There are few more powerful - or important - positions in poker than that of the President of the European Poker Tour.
The most influential tour in poker the EPT sets the bar for tournament series around the world in every regard from ease of buy-in and money transfer to onsite facilities and luxuries for high rollers to things to do off the felt.
EPT president Edgar Stuchly took the reins of the PokerStars flagship tour back in 2011 and since has been putting his 20+ years of experience to the task of growing the game across Europe and the globe.
PokerListings caught up with the ever-busy Stuchly at EPT London for more on the new EPT stop in Malta, new marketing strategies for the brand and the EPT's future with Amaya Gaming at the helm.
PokerListings: Malta is the new stop on the European Poker Tour. Seems like a surprising decision.
Edgar Stuchly: We’ve been talking a lot with the players. Their feedback is essential for us. And we are looking for the places which offer the best overall package.
In the end, it came down to Malta. We have been in negotiations for a while and we also have an office with a hundred people on Malta.
We are looking forward to next year, it’s going to be a perfect EPT.
PL: Will the Portomaso Casino be the location?
ES: Yes. The casino together with the Hilton Hotel, which is one of the most beautiful hotels I know, can provide everything we need.
We will have 90 to 100 tournament tables plus 30 to 40 cash game tables. Not many places in Europe can compete with this.
PL: What is the festival going to look like?
ES: There will be 50 to 60 tournaments and cash games will be running 24/7. Pagano events and the IPT will be part of the festival, which is going to last 11 days.
PL: According to Claudio and Luca Pagano Malta has been on the list of potential stops for a while.
ES: The infrastructure in Malta has improved dramatically. Also, it is easy to reach from all over Europe.
And then there have been certain problems with San Remo, which we were not able to solve over the years.
PL: Like what?
ES: Limits, rake, and number of tables have been a problem for a long time. In addition to that San Remo has become less attractive for young players, for example, because it was always difficult to get a proper internet connection.
Then there is this issue that you can’t buy into a tournament in cash if it is more than a thousand Euros. That made the regular process of entering a tournament very inconvenient.
However, that doesn’t mean there will never be another Italian stop on the EPT. For example, St Vincent could be an alternative.
PL: The PokerListings headquarters are in Malta and we hosting the third Battle of Malta soon. We expect over a thousand players. Are you going to follow the event?
ES: For sure. The Battle of Malta is a very interesting project and we are looking at it with great interest.
The logistics are going to be particularly interesting. There have been discussions about where to put the registration desk, for example.
We all have to follow the rules of the LGA and these things have to be properly synched to make the events profitable for all parties involved.
On top of that, PokerStars has about a hundred employees in Malta and we encourage them to play the game. So we will also encourage them to play the Battle of Malta.
PL: Is there going to be a Germanic stop this season? Allegedly, there is one more slot to fill.
ES: It is possible, but nothing is sure yet. By the end of November we will know more.
If we can find a suitable partner with a suitable location, anything can happen. And if it doesn’t there is always a Season 12.
PL: PokerStars has recently been sold to the Canadian company Amaya Gaming. There are rumors that the EPT will be sold.
ES: This is honestly the first time I’ve heard this. At the moment there has been no sign from Amaya Gaming regarding any changes in the operative and strategic organization of the live events.
PL: Regarding the marketing strategy, PokerStars has let go several team pros without any replacements. Now Rafael Nadal and Ronaldo are playing heads-up for show.
ES: A lot has changed in the last 12 months. We are trying to reach the potential players that have never heard of poker yet.
We want to win the audience over that has yet to learn about the great game of poker. To do this, we need appropriate representatives.
PL: And these would be celebrities like sportsmen rather than successful players who only the poker community knows about?
ES: That is your admittedly good interpretation.
PL: And which Formula 1 driver are you looking at?
ES: (laughs) No comment.
The important thing is we are not reducing the expenses on marketing. We are only re-channelling them.