Masquelier Tries to Ease Doubts about ISPT

Masquelier Tries to Ease Doubts about ISPT

ISPT ISPT co-founder Prosper Masquelier gave an interview to French-language site Club Poker yesterday to try to quell a continuing barrage of skepticism and criticism in advance of its inaugural event in early June.

Masquelier put on a brave face throughout the interview. He dismissed a question about low turnout for the first of the ISPT Day 1 flights by claiming that Lock Poker and Poker770 had technical difficulties that caused the postponements. He noted that the Wembley event is still three months away and that poker players aren’t “early adopters”.

Masquelier also acknowledged that the refusal of blue-chip operators like PokerStars (which runs the EPT) and bwin.party (WPT) to partner with an event that they see as a competitor has been problematic. He expressed hope that ISPT could “shake these habits”.

It’s hard to know if Masquelier truly believes that ISPT can accomplish that goal. Sure, PokerStars and bwin.party send players to the WSOP, a series with which neither has a direct affiliation. But the WSOP is the granddaddy of all poker tournaments, the most prestigious series in the world. Online poker grew up around the WSOP, not the other way around. Masquelier seems either oblivious to that fact or willfully ignorant of it.

If Groupe Bernard Tapie had acquired the assets of Full Tilt Poker and re-launched that site itself, ISPT would have had a significant pool of online players from which to draw. Instead, Full Tilt went to Rational Group, closing out ISPT from running satellites for 75% of the market.

ISPT also did itself no favors by selecting dates for the Wembley event that directly conflict with the start of the WSOP. If you’re an online grinder looking for a live tournament series to play in early June, are you going to choose one with a 40-year history that represents the pinnacle of the game, or one with no history that has communicated poorly with the industry every step of the way?

And if ISPT’s communication strategy doesn’t improve, it might lose even the players that choose not to travel to Vegas. Masquelier’s response to a question about the declining size of the ISPT’s guarantee (€30 million, then €20 million, then zero) didn’t pass the laugh test. He claimed that those numbers were presented as what the ISPT could be “in a few years” but that right now they represent ISPT’s ambitions down the road. Presented with a statement from June 2012 in which Masquelier said that ISPT had “weighed every detail” for years, Masquelier said that the tournament was re-designed to include online and live play after he received “thousands of emails” asking for a simpler, more enjoyable tournament format.

You’d be hard pressed to find anyone in the poker industry who believed that ISPT’s “€30 million guaranteed” meant anything or was presented as anything other than exactly that. It’s as if Masquelier is pretending that nobody in poker can make the connection between the Partouche Poker Tour (and its guarantee mini-scandal) and ISPT.

On the tournament re-design, ask yourself: from a player perspective, what’s simpler than a live event? Doesn’t mixing online and live play make for a more complex event for players? If nothing else, it creates a huge disincentive for extremely short stacks to incur the travel expenses of the live portion of the event, something which has to be considered before even sitting down to play one of the online “Day 1” flights.

Overall, the interview was another baffling example of everything that has been wrong with the ISPT since it was first announced. Masquelier may have intended to answer questions about the ISPT’s viability, but all he did was throw it further into doubt.

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