Monday, 27th May 2024 06:17
Home / Poker / EPT Barcelona: Toby Stone on how technology is improving the PokerStars experience

The impeccable tournament management on the European Poker Tour (EPT) does not happen by chance. Although the tournament team is full of experienced professionals, and technology is always improving, it is still always a work-in-progress. Tournament officials listen to problems, make changes, and address any issues that may arise.

The intention is always the same: to make everything run as smoothly and fairly as possible, allowing players to enjoy playing on the EPT more than anywhere else.

EPT Tournament Director Toby Stone shared some time this week in Barcelona to talk through some recent modifications to existing processes. As always, Stone was candid with his reasoning and frank in discussing the issues.

In the first part of this interview yesterday, Stone talked about the thorny issue of stalling and the distribution of time bank cards. In today’s second part, Stone lifts the lid on some of the recent technological improvements implemented by the PokerStars Live Events team.

Many of these feature the tournament management software K-Hold’em, a program developed by Nick O’Hara, one of Europe’s best-known poker tournament staff who also works PokerStars live events. K-Hold’em was further refined by PokerStars to complement the PokerStars Live app, which offers numerous handy features for players on the tours.

Here’s an edited version of the interview, which took place on Day 5 of the EPT Barcelona Main Event (also Day 1 of the €10K High Roller).

BUSTING PLAYERS JUST GOT EASIER

Toby Stone says:

The main new thing we can do now is that we can bust players at the table.

The way we used to do it is that we would have to bring somebody from one place to the next when they bust — meaning, a player would bust and we’d need to escort them from the table to get their payout ticket.

The senior floor would be as close to the middle of the tournament as possible, but a player on a distant table could bust a few seconds before a player on a nearer table, and it wouldn’t necessarily be clear who bust first.

Now, the dealer has a tablet on the table and busts the player immediately. Now we know it’s 100 percent correct. Before, a player might have taken a bit of time to gather their things, and technically someone else could have bust a few seconds after them, but ended up with the floor staff first.

It would have been incredibly rare because we were always monitoring. But technically speaking, if there was a pay-jump, the player who took their time might have ended up with more money. Even 10 seconds, 25 seconds, could have affected the payouts.

But now we know it simply can’t happen. It’s accurate and we know it will be right.

MORE CHIP COUNTS, MORE ACCURATELY

This is a really amazing thing. The tablets on the table means that dealers can see everybody they’ve got at the table, and they can even put in chip counts. It gets updated to the app. That means people following at home can see your chip count, and they can know it’s been updated pretty recently and accurately.

We don’t obviously do it after every hand. A dealer has too much to do. But we can do it at the breaks, a visual chip count, and for the first time players at our tournaments can see a fair reflection of where they are in the overall standings.

That’s a major advantage and it’s really good for player engagement.

The other thing we the app is that you can have your tournament ticket on your phone. You can check in and get your table and seat on the app, so you don’t have to go to registration. You link your PS Live account and get your PS Live card on the app.

In the future, it could be linked to your PokerStars account. 

The PokerStars Live app is already super popular

Eventually, we hope you’ll be able to see your table and seat, even when they’ve broken a table. You won’t need to ask the floor any more what your table and seat is going to be. It’ll be there on the app.

IMPROVEMENTS FOR ALL

K-Hold’em is not a PokerStars product, but we’ve developed it a lot in the last two years because it wasn’t able to do a lot of the things we do. It’s fine for a small local card-room, but it couldn’t do our Win Your Seat satellites, for example. It couldn’t do bounties or mystery bounties. It couldn’t do a lot, so we have developed it in the last two years.

You can see all the live, up-to-date information on the tournaments. The clock, the level. You can see the location of the tournament. There’s the structure, the payouts, all the rules of the tournament.

From an organisation perspective, it’s much easier to do seat draws. They’re much less time-consuming for us and we know they’re accurate. It means we don’t need to use so many people to do them. Before, it was much more of a manual thing.

LIBERATING THE FLOOR STAFF

The best thing about all of this is that it frees up the floor staff to really do their job. They’ve got time now to watch tables, help the players when they’re moving around, be more attentive to players’ needs. 

Otherwise they would be running around breaking tables, selecting seat cards, moving players around. Now they’re more relaxed. That’s good because they can now take care of the players, watch the dealers, make sure everybody is following procedures. When a table breaks, they can anticipate those players coming over. I tell floor staff to have a floor plan on their phones so they can immediately direct players where they need to go.

It just raises our level of service, just because of an improvement in technology.

EXPORTS AND REPORTS

The app also allows us to export a lot of data. There must be 50 different things we can export, players, entries, re-entries, everything. 

It can also give us some reports. Right now, if you say this tournament is going to get 500 players, I know, just because it’s in my head, I know that from those 500 players x amount will be re-entries, and x amount is going to be on a seat at any one time. 

From 500, probably 70 percent of them are going to be on a seat at any one time. Let’s say my expectations for a tournament are 100 people. I know that at any one moment, the most that are going to be sitting down are 70. There will never be more than 70, so I know exactly how many tables I need. I need eight tables maximum. So I can plan that with dealer control.

Stone marshalls his troops during the EPT Barcelona bubble

I know that those seven tables are not going to be open at the beginning, it’s going to grow to seven. So at 1 o’clock, say, I can have four dealers. At 1.30 I can have another one. At 2 o’clock I can have another one and at 3pm, when it’s the maximum, I’ll have another one. There’s my seven.

It saves on hours. Right now, all of this is in my head. I’ve done it a million times, so I just know — and different tournaments are different. Hyper-turbos are different; the Main Event is different; the High Rollers are different. All those different tournaments have different kinds of values — I know if it’s 70 percent, 60 percent. I know that the re-entry rate on this tournament is x and on that tournament it’s y. 

But it’s all in my head. And even I can make mistakes. I made a mistake in 1973 once, believe it or not.

NO REPLACEMENT FOR EXPERIENCE

Now we have built some report settings so it can spit out some reports telling me all this stuff. I like it and I don’t like it. I like it because it’s more accurate, even though I’m pretty close. But I don’t really want to use it because I like having all this information in my head. I want to know how things work, I have learnt. And I need to know how things work so I can continue to provide a good service.

It’s a very good tool. And I’m going to use it. It’ll mean that when there’s a $1K event, say, I’ll know how many tables we need to open, what’s the maximum number of tables we had, this is when we started breaking tables, this is when we hit the money, this is how many tables we had in Level 12, 13, 14, 15, 16. All of that helps with planning. I’m going to keep getting that info and I’m going to be able to refer to it, but I’m still going to build my own knowledge.

Over the years the blind structures have changed and that’s pushed the boundaries a bit. For instance a few years ago, we always hit the money in Level 15 or 16 in a lower buy-in side event, but now we’re hitting them at 18 or 19.

Some of the events with 20-minute clocks, it’s Level 20 or 21. Like I said, that’s changed in the last few years because we’ve improved our structures. So from then to then, it’s changed in my head and I wouldn’t want to have to go to a bit of paper to find out how things work out.

I want to say, “This is how it works. Now let me check to make sure.” I have a feel of how it works and I don’t want to lose that. I just know. So I’ll use this as a reference, but I won’t use it to find the answer. I’ll get the answer in my head and I’ll just double-check.

MORE FROM EPT BARCELONA

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