The Lifespan of a Sponsored Player

May 11, 2011, Posted by Pokerfarm

The Lifespan of a Sponsored Player

P45 Time for UB pro's

Following last week's announcement by Blanca Games, holding company for Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker detailing effective bankruptcy proceedings, it comes as no surprise that UB and AP have terminated the contracts of their pro player roster. Eleven players in total have been dropped including Joe Sebok, Prahlad Friedman, Eric "Basebaldy" Baldwin, Maria Ho, Brandon Cantu, Tiffany Michelle, Scott Ian,"Hollywood" Dave Stann, Adam "Roothlus" Levy, Bryan Devonshire, and Trishelle Cannatella.



p freidmanBack to the studio for Prahlad Friedman

Whilst the news of this player cull is hardly surprising, it will be interesting to see the effects of Black Friday on pro player contracts and playing sponsorship as a whole. Let’s face it, poker is in a severe depression. For the industry, Black Friday was poker’s version of the Wall Street crash. As one succinct blogger explained on Wicked Chops poker blog, ‘The DOJ single handedly destroyed more jobs in a single day than the largest corporate layoff in history... and yet they (and 99.9% of the world), are completely oblivious’.

Historically in times of financial constraint, struggling businesses band around inane corporate bullshit such as ‘streamlining’ and ‘resource management’; try as they may to baffle us with their daft analogies we all know that this means ‘redundancies’. There will be sweaty palms within the online poker industry over the coming months, particularly for sponsored players who have grown accustomed to lucrative contracts, tournament globetrotting and life on easy street.

PokerStars Team Pro and Full Tilt’s Red Pro rosters have been growing like small armies over the last four years. The ‘big two’ have been relentless in signing up anyone with a pulse and the gift of sight (minus Hal Lubarsky) and during the World Series of Poker, Las Vegas has become a battle ground for Stars and Tilt agents where even the toilet cleaners at the Stratosphere are patched up head-to- toe in merchandise.

hal lubarskyHal Lubarsky - Plays better live

PokerStars have paid millions upon millions of dollars to the likes of Boris Becker, Sebastian Chabal and Gianluigi Buffon to endorse their brand, not to mention the hundreds of team pro and team online signings. Full Tilt’s red pro list is more like a telephone directory than a who’s who of poker champions, and a couple of years ago if you were a good looking woman who could distinguish between a flush and a straight, you were a poker marketing dream.

BorisBecker's broom cupboard table on Stars has proved a big hit with the ladies

Unfortunately it looks like this card playing utopia where multimillion dollar endorsement contracts are signed like postal orders is deteriorating, and fast. Expect big names to be dropped, tournament guarantees slashed, and belts tightened within the industry. I for one have always been slightly sceptical of huge player sponsorships and their true value; knowing the mindset and the general attitude of a poker player, it’s hard to see how millions of dollars can be recouped from one player solely through PR.

Sites will now be reliant on getting a bang from their buck rather than paying wages similar to that of a premiership football club. Are million dollar contracts simply for playing on a poker site justified? Maybe I’m a cynic, maybe I’m just envious, but I’m quietly relieved that some of the poker egos will be brought back to earth with a bump.

obamaBarack Obama - President by day, badugi specialist by night

The times are a changing within the poker landscape; WSOP 2011 will be an interesting yardstick to gauge quite how badly Black Friday has burnt the poker economy. Poker will recover from this depression, much like the stock market did way back after Wall Street. Let’s just hope it doesn’t last for 12 years and that Obama and the DOJ start to shuffle up and deal sometime soon.

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