EPT's Finest: John Duthie Has Arrived

John Duthie
John Duthie, the father of the European Poker Tour

It took a while, but John Duthie has arrived at the World Series of Poker. The creator of the European Poker Tour saw his Virgin Atlantic flight from London Heathrow to Las Vegas cancelled after waiting on the runway for the better part of four hours with unexplained difficulties, causing Duthie to miss his entry into the Pot Limit Omaha w/Rebuys event on June 20th.

But Duthie has since arrived, and ponied up the $50,000 to compete with poker's very best mixed-game specialists in the H.O.R.S.E. event on Sunday. He's since been eliminated, but the Poker Million 2000 champ is sure to contend in mixed and Hold'em games throughout the remainder of the Series.

PokerListings.com talked to Duthie about his film career, his poker play, and his role in the creation of the EPT.

You were a television and film director by trade before you got into poker. How did you get into the game and what prompted the transition from the film industry to the world of professional poker?

I played poker when I was a director. When I was working on a drama, they were fairly all-consuming and they usually took about three months, so I very rarely played while I was working.

But as with the majority of freelance work, I usually worked six, or if I was lucky, nine, months of the year, doing a couple of projects. But I started playing poker about fifteen years ago, and it was always just a hobby. And then it became a really serious game for me after the Poker Million win in 2000.

Was that your major tournament?

Yeah, it was my first tournament with a buy-in bigger than $5,000. I'd cashed up to about 30,000 pounds, which is about $50,000, but I'd never had a really big cash. So it was quite good to get that under my belt, which I enjoyed, obviously. And since then, quite a few things have evolved.


John Duthie

So how have you balanced poker and film in the last few years?

Poker takes up all of my time now, because of the EPT and because of my playing, as well, it takes up pretty much all of my time. I haven't done any drama for about two years.

In regard to the European Poker Tour, what made you decided to launch the series when you did?

Well, I think it was just a perfect marriage of my skills. Obviously I'd had experience in TV - albeit TV drama, but poker is a drama, and should be filmed that way - and as a player, having played the circuit, I knew all the venues - certainly all the venues in Europe - and I knew a lot of the card room managers and in some cases a lot of the casino managers.

I remember lying in the bath one January morning thinking, "Oh, why don't I try that?" So I thought I'd try it out for a couple months, and it slowly evolved from that, going around the casinos, into what it is now.

How did the union with PokerStars.com come about?

Well, the union with PokerStars.com came about because it was - albeit that I managed to raise some finance from broadcasters - it was never going to be enough to make the series of programs that I wanted to make. So I had to somehow attract additional sponsorship, and obviously online poker sites were the most obvious choice to go for additional money.

So I contacted about five sites, of which PokerStars.com was one, and after a period of about three or four months' negotiating with all five, PokerStars.com came forward with, financially it probably wasn't the best offer, but the thing is I knew at that stage that PokerStars.com was the premier tournament site.

Did your membership on Team PokerStars spring out of that alliance?

Well it did, really. I'd been sponsored before by other sites to play in tournaments and at the World Series, before my association with PokerStars.com. I think when it came to me actually looking for sponsorship for tournaments like the World Series in 2004 or 2003, I actually said to PokerStars.com that it would seem insane for me to be Chief Executive of the EPT, and also the front-man of the EPT and the commentator of the EPT, and to be associated with a different site.


Trophy Presentation
Duthie with EPT Grand Final champion Gavin Griffin.

EPT Series 3 saw two new tournaments, in Germany and in Warsaw. Will that expansion continue as the EPT moves forward?

Yeah, definitely. I'm looking at Prague [Prague has since been added to the Series 4 schedule], and possibly Portugal. Everyone keeps talking to me about Russia, but I don't know whether we'll go there in Season 4. There are a few complications with Russia.

Italy would be great if they become slightly less regulated, and possibly Slovenia. There are lots of opportunities to go into lots of other countries, and a lot of it depends on what's going to happen in France, and what's going to happen in the U.K. The Danish gaming authorities are looking quite heavily at poker at the moment, and things might change there.

It's very difficult to predict what's going to happen, but my intention and the ambition, really, is to grow. I don't want to become as big as the WPT, which has 17 or 18 events, but I think that one a month is fine with me.

How do you feel that the EPT compares to other major tournament circuits like the World Poker tour?

They're similar and yet they're totally different. The WPT has the great fortune of having very large venues with casino hotels. The great advantage of the casino hotel is that Steve Lipscomb can do deals with them whereby they have all of their crew put up in the hotels, and the tournaments are run there and they don't have to pay the dealers. In many ways we're similar but on a much smaller scale.

Having said that, we're kind of catching up a bit now, but we're growing a little too big for our shoes. We can't really cope with the number of peoples that we have in some of the venues, because they're just very very small, the venues, and there aren't any bigger venues, for instance, in Denmark. There's nowhere for us to go in Denmark.

Do you think there's a difference in playing style between the European events and their American counterparts?

I think that there are [players in] some countries in Europe who are quite cautious, and the average player is sort of cautious player who waits and plays specific hands, and yet then you have the Scandinavian player, who's much more closely allied with the aggressive American player, and who obviously does very well in tournaments in the States as well.


John Duthie
Duthie riding the HORSE.

I think that nowadays because all of the players are learning on the same battlefield, which is really the internet, I think that they all are realizing that you have to adapt, you have to change your style of play. Some very aggressive players will win a lot of money in a very short period of time, and then they'll lose a lot of money in a short period of time, and then they wonder what's gone wrong, but they don't realize that actually every single poker player has at some point in their career a run of bad form, which may extend from one month to a year.

Where do you see your own playing style in the range between cautious and aggressive?

It depends on my state of mind, really. When I play tournaments, and certainly when I come over for these tournaments, I tend to play fairly conservatively.

I've cashed three of the last four WPT tournaments I've played, whereas I can be quite aggressive in cash games, and I tend to play bit of a survival game in the first few days of a large tournament. Then maybe later on I actually start to increase my momentum, as it were. It's about pacing, really.

Besides poker, what gets you out of the bed in the morning?

My children, probably more than anything, jumping up and down on my head. I've always been quite a keen golfer; I don't play as much as I should. I'm an avid reader, but more than anything I suspect my family is what really gets me out of bed in the morning.

What about your future aspirations in terms of poker and in terms of your film career?

I think that a return to directing drama will be inevitable, because although I enjoy poker as a game to play, and as a hobby, I think that for me personally it's probably limited in the way it satisfies any sort of creative urge that I have in my body.

And I think that there's a limit to the number of programs you can make without actually starting to take a backseat and move on, or go back to drama, but still be connected to the poker. I'll always be connected to the EPT, I think, as long as it lasts, but I may not be as actively involved in the actual production of the programs as I used to be.


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Duthie has thus far seen his quest for World Series success come up short, with the exception of a final table in the 2005 iteration of the games. With the EPT coming off a tremendous third season (the Series 3 Grand Final in Monte Carlo saw a record 706 participants) and having just released its Series 4 schedule , Duthie no doubt has more on his mind than just checking and betting, but you can count on the CEO making his presence felt at the Rio while he's here.



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