On Wednesday, the first of 25 tournaments kicked off on Full Tilt Poker, one of the world’s largest online poker sites, as part of the Full Tilt Online Poker Series (FTOPS). The event culminates on Sunday, February 15th with a $535 buy-in No Limit Hold’em tournament that will have at least $2.5 million in the prize pool. To talk about the development of the FTOPS as well as upcoming changes to Full Tilt, Poker News Daily sat down with Howard Lederer, a sponsored pro of the site and one if its marquee spokesmen.

Poker News Daily: Talk about the development of the FTOPS.

Lederer: The idea was to create a big series. Ever major poker room has a big series. You’re always going to pick the most popular tournaments you run and the types of games you have. You also want to have a variety of buy-ins. Since it’s an online event, you want to do some things that you can’t do live.

We wanted to throw in a big variety of tournaments and have people satelliting in to generate excitement. We did that for the first FTOPS and it was a big success. It occurred to us that because it’s online, we don’t have to wait a year to do it again. I think that the strategy has worked well and hasn’t cheapened it. You shouldn’t be waiting a calendar year to have another one. Waiting three months, as we have done, gives people plenty of time to digest the last series and maybe grind a bankroll for the next one.

PND: Talk about FTOPS XI, which began with a tournament that attracted over 6,000 players.

Lederer: That was a great turnout. Knock on wood, the online poker world isn’t shrinking. A lot of that has to do with the fact that people don’t have to travel to play. When you walk into the Bellagio, the cheapest game they offer is $4/$8. You can play penny poker online.

The horrible economy hasn’t hit online poker. I think it’s a great value proposition for people in terms of how much entertainment you get for a dollar. For example, how much entertainment do you get for $1 as opposed to, say, going out and spending $15 at the movies? The FTOPS fits into that because during the month leading up to it, you can be making $4 investments and find yourself playing in a 6,000 player, $200 buy-in tournament.

PND: What software changes or upcoming promotions can players expect at Full Tilt?

Lederer: There has no been no cutback in terms of us wanting to create new features. We came out with the Matrix tournaments and those have been quite popular. The number one feature we’re working on, and we work on every day, is allowing us to host larger field tournaments. That number is growing with every new release.

These are fundamental, deep structural improvements being made. Every time you add a player to a tournament, what they are doing must be communicated to every other person. It’s not linear; it’s a geometric progression of the amount of information that must be shared, which becomes harder and harder. When you can run 10,000 player tournaments that have $5 buy-ins, you can have some creative promotions for players.

We are working on a redesign of our client software which will make it look sharper and give it a much smaller resource footprint. In testing, there has been massive improvement, particularly on multiple tables. At the very least, the client itself is going to hog some resources and bandwidth because it has to get a lot of information, but we’re working to make each table as lightweight as possible. From what I hear, we’ll be in Beta very soon and probably in non-Beta by June. We feel like we have the features in place right now. The best thing we can deliver is better performing software.

PND: Talk about the appearance of your sister, Annie Duke, on “The Celebrity Apprentice.” Are you looking forward to seeing how the show plays out?

Lederer: I know that she competed very well and she’s a poker player. Hopefully, she’ll represent poker players well in terms of how she plays the game. She’s very competitive and I’m looking forward to her holding up a positive light to poker players. The one redeeming feature of “The Celebrity Apprentice” is that the show is centered on charity. Some of the key tasks are about raising money for charity, so we’ll see how generous poker players are. For the right cause, poker players will open up their wallets.

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