After the tepid performance of the rollout of their rebranded tournament series, the President of PokerStars Live, Edgar Stuchly, has been terminated from his position.
Stuchly was the boss of what had been one of the most powerful tournament poker schedules in the world circa 2011. Hired from Casinos Austria, Stuchly took over for the very popular founder of the European Poker Tour, John Duthie, that year and built the circuit into arguably one of the best in the world. Under his tenure, Stuchly saw an expansion of the EPT, in a time when some tournament schedules were scaling back due to the aftershocks of “Black Friday.”
The changes that Stuchly made were controversial but would prove to be something that the players responded to. Instead of just coming into town for “only” a Main Event (usually a €5000 Main Event), Stuchly made the EPT more of a festival, scheduling several preliminary events with lower buy ins. He also integrated the “regional tours” such as the Latin American Poker Tour, the Estrella Poker Tour, and the Italian Poker Tour (all subsidiaries of the EPT) into those schedules, making them more prestigious at the same time.
The evidence of Stuchly’s work was seen in the massive Main Event fields that came out for EPT events. The Main Event of the 2016 EPT Barcelona brought in a massive 1785 player field (and that was with ZERO rebuys; all EPT Main Events were freeze-outs) and a record setting €8.6 million prize pool. The stop in Prague, Czech Republic, at the end of 2016 brought in another 1192 players to vie for what became a very prestigious honor to hold – that of an EPT champion.
Unfortunately, it seems that Stuchly’s efforts were in vain. Rather than continue with their product under the EPT banner, Amaya Gaming executives chose to instead tinker with their product. Players over the span of 2016 began to complain about how they were treated during EPT stops. In the past under the former owners, the Scheinberg family, and under the time of the Rational Group, one of the greatest things about an EPT event was PokerStars’ treatment of the players during the event, with many other side activities on the schedule to keep the players interested (and at the casino).
The moves by Amaya Gaming to change the poker culture at the company came during the fall of 2016. Amaya Gaming discontinued the EPT and its subsidiary poker tours, rebranding them at the start of 2017 as the “PokerStars Championships” (and the regional tours as “PokerStars Festivals”). Amaya officials had to be concerned when the PokerStars Championship Bahamas – the former EPT stop known as the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure – and its 90 EVENTS over nine days brought tremendous complaints from the players, some of whom vowed to never play a PokerStars Championship event again.
The resulting PokerStars Championship stops have continued to see an exodus of players from the events. In Panama in March, only 366 players came out for the Main Event; in Macao in April, 536 runners came to the line. For what used to be the EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo at the start of May, a paltry 727 players (in 2016, it was ___ players) saw Raffaele Sorrentino win the championship. The final nail in the coffin for Stuchly, however, seems to be the PokerStars Championship Sochi (Russia) at the end of May. Only 387 players turned out for the Main Event, resulting in PokerStars paying out nearly €500,000 into a guaranteed prize pool of €2.35 million.
Stuchly will be replaced by David Carrion as Director of Marketing to lead the global strategy of the PokerStars brand, including advertising, digital, social media, content marketing and live events, according to a spokesperson for PokerStars. Carrion, who has been with PokerStars since 2010 as the Director of Live Poker Operations for Latin America and will take over his new position on July 1, will have some heavy lifting to do, however, if he is to improve the once-valued PokerStars Live brand in the eyes of the poker world.