For the Love of Poker: John Duthie Brings the Party Back

johnduthie
Deadly serious about party atmosphere.

If you want to get somewhere, logic dictates you find someone who knows the way and ask them to guide you.

With a new era dawning on the live poker scene partypoker has made the bold move to head out into the hustle and bustle of the live tournament world on their own.

They know where they want to go. They know what they want to do. The only thing missing was a guide. Someone who knows the way; has been there, done it and bought the baseball cap and hoodie.

Someone like John Duthie, founder of the European Poker Tour, who they've just signed to a 5-year contract as the visionary and executor of the new partypoker Live Tour.

LD: Why are you doing this?

JD: "Partypoker and all the guys were over in Punta Cana for a tournament. They got pissed up one night and came up with this crazy idea of getting me on board. They phoned me up from Punta Cana and offered me the opportunity to get involved.

"I spoke to my wife, and she was ok with it, and then after sleeping on it for a few days, I thought why not? They were all together having fun. They are not your average suits.

John Duthie
Let's do it.

"I believe it was Tom Waters, Rob Yong, Simon Trumper - there wasn't one guy there I didn't like.

"I like Rob's company; I like his forthrightness. When I met Tom Waters I liked him so I thought … let's do it."

LD: Why now?

JD: "I tell you what I see, not so much in America because I think Matt Savage and the WPT have it nailed over there - they still respect players.

"What I see on the European tours is a complete disrespect for players. I have been to two EPT events since I left and I didn't enjoy them. I thought it was just me, but I could sense it wasn't just me.

"People weren't enjoying themselves. It looked like a chore, a day at the office. There was no fun, no atmosphere.

"When we had the free bar in Dublin - which was admittedly a bad idea - it was never a bore. When people got knocked out they headed to the bar and had a sing-song, and that's what's missing. I think that's what made me do it.

"I was sad. The EPT became something I didn't envisage. It got a little bit too big for its boots.

"I don't think any individual is to blame. There are a lot of things I don't like about poker tours. That's really it, Lee. I just want to be able to walk into a poker tournament and have the same atmosphere as the Irish Open last year.

"It was good fun, people having a good laugh, enjoyable and entertaining and we have lost that in the major tours throughout Europe.

"DTD is a classic example of what it should be like and how all poker rooms should be. They have nailed it. If we can spread that to all the other tournaments, I don't think we can go wrong."

LD: Can you provide value to both professional and recreational players at the same time?

JD: "It's an interesting point. I think recreational players don't like people who dwell up too much. They don't like people who think too much about the game.

"They aren't playing ranges. They look at their hand and just want to take a punt. They don't mind losing and missing the flop. What they can't bear is people dwelling up for 30 seconds.

John Duthie
"I don't want anyone working for partypoker Live thinking people are mugs."

LD: Can you provide value to both professional and recreational players at the same time?

JD: "It's an interesting point. I think recreational players don't like people who dwell up too much. They don't like people who think too much about the game.

"They aren't playing ranges. They look at their hand and just want to take a punt. They don't mind losing and missing the flop, what they can't bear is people dwelling up for 30 seconds.

"The mixture is difficult. The only way you can deal with that is to have a quiet word with someone and say if it carries on we are going to have to introduce a 30-second shot clock or penalties.

"I understand what they are doing. It's a mental challenge for them. They aren't me, thinking 'I bet he has a pair of tens.' I respect their games, but maybe you have nailed it. Maybe it's hard to mix the two together.

"We can't bar pros coming to these events. We are building a tournament they will want to come to but we need to get a message out to them not to call people fish, don't dwell up, don't put your headphones on. Talk to people and get on with the game.

"I was on the train and a woman came on who was pregnant. I got up to give her my seat. People were looking at me; some thinking I was a nice guy and some thinking I was a mug.

"I don't want anyone working for partypoker Live thinking people are mugs. I am not into marketing and selling. If it works I will be happy; if not I won't be massively despondent.

"Players want it, though. In the same way people wanted the EPT 13 years ago, they want something now that's more enjoyable and different to what we have."

LD: How important is enlisting and acting on player feedback?

JD: "I have been looking at polling software; like the voting thing on Twitter, except more detailed. I want to create a database of players and gauge opinion.

"We can't please everyone but I want to be doing what people want. I want to get a virtual poker panel together and ask them what they think about deal making, pay structure, and then put it to a vote - a huge group of people.

"I will then make decisions based on that feedback."

John Duthie
"It's a great game for the socially inept."

LD: Who is this tour for?

JD: "It's for the players. When it came to the EPT it was the players at the Vic talking about creating it that made me think of doing it.

"I was on my own on the kitchen table and went to venues and got people to sign contracts although they never paid for anything. Although I was on my own, I always felt like I had the players behind me.

"I am not a pro poker player, thank God, because there would be no food on the table. I love the game, and if I can have a good time with a bunch of people, that's great.

"It's a great game for the socially inept. That's what's great about poker.

"It's a classless environment. If you are in a bad mood and don't want to talk to anyone, people leave you alone. You can be who you want or what mood you want to be in, and that's what poker is all about." 

LD: Is the secret transforming partypoker Live into everyone's local home game? 

JD: "I think people are fed up with travelling. The event in Sochi – I suspect 85% of the players will be Russian. If we can create a tiered series where the real fun events are local, so that people don't have to travel, that will be great.

"Another problem is communication. Sometimes you get a table where nine people are speaking five different languages; it's difficult to get an atmosphere going. This is a big problem. In Russia, Russian should be the spoken language.

irish open day1 4
"It's all about localizing."

"It's all about localizing. Creating a home game in your country which then feeds into a huge tournament somewhere and we will face that problem when we get to it."

LD How do you balance a tournament that people enjoy with a tournament that makes a profit? 

JD: "Players would prefer a rake-free tournament, but they aren't stupid. They know we need to earn money.

"At the Hippodrome Pokerstars earned more money than the person who won the tournament. That's so wrong. Why be so stupid?

"We need to reduce our costs. Do we need to send 15 people from the office to somewhere like Russia when they don't speak Russian? What would they be doing there?

"That's not me being mean; there is no reason for people to be there if they can't communicate. There were so many people at EPT events from PokerStars and I didn't know what they were all doing."

John Duthie
"I love the game because it's fascinating."

LD: Is the ultimate goal creating the perfect tribe for partypoker Live?

"Yes, we need to do that, but it's not something you can force. You can't make that happen.

"It's something that happens spontaneously. We have to create the perfect environment in which it can occur."

LD: partypoker always had an affiliation with WPT Europe but never quite made a success of things like the EPT. What's going to be different with partypoker Live?

JD: "It's about people, and never employing anyone who is miserable. It's as simple as that. I want people who like poker players.

"If I see anyone or sense that someone doesn't like poker players or doesn't want to be there, they won't come to another event. I will be ruthless.

"I like all poker players. I know there are scumbags but I like some of them because they are a bit dodgy. I love the game because it's fascinating. Everywhere these personalities and interesting people.

"I can't make people respect other people but I know there are a lot of people on this planet who look at people and see them as peers and want to hear their stories.

"I don't want to dictate things. I want it to be within the person. The other day I went into a garage and I was paying for my petrol and the guy remembered he was meant to interact with the customer and said ‘doing anything nice this afternoon?'

"I wanted to tell him that I was taking my son to sleep with a hooker for the first time. I don't want that at a poker table; I want it to be natural." 

LD: What is it that you want poker players to tell their friends after experiencing a partypoker Live event?

JD: "They are only going to say something positive if they enjoyed themselves or bad things if they don't. It's difficult to control.

LNP2 John Duthie
"It's something that I love - that joy when you have had a really good night."

"I am hoping people will leave events in the same way that I used to leave saying, ‘that was really good fun.' I'd like people to feel that again.

"It's something that I love - that joy when you have had a really good night; a good game and you go home laughing. We won't get that every time, but do you know what would make me happy in a year's time?

"I walk into the bar and there are pockets of people here and there laughing and having a good time and not worrying about anything and a lot of crossover and interaction. If I can see that, I will know it's worked.

"I can't make that happen. I hope that it can happen again. It's pulling back on too many suits. I don't want suits at events."

LD: Do you view Stars, 888, etc. as competitors?

JD: "I don't see them as competitors. I like Unibet. I think they have run good events. Eva did such a good job there because she is a people person. She is a nice person and that's where it comes from. That's why they're popular.

"If you have three or four boring men or women in suits, with different colored handkerchiefs stuffed in their pockets looking immaculate, how on earth can people have a good time? But when you get genuine people, it works."

John Duthie
"I already feel good."

LD: How important was it to have a five-year contract?

JD: They had a plan for five years and I wanted to fit into it. I am not 27 anymore. I recognize that, so a commitment of five years is a good commitment.

"I can still do other things on the side like writing or directing. I can still do things I want to enjoy.

"It's important to have that commitment. You have to be committed. I don't have a Linkedin account. If it doesn't work out, we will go our separate ways.

"The thing is, it will take a lot for it not to work out because I like the people I am working with. And I already feel good about it."

More For the Love of Poker:

For the Love of Poker: Dawn to Dusk Founder Rob Yong

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