If you think the heyday of tournament poker is in the rearview mirror, think again.
At first glance, attendance and prize-pool numbers appear to be down. But tournament poker numbers are as strong as ever if you factor in the myriad tours (regional, national, and global) poker players can choose to attend around the globe.
The World Poker Tour and the new PokerStars Festival and Championship events are the big boys. But with the announcement that it has hired European Poker Tour founder John Duthie, you can add PartyPoker LIVE to the mix of top-tier global poker tours.
Duthie joins PartyPoker
Duthie will serve as the president of PartyPoker LIVE. Now, PokerStars and the World Poker Tour will need to keep an eye on the upstart tour.
“I have been impressed with the progress of PartyPoker and in particular the number of trusted, experienced and well respected individuals and organizations that have chosen to put their support behind the PartyPoker brand,” Duthie said in a press release.
“I still love the game just as much as the first time I saw my first flop and I believe this passion will help PartyPoker LIVE become the largest and most fun poker tour in the world. I plan to enjoy myself immensely working with and meeting old friends.”
PartyPoker’s familiarity with other tours
Duthie’s hiring creates an interesting dynamic in the tournament poker world. PartyPoker LIVE now has strong ties to and intimate knowledge of both of its competitors.
Duthie created the EPT brand and, along with PokerStars, transformed it into one of the most prestigious brands in poker. PokerStars took the EPT global this year. It retired the EPT brand tours and consolidating them all under one umprella.
From late 2009 until the summer of 2015, Party Gaming (later bwin.party) owned and operated the WPT. The company sold off the WPT to the Chinese online gaming developer OurGame for $35 million in 2015. (That happened a few months before its parent company bwin.party was acquired by GVC.)
Duthie wants to focus on poker
Duthie also took aim at the direction PokerStars has taken in recent years, saying: “I believe there is a gap in the market for an operator whose primary focus is poker and who will listen to, and work with, the poker community as this was something that was absolutely key to the growth and success of the EPT.”
PartyPoker managing director Tom Waters echoed Duthie’s comments, saying, “Our guarantees are ambitious, but our marketing strategy is to provide value to players instead of investing money outside of the poker community. We are confident that with John’s guidance we can optimise this strategy for the benefit of the live poker market.”
During the past few years, PokerStars has shifted toward a more recreational player-friendly model both online and at live events. The shift has been controversial. It has led to a robust debate over what attracts players: fun and excitement or value and “good” poker.
It appears Duthie and PartyPoker fall into the latter camp. We’ll get to see both theories put to the test. With all three tours operating in the New Jersey market, Atlantic City could end up being ground zero for the tournament wars.