European Poker Tour Continues to Evolve, Grow Under Edgar Stuchly

Published on May 21st, 2016

EPT President Edgar Stuchly joined the tour in 2011

The European Poker Tour just wrapped up its 12th season. While it may seem like a relatively simple endeavor to put on six festivals, it's anything but. With an array of languages, local laws, customs, and player demands, running the EPT is a full-time job. The man who fills those shoes: EPT President Edgar Stuchly.

Season 12 ended in luxurious and picturesque Monaco, home of the EPT Grand Final, which had a Main Event that saw its buy-in slashed from €10,600 to €5,300. The result: the Main Event's attendance hit almost 1,100 entries, almost doubling last season's count.

"We made the decision to reduce the buy-ins of the Main Events at the PCA and Grand Final from €10K to €$5K," Stuchly said. "It's always a clear goal to make the Main Event more accessible for all of the recreational players and to qualify more people for it."

There were over 300 Main Event qualifiers this year, a record for an EPT event, and many of the pros said the field was uncharacteristically soft as a result. One player who made the final table, Asan Umarov, won his way in via a €10 Spin & Go and cashed for a 3,000,000% ROI.

When the EPT announced that the buy-ins of the PCA Main Event and Grand Final Main Event would be halved, it seemed questionable whether the move would be permanent. Using simple supply and demand, a lower buy-in would bring in more players, but would the tournament stops and the prestige of the EPT suffer as a result?

"We have announced stops in 2016 that have a €5,300 Main Event buy-in already," Stuchly said. "We agreed that we would debrief the results and look at how the PCA and Grand Final played out before we made any more decisions. We haven't made a final decision at this point for next year, but if you look at the numbers, it makes a lot of sense, especially in Monaco, where it played out with a 97% increase in participation. At this point, it looks like we'll keep the buy-in at €5,300 for our Main Events."

During the EPT Grand Final in Monaco, the dates for EPT Barcelona, Malta, and Prague were announced, the first three stops of Season 13, which begins in August. Still to come are the dates for more events in 2017.

"We analyze everything," Stuchly said of the schedule-making process. "There are core boxes to tick, and if those boxes aren't ticked, we don't go to a certain place. Those main elements need to fit into the overall experience – that's not something we choose; it's what the players expect from us. If we can't tick them due to things like venue, compliance, laws, and capacity, we won't go somewhere."

"It's not just tournaments either," said the EPT President. "It's also cash games. We have the lowest rake and provide the greatest experience. That's what we want to deliver. Of course we want to be balanced with costs, but we definitely do not want to enter into agreements with venues where players say we shouldn't have gone."

Stuchly has been with PokerStars since 2011. Prior to that, he had 19 years of casino experience at Casinos Austria in his home country. He has the accent of Arnold Schwarzenegger and a swagger that screams confidence. He's come a long way since starting with Casinos Austria as a dealer.

Stuchly became a poker dealer in 1992

"When I joined as a dealer in 1992, I was super interested in poker," he said. "I was playing home games with my friends. Then, we started introducing poker and I pretty much built poker in those 12 Casinos Austria venues. That went well and I was promoted to take care of poker in all 12 casinos in the five years before I joined PokerStars."

Stuchly became part of the EPT family five years ago. Its media team has been around for many years, and its Media Coordinator, Mad Harper, has been with the tour since Season 1. You'll see plenty of repeat dealers, floor directors, and cashiers. It's like Thanksgiving, but six times a year. As such, the EPT sports stability in its staff that's virtually unheard of in a highly volatile industry like poker.

"It's super important to have a strong team," Stuchly said. "I'm proud of what we've achieved, but it's a team effort. Players know what we have to deal with. Getting a bottle of water or WiFi for one person is a very easy exercise, but if you have 5,500 unique customers in Barcelona, for example, and everyone wants it 10 times a day in 20 different places, then it's a little more challenging. Our events are on a size where they are a huge challenge."

Monaco, for example, featured a cavernous tournament room, a smaller cash game room, an upstairs media room, a downstairs staff prep area, and a stage where EPT Live made its home. When the internet went out in the media and player areas for a half-hour on the final day, it was as if the Apocalypse had occurred.

"Everything plays together: PR, marketing, social media, photographers, an online qualifying process, compliance, partnerships with casinos, and dealers," Stuchly added. "Selecting the best 250 dealers in the world to work at EPT Prague, for example, was very challenging. It's a big project, but we have very strong teams in all the different areas."

Monaco has specific labor laws the EPT needs to comply with. It also has strict gaming laws, ones that EPT officials helped craft in order to host the series in the two-square-mile cliff-side principality. Bringing in hundreds of dealers from places like the US, France, and UK is a monumental task, one that involves a web of work visas, housing, and travel, not to mention coordination in multiple languages and time zones.

Once the series heads to Barcelona in August, the preparation that went into Monaco is out the window. It's a new set of gaming requirements, labor laws, and fiber-optic cables to wade through. Add production of hundreds of hours of television content seen by millions of people and it seems almost impossible that each stop runs as smoothly as it does.

The EPT Grand Final featured a €100,000 Super High Roller, a €10,300 Single Entry High Roller, a €50,000 Single Day High Roller (which ironically took two days to complete), and a €25,575 EPT High Roller. There were 80 events in total spread out over two weeks, leaving Stuchly to explain that the EPT tries to offer a variety of cash games and tournaments in order to attract and retain the masses.

"We want to have a broad variety, the right tournament for every single bankroll and every single customer," he said in a thick Austrian accent. "Regardless of whether it's a €100K or a €100 player, those are our customers. If a €100 customer comes to an event for the first time, he's blown away, and we want to deliver a great experience to that guy."

"For the high rollers, we want to deliver a great experience on a similar level," he said. "They might be more used to the great destinations, so we try to focus more on poker for them and provide them with great service. We want to have all of those guys in one place. That's what makes the EPT what the EPT is today."

Stuchly reiterated that the diversity the EPT provides in terms of both buy-ins and game mix is unlike any other tour in existence.

"Looking at the schedules we are providing, the variance is really cool. On one day in Monaco, we had normal tournaments, the Main Event, a No Limit Hold'em Turbo, an Omaha Six-Handed event, Open-Face Chinese, a media tournament, and a Turbo Progressive Super Knockout Bounty, which was incredible and the players loved it."

The backdrop of every event is dramatic as well. In Monaco, the tournament area overlooked the crystal blue Mediterranean Sea. Casino Barcelona in Spain is on the same body of water right next to the beach, port, zoo, and aquarium. Add in unique and historic destinations like the island of Malta and the architecturally-rich city of Prague and you have a distinct experience in each location.

"Seeing celebrities, seeing our team pros, and hanging out with friends in a nice, safe, and secure area, that's what we understand to be a great experience," Stuchly, dressed in a casual but sophisticated-looking suit, said. "We will continue to work in that direction and always focus on innovation, fun, and making things better than they are."

Long-term, the EPT is working on several initiatives, including going paperless. "One of the things we'd like to do long-term is go paperless," Stuchly said. "We tested it in Monaco. We have PSLive cards. Players can register online, but can also load money onto the card so they can buy in with that. We're looking into being able to do it for cash games too. We tested kiosks where you can register online and you can go to the kiosk and print your tournament ticket. At the end of the day, we want everything on mobile, which is a challenge. It's less stress for the staff and it's smoother for the players."

Season 13 of the European Poker Tour begins August 16 in Barcelona, Spain.

 

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