With less than a month until the start of this year’s European Poker Tour (EPT) in Paris, PokerNews spoke with Cedric Billot, Associate Director of Live Events Operations at PokerStars, to discuss player expectations for PokerStars Live Events and the EPT in 2024. expectations.
We also asked him about the new destination, players’ expectations for the same schedule in 2023 and the improvements that will be made as the Tour returns to Paris after apologizing for a “bad experience” at the inaugural event.
Back in 2004-2005, the EPT visited Barcelona, London, Monte Carlo and Copenhagen – just four of the seven stages of the first season.
But that could include Paris. Billo said PokerStars had wanted to host the EPT in Paris since season one, but regulations prevented it. In fact, poker has a rich history in Paris, but this history is complicated by the periodic intervention of the government and even the police.
Subsequently, poker became completely extinct in the French capital: in the 2010s, famous “cercles” or gaming clubs such as Air France Club and Clichy Montmartre closed their doors. However, in 2022, the EPT announced that it would hold its first event in 2023 at the Hyatt Regency Etoile in Paris.
Paris became the 13th European capital to host the European Poker Tour. How many can you name? The answer is at the bottom of the article!
Although Bilot was president of the FPS in 2014 when the event was decided to be cancelled, by 2023 he was in charge of the entire EPT festival and said French players have always been important to the EPT as a whole.
“As soon as the opportunity arose, we went to Paris,” he told PokerNews. “At every EPT event, French players are our number one audience. From Prague to Barcelona and even London we have more French players than British players!
The inaugural EPT Paris event was not without its drawbacks, with the sheer number of players leading to a shortage of venues and a complex registration system further complicating matters. To address these issues, PokerStars has conducted a proper assessment and analysis of the venue and has worked with Club Barriere to come up with some solutions.
“We saw huge numbers last year and it had an impact,” Bilott said. “But the problem is not only the number of players. Entering and accessing the site through the back of the house is a nightmare.”
“Last year there were temporary fixes and ultimately in the second week we improved the process and it became smoother. But we definitely know we need to make changes [in 2024].”
As a result, the festival moved to a completely new venue – the Palais des Congrès, a modern conference center in the very center of the city. A larger room can accommodate more tables and more common space, and ensure a faster check-in and check-in process.
However, PokerStars is investing in more than just the new EPT venue. With an increasing focus on gaming integrity, PokerStars has increased its investment in the security of its games. New CCTV cameras have been installed to monitor activity at each table (the only live stream operator to do so), all with the aim of making the event as safe as possible.
“We pride ourselves on the physical safety and integrity of the games at all of our venues,” Bilott said. “That’s why we’ve purchased new state-of-the-art cameras to help us maintain this level of security. Each EPT table will have its own CCTV camera.
“We know our players value safe gaming, and we also know that PokerStars Live works hard to make sure our games are safe. To maintain this trust between players and operators, we need to continue to improve and invest. This is a significant investment challenge. .
“It allows us to look at every hand, every game, every chip play. First of all, it has security features, but the quality of the equipment is so good that in the future we will be able to broadcast from these cameras.”
The 2024 EPT schedule was released back in November and includes the same five positions as the 2023 schedule. Billot told PokerNews that the reason for the repeat schedule is simple, but he also admitted that he is open to the idea of adding more sites in the coming years.
“If something isn’t broken, why would you change it?” – he said. “If we can improve it or offer something different for our players, we will do it.”
However, Bilott says all the destinations on this year’s EPT schedule are “soft” and for different reasons.
“Obviously Paris was very strong last year and we are looking forward to coming back. Monte Carlo was also an incredibly powerful place for various reasons: it had a level of glitz and glamor that we couldn’t find anywhere else.
“Barcelona – no need to explain. Given Estrelas’ record-breaking main event, we’d be crazy not to return to Barcelona. The main event in Prague and Eureka were also record breaking events and everyone enjoyed the 12th stop of the month.
Paris isn’t the only stop for the 2023 EPT’s debut. Cyprus is also very popular among players.
“This is some of the best player feedback we’ve ever received,” Bilott said. “The players love Cyprus very much! We achieved amazing results in low buy-in, high buy-in and Main Event tournaments and had the best experience ever. So the decision to come back was very, very easy.”
So, the stops will remain the same in 2023, but the door is open for new destinations to be added to the schedule for 2025 and beyond.
“Look at other sports. There are some stops on the ATP Tennis Tour that never change, while others come and go. Formula 1 travels to new destinations, as it did in Las Vegas last year, but there are games that are always the same.
“Nothing is set in stone. We’re always looking for new places that we think will be popular. We’ve looked at Germany and the Netherlands and will even return to London one day. That’s something we’re looking at next year.”
PokerStars offers live tournaments that are considered by many to be the best in the industry, not only in terms of selection of events, buy-ins and destinations, but also in terms of the player experience provided during the event.
Billot said this is due to a “perfectionist mentality” and that PokerStars is constantly improving. From the introduction of Power Path to the recent decision to allow players to earn spots in multiple regional events.
“With a great team of experienced colleagues, we can strive for excellence. We really want the EPT to shine.
“We want to be more ambitious with our events and aim to make them bigger and provide a better live experience.”
“That’s why it’s so important to have balance and balance, I think 4-6 tournaments a year is optimal. More tournaments will be a mistake and we will conflict with other tournaments. The main thing is that we have enough time to build up and gain experience. .” Promote each of our live events.
“One thing that defines our strategy and vision is a focus on quality over quantity. We want to be more ambitious with our events and aim to make them bigger and provide a better experience on the ground. More time to qualify, more time to promote the event and more time to really create a buzz around it.”
Even though the coronavirus pandemic has taken the spotlight, Billo admits that it has helped change people’s attitudes and, as a result, has definitely helped live poker as a whole. As a result, live poker has grown sharply in 2023 and is expected to continue its recovery in 2024 and beyond.
“The world has been in lockdown for two years, stuck on phones and televisions. I think it helped people appreciate and enjoy everything that happened in person because there was a certain level of social contact and interaction. And live poker has benefited them greatly.”
European poker also broke many records, including the record for the largest PokerStars live tournament ever when Lucien Cohen won the Estrellas Barcelona Main Event for €676,230. This wasn’t the only regional tournament to break records: the FPS record for the largest main event was broken twice, and the Eureka Prague Main Event ended the year with another record.
*FPS Paris broke Monte-Carlo’s FPS record in 2022. FPS Monte-Carlo breaks the record again after two months
The EPT Main Event also attracted huge attendance figures, with Prague setting the new highest EPT Main Event attendance figure, Paris becoming the largest EPT Main Event outside of Barcelona, and Barcelona continuing its dominance with the second highest EPT Main Event status ever.
Billott called the idea of a new live poker boom “naive” but admitted the growth would be huge.
“Interest in live poker is much higher now than it was before the pandemic. I’m not saying we’ve peaked, but we’re not going to double our numbers from last year either. PokerStars expects to continue to remain at the top. .” This number will increase, but only if we do our job.
“The audience wants live poker – that’s the best content to watch because that’s where the big money can be won. To win $1 million online, you have multiple chances every year. To try to win $1 million live, you have maybe 20 chances more.
“In this digital age where we spend more and more time on mobile devices and screens, I think live poker will be safe for a long time.”
Answer: Vienna, Prague, Copenhagen, Tallinn, Paris, Berlin, Budapest, Monte Carlo, Warsaw, Dublin, Madrid, Kyiv, London.
Post time: Feb-01-2024