ISPT 2013: €20m Guarantee in Doubt ISPT 2013: €20m Guarantee in Doubt
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“I was as shocked as anyone when the word 'guarantee’ came down off the ISPT website” The International Stadiums Poker Tour (ISPT), the audacious plan to fuse online and live poker in an event to be held in Wembley Stadium, London in May 2013, has used the promise of a huge guaranteed prize pool as an essential marketing tool to garner interest from the poker-playing community. But recent events and missed deadlines have renewed doubts that it will not go ahead as planned.

Details of the event’s €20m guarantee were expected to be clarified at a press conference scheduled for September 3, including a statement from independent payment processor Skrill/Moneybookers that funds were held in escrow.

That date passed with no comment from ISPT organizers nor any details of such an escrow.

The size of the ISPT guarantee had been initially set at $30m, but was later reduced to €20m. Since then, references to a guarantee have been withdrawn from the ISPT website and replaced with the non-committal phrase “€20m expected prize pool.”

Yesterday, Stephen McClean, respected player and tournament organizer representing the ISPT, posted on poker forum 2+2 that he was “as shocked as anyone” when the word “guarantee” was removed from the website.

He explained that he had heard unofficially that the guarantee was now going to cover “the whole festival,” but could not confirm this.

““The guaranteed prize pool is €20 million, the biggest prize pool ever guaranteed in poker history.” Parallels have naturally been drawn with the controversy over the €5m guarantee at the Partouche Poker Tour (PPT). Announced by an official spokesperson and mentioned throughout promotional websites and literature, the group later tried to renege when not enough people entered the tournament. Mentions of the word “guarantee” were removed from official websites.

However, following the discovery of the Partouche Marketing Director clearly mentioning the guarantee on French TV, Partouche backtracked and chose to honor the amount. The group has now committed to stumping up over €730k to cover the overlay.

The ISPT-Partouche connection goes beyond these similarities. One of the key people behind the ISPT is Prosper Masquelier, the former head of Partouche Interactive. Furthermore, Prosper Masquelier’s mother’s maiden name is Partouche and his father Jean Masquelier is the head of two French casinos that are part of the Partouche group of gaming companies.

Partouche has been one of the first sites to support the project and offer online satellites. ISPT entries have also been part of the prize pool in live satellites to the PPT main event.

As the date for the ISPT approaches, a lack of clear information, still no escrow, and a reported ~3300 people already registered, players are rightfully now questioning if we will see a repeat performance.

There is no doubt a prize pool was guaranteed: It was clearly announced live at a June press conference by co-head of the ISPT Laurent Tapie:

“The guaranteed prize pool is €20 million, the biggest prize pool ever guaranteed in poker history,” he stated.

Speaking to pokerfuse last month, Stephen McClean also confirmed that the €20m guarantee is real, stating:

The only thing I am sure of is: The guaranteed prize-pool will be 100% concrete so players can be assured of that, and all necessary proof will be given. This is the main positive, and the event basically centers around this fact.

But now, things are not so clear cut.

As suspected by McClean, quite possibly the guarantee will be “repurposed,” so it applies collectively to cover both the main event and all side events. It could even be re-designated to include all the events in the ISPT, not just the first one planned from May 31 to June 6 at Wembley Stadium.

Michael Mizrachi, Sam Trickett and recent addition Liz Liu have all signed up as ambassadors for the ISPT. Patrik Antonius gave the event his imprimatur by sporting an ISPT patch during the PPT Main Event. They have all put a lot of faith in the organizers and encouraged players to have confidence in the event.

There is no real evidence that their confidence has been misplaced, but the absence of an official comment from the ISPT organizers is ominous.