Some major changes are coming to the live poker landscape with PokerStars rebranding and reshaping its flagship European Poker Tour and many regional tours around the world.
Most of the changes will kick off at the beginning of 2017, with all of PokerStars' live events moving under the umbrella of two different tours, the PokerStars Championship and PokerStars Festival.
EPT Tournament Director Neil Johnson says the PokerStars Championship events will look a lot like the current EPT stops, with hundreds of tournaments over 10- to 11-day schedules, featuring high roller events, smaller tournaments spreading a number of different poker variants, cash games and a €/$5,000 Main Event.
"Basically the EPT is going global," Johnson said. "We're taking the experience that all the players have helped build at the EPT over 12 full seasons and we want to take that everywhere. We want to take it to Asia, and we want to take it to Latin America, because we believe it's a tournament experience like no other."
The first PokerStars Championship event is already set for the The Bahamas, January 6-14, 2017, replacing what was the popular PokerStars Caribbean Adventure stop on the EPT. PokerStars Championship events are also set for Panama, March 10-20, 2017, and Macau, March 30-April 9, 2017, with more on the horizon, including stops in Monaco and Barcelona.
For the most part, reactions from players at the recent EPT stop in Barcelona, Spain was positive.
"It's going to be a huge opportunity for everyone in the world to play poker together," said Team PokerStars Pro Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier. "I can't wait to be part of it."
American Pro and EPT regular Dylan Linde agreed.
"I really like the idea that they'll bring big tournament series to other places that haven't had them before," he said.
Triple Crown winner and Team PokerStars Pro Jake Cody won EPT Deauville in January 2010, and although saying goodbye to the EPT comes with a hint of sadness, he's also looking forward to the global scope of the new PokerStars live event tours.
"I won [EPT Deauville] a while back and have been dreaming of winning number two ever since, so in that respect, I'm kind of sad that it's changing," he said. "But I think it's great that it's growing worldwide."
As a part of the new PokerStars Championship tour, players will have the chance to compete for Player of the Year honors based on the tournament leaderboard at each event. The overall winner will win accommodations and a PokerStars Championship Main Event seat at the first PokerStars Championship event held the next calendar year, plus a seat in an invitational tournament with a $100,000 winner-take-all first prize.
Registration at PokerStars Championship events is also going high-tech with a new online PSLive registration system allowing players to preregister for tournaments, a new mobile app, and self-serve kiosks at the events.
The new tours will actually kick off before the end of the calendar year as PokerStars live events return to the United States for the first time in years with the inaugural PokerStars Festival, set for October 29 through November 6, 2016, in Atlantic City, New Jersey at the Resorts Casino Hotel on the world-famous Atlantic City Boardwalk.
"We're all really excited about the chance to return to America," said Johnson. "The focus is going to be on fun with a ton of really fun events planned."
Indeed, the PokerStars Festival events, which will replace most of the smaller stops on PokerStars' regional tours around the globe, are being aimed at recreational players looking to have a good time. The Main Events will be in the more affordable €/$1,000 range, the festivals will go on for six to seven days and the focus will be on creating poker holidays with the tour visiting well-known holiday destinations and landmark casinos offering players the "poker holiday of a lifetime."
"The PokerStars Festival events will have a more regional feel, positioned as an action-packed poker vacations," said Edgar Stuchly, PokerStars' Director of Live Events.
The PokerStars Festival experience in Atlantic City will include 40 events, highlighted by a $1,100 PokerStars Festival Main Event, a $2,200 PokerStars Festival High Roller, and smaller events including a $340 PokerStars Cup and $230 PokerStars Open. Plus, there will be casino game tournaments, a StarsFun skills zone, a RunItUp Day with Team PokerStars Pro Jason Somerville and a Survivor Tournament with Survivor stars Tyson Apostol and "Boston Rob" Mariano.
"We are committed to growing the poker market in New Jersey and part of this strategy is to help make New Jersey the poker hub of America in November," said Eric Hollreiser, PokerStars' Director of Corporate Communications.
After Atlantic City, the next PokerStars Festival is planned for London, England in January 2017.