ireland region of the world. That allowed them the opportunity to play in numerous lucrative tournaments without a huge travel expense. The seasons have been dwindling, however, with Season 5 only offering seven stops and only three for Season 6. The UKIPT was wildly popular in its original form, whereas the inclusion of the region in the new tours may only include one or two – possibly three – stops in a year.
However, these players will have to adapt. They may find that there are more satellite opportunities to win trips to locations that are further from their homes, or they may find that other online poker sites step up with local or regional events that can fill the gaps. In addition, when they do make the effort to travel to a stop for a Championship or Festival series, they will likely find that there are many more tournaments at each location than in the past.
Overall, the consolidation is good for PokerStars and Amaya, and it is a positive for most poker players.