Lee Davy continues his brief explorations into the possible futures that 2019 holds for poker with a viewpoint that PokerStars will have a rather excellent year.
The last time a poker room spent a year marketing a single tournament, partypoker nailed it when the $20m Guaranteed Online MILLIONS became the richest online poker festival in the history of humankind.
PokerStars is about to do something similar.
2017 wasn’t a good year for PokerStars.
The decision to rebrand the European Poker Tour (EPT) as the PokerStars Championships was as welcome as abandoned babies at fire stations and customer care was at an all-time low.
With the poker community in mourning, partypoker donned a red cape and swung in with a new screenplay and enviable cast of the games most likeable and trusted characters.
With embers of the EPT flying out of the crematorium, the MILLIONS brand filled the hole and then some, running some of the biggest and best tournaments in the world.
How would PokerStars react?
As 2017’s rubber band was about to snap, PokerStars announced plans to host a $25,000 buy-in tournament called the PokerStars Players No-Limit Hold’em Championship (PSPC) scheduled to take place during the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) in 2019.
In the past 12-months, PokerStars has made the PSPC THE talking point in poker with more than 300 $30,000 Platinum Pass packages given away to the broadest expanse of people ever to compete in a high stakes buy-in event.
PokerStars also resurrected the EPT brand, drove a stake through the heart of the PokerStars Championship, hired some of the most interesting and exciting live streamers in the business, backed Jason Somerville with his RunItUp broadcasting experiment, and partnered with the likes of Usain Bolt and Kevin Hart.
You can call 2018 a prelude to what’s to come in 2019.
The PSPC: A Kingmaker
By removing the borders of expectation that typically surround a $25,000 buy-in event, PokerStars have put the magic back into the game in a big way.
The event will be the highlight of the year, and that’s saying something, with the World Series of Poker (WSOP) celebrating 50-years of existence in the Summer.
The people loved PokerStars because they trusted them. There was transparency about the Scheinberg reign that the grinders adored, and yes, that ended when Amaya Gaming bought the online poker giant for $4.9 billion.
But things have changed since then.
In the beginning, there wasn’t a day that passed without the name of Amaya Gaming dominating the headlines instead of PokerStars, but you don’t see that anymore.
Rebranding to The Stars Group helped.
But more than anything, it’s worth remembering that at the very heart of PokerStars lies a core group of people that love poker. You can see that love smeared all over the PSPC, and you have to be the cynic of all cynics not to find the good in this event.
PokerStars took a hit.
Amaya’s influence created an unflossed mouth of distaste, but they never lost market share. That’s because PokerStars bread and butter comes from the millions of poker players who don’t know anything about Supernova Elite scandals, Canadian buyouts and rake increases.
And the PSPC is about them.
Whether the event will be one of a kind or a permanent fixture of the PokerStars live calendar remains to be seen. Either way, before, during and after the event, the name of PokerStars and the 300 will provide them with the impetus to have one of their most innovative and extraordinary years of modern times, and I don’t think they will let that opportunity pass.
And I think they will begin by figuring out how to wrest back the record of the richest online poker tour in history from the grip of partypoker.