While it has been hyped as the “next generation” of tournament poker’s evolution, there are signs that the International Stadiums Poker Tour (ISPT) is floundering and may not even be able to put on its inaugural event in 2013.
Many media outlets are reporting that the organizers of the ISPT are retooling their ambitions for what could be the largest ever live event (and there are some questions as to whether it would actually be considered “live”). Originally, the planners billed the event with a €30 million prize pool, rivaling the size of the biggest tournaments currently in existence, but it shrunk down to €20 million earlier this year and recent information from the ISPT now does not mention a guaranteed amount. Now there are rumblings that, unless players start to get behind the ISPT’s efforts, the tournament may not take place at all.
It was an audacious task to begin with. The ISPT would be a series of events hosted inside large outdoor stadium venues, allowing tens of thousands of players to take part in the tournaments. Initially beginning online in these stadiums, the tournaments would then work their way down to a final table and an eventual champion, promising huge paydays due to the numbers gathered for the tournaments. The first tournament is currently scheduled to take place beginning May 31, 2013 in Wembley Stadium in London, the United Kingdom.
According to PokerFuse.com Georges Djen, the Head of Marketing for the ISPT, had stated that the event would be scrubbed if “at least 15,000 didn’t come.” Djen said that there were capabilities for 30,000 players to take part in the tournament, but the interest in the event has been minimal to this point. It is estimated that, as of now, only approximately 3500 players have stepped up to enter the tournament.
The story doesn’t end there, however. Djen issued a statement after the PokerFuse piece to dispute the contention that the organizers were looking to cancel the tournament, claiming that he was misquoted. Djen vehemently asserted that he was asked what the minimum number was for the tournament to be “financially interesting,” according to PokerFuse, and didn’t mention anything regarding the tournament not taking place. Djen blames the potential confusion on a “language mix-up” and claims the tournament will go on regardless of the player numbers.
The history of the ISPT goes back to late last year in its creation and involves several components of the poker industry that have been having their own difficulties as of late. In May 2012, the ownership behind the ISPT, Groupe Bernard Tapie, announced that they had pushed back the first ever event to May of 2013 from its initial scheduled date of between August and October of this year. This came after the failure of Groupe Bernard Tapie to acquire Full Tilt Poker, which they would have used as a satellite feeder for the massive tournament.
Last month, the ISPT’s name came up as a connection to another embarrassment to the poker community. During what would eventually be the final event in the history of the Partouche Poker Tour, PPT owner Patrick Partouche announced that, while he was canceling his highly popular tour due to the players’ displeasure regarding the on-again/off-again guarantee of the PPT Main Event, he would “see everyone in London” for the first tournament for the ISPT. This indicated that his poker site, PartouchePoker.fr, would be involved in some manner with the ISPT (another online site, Poker770, is also hosting several satellites for the tournament).
Amid the clamor of whether the tournament will actually go on or not, the ISPT has been drafting in several high profile names to act as “ambassadors” for the tour. French poker pro David Benyamine, recent British Poker Awards Player of the Year Sam Trickett, Asian pro Liz Lieu, cash game wizard Patrik Antonius and the United States’ Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi have all been named as ambassadors for the tournament, giving the ISPT credibility on the public relations front. There are several other obstacles that must be overcome (besides the player numbers) before the ISPT surges into action, however.
Logistical pitfalls may derail the ISPT before it can even put the first cards in the air, live or otherwise. Online satellites have been few and far between and, without these to provide potential players, reaching the 30K mark might be unattainable. Furthermore, having players inside a football arena such as Wembley Stadium presents computer server issues, not to mention the factor of the elements in the United Kingdom during the month of May (while Wembley does have a retractable roof, it doesn’t cover the entirety of the pitch).
For now, the plans are full steam ahead for the ISPT and its launch in London come next May. Considering the obstacles, however, those plans may be far-fetched.