Is Rebranding the European Poker Tour a Mistake? A PokerNews Debate.

EPT 13 Barcelona Main Event

PokerStars announced a large transition for its live events, consolidating the EPT and its other smaller regional tours, and instead using two distinct categories: PokerStars Championships and PokerStars Festivals.

Is this the best move for PokerStars' live events? We look at both sides of the argument.

If It Ain't Broke...Keep It the Way It Is

It's hard to argue against the idea of taking the very successful European Poker Tour model to other stops around the globe where it hasn't been before. The EPT works so well; it's impossible to imagine this well-oiled machine won't continue to function spectacularly in places like Panama and Macau.

I just can't figure out why PokerStars wants to throw the baby out with the bath water and get rid of the EPT altogether.

Over 12 seasons, the EPT has helped grow poker all over Europe immensely, and with it, PokerStars' market share across the board. John Duthie's baby may have started out small, but she's full grown these days. So much so that the EPT, alongside the World Series of Poker and the World Poker Tour, has developed into one of poker's three "majors." Glory and riches await the winner of each EPT Main Event. Capture one of each of poker's major titles and alongside that, you'll join the very exclusive Triple Crown winner's club. As a result, winning an EPT has always been the kind of thing poker players from Europe and beyond have dreamed about, and statistical records collected over the tour's 12 seasons were the kind of thing they boasted about.

In fact, it was only a few short years ago where the battle to become the EPT's first two-time winner gripped the entire poker world in the WSOP's off season. Canadian Mike "Timex" McDonald knocked at the door of history several times before British writer, television presenter and then Team PokerStars Pro Victoria Coren Mitchell turned the trick, following up on her 2006 EPT London win with a victory at San Remo in 2014. Now, thanks to this rebranding, with only two more stops to go before the EPT closes its doors, it's likely no one will ever accomplish that feat again.

The collection and analysis of statistics like these are a big part of sports and an even bigger part of what makes poker akin to one. Sure, statistics will be collected for the new PokerStars Championship events as well, but it's like starting over and doing away with 12 seasons worth of numbers. All the records accomplished will be set aside, and with no one chasing them, eventually forgotten.

It's hard to imagine a sport like tennis rebranding one of its majors. Golf would never do it either. Wimbledon is here to stay and The Masters isn't going anywhere. Therefore, the move to shut down the EPT and lay all the stats to waste in favor of the newly branded PokerStars Championship events should be considered the wrong one. It's a step backwards in the movement to have poker taken seriously as a sport and it's a mistake.

-- Marty Derbyshire

Change is Good, Embrace It

The big announcement that came at the recent European Poker Tour Barcelona stop has started tongues wagging across the poker community. You know, the one where PokerStars revealed that from the beginning of 2017, its live events were being restructured and rebranded to fall under either PokerStars Championships or PokerStars Festivals.

As you can see from Marty Derbyshire’s points above, my fellow PokerNews employee isn’t pleased with the changes. However, I think that those changes are not only good for the overall experience of players, but they are also much-needed.

As Marty points out, it is hard to imagine a popular sport rebranding one of its majors; yet in 1992, two of football’s (that’s soccer to my friends across the pond) biggest competitions did successfully.

First, the English Division One, the top tier of our football league, became the Premier League. At the time, there were those who claimed this would devalue the history of the league. I was quite happy because my beloved Leeds United were the last, and will always be the last, team to win the old Division One. What has happened since the rebranding exercise? The Premier League has become the best, most competitive and most-watched football league in the world.

Also in 1992, the European Cup became the Champions League. Guess what happened to it? You guessed it: It has become the elite club football competition in the world, and one that I am sure large sections of fans would rather watch compared to some of the international competitions that run every few years.

Statisticians and football fans haven’t suddenly forgotten that a player scored 150 goals in the top flight during his career, or that Team A has won European football’s top prize five times, or at least in my experience they haven’t.

For me, the evolution of the EPT is long overdue. Marty earlier described the EPT as a “well-oiled machine” and to me that is exactly how it felt, especially the more recent stops I’d attended as a reporter. For me, the buzz and excitement had quelled somewhat from when I first reported on an EPT, ironically at EPT Barcelona in Season 7. When I was in Prague last year, an army of players came and went from the tournament room over the course of a week, then someone picked up a massive prize, rinse and repeat.

The creation of the PokerStars Championships and PokerStars Festivals could bring some of that excitement back for players and staff alike. Instead of going to the same old venues year in year out, players get to literally travel the world.

True, there is unlikely to be another double EPT winner, but we’ll have a race where players want to become the first to win a Championship title on every continent, or the first player to win a Championship and Festival Main Event, or even the first player to cash at every Championship stop.

New records will be created, new champions crowned, yet the history of the EPT and other live tours will still be there for all to see. Change can be scary, yet sometimes change can be exciting. I argue that in the case of the PokerStars live events changes, it is the latter that applies.

--Matthew Pitt

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