A tale of three sponsored poker players

A tale of three sponsored poker players

The ongoing battle between PokerStars and partypoker is proving fascinating for so many reasons and in the last week or so the focus has been on sponsorship. PokerStars have parted company with four of their best known players – Jason Mercier, Vanessa Selbst, ElkY and Felipe Ramos. It has been abundantly clear that their marketing strategy has been moving away from the standard aspirational players and more towards mainstream celebrities and streamers. partypoker on the other hand are, as always, zigging where PokerStars zag, and have announced former PokerStars Pro Isaac Haxton and Phillipp Gruissem as their latest ambassadors. The Haxton signing in particular is curious because he has been particularly vocal about PokerStars since he left them and it almost feels like a wink to the serious poker community that they are doing the opposite of PokerStars (or indeed, everything that was popular about PokerStars before Amaya acquired them).

As a serious player I love this rivalry and the fact that partypoker are making online poker, and in particular live and online tournaments, competitive again. I think partypoker are the leader right now for live tournaments and by hosting the biggest online MTT in history later this year, they may narrow the online MTT gap considerably between them and Stars. I am, however, skeptical about the recent sponsorships. I’m hoping to interview some of the folks at partypoker very soon about this but until then I wanted to summarise the current state of poker sponsorship. In 2018 as I see it there are three types of sponsored poker player: [Read more…]

When poker ambassadors win on rival sites

When poker ambassadors win on rival sites

With the two PokerStars and partypoker Mega Events on the horizon, I made the following joke:

It would be pretty funny if it happened, and it is by no means unlikely. We are well beyond the times when sponsored players were shackled to their sponsors events (though understandably we see them there more often) and it is quite common to see partypoker sponsored Fedor Holz winning PokerStars branded events, for example. It creates quite the quandary for the poker room who sponsors the player, does it help or harm their brand by promoting it? [Read more…]

Marketing the PSPC and Online MILLIONS

Marketing the PSPC and Online MILLIONS

pjimage (1)I am genuinely excited about the two mega events from PokerStars and partypoker as both a player and somebody who works in the industry. I’ve written about both already quite a lot at PokerStrategy.com from the player perspective but today I wanted to take a bit of a deep dive into the marketing prospects for each event. Which one will be easier to market, which one will be easier for the poker media to write about and what the opportunities are for both?

It’s worth noting that it is very early days for both events and we have a whole year to market both, so these are my early thoughts which will no doubt evolve. Please take the following as an analysis of what we know so far, there are some really talented people at both sites and no doubt there are lots of surprises along the way.

Beyond that caveat I’ll assume you are already aware of the events USPS and qualifying routes. [Read more…]

Poker broadcasting with Kara Scott

Poker broadcasting with Kara Scott

2017 World Series of PokerI’ve written a lot about the explosion of YouTube and Twitch recently but what about the more traditional, big budget broadcasting that has attracted so many to the game of poker? For that who else better to turn to than 888poker ambassador Kara Scott, who has been the go-to broadcaster for all the major poker shows in the last ten years, perhaps most notably the ever evolving WSOP broadcast on ESPN (and my personal favourite High Stakes Poker). 

Barry Carter: The last year has seen a YouTube explode in the poker industry. As somebody who has worked in more traditional broadcasting for a long time, what are your thoughts on competing, or embracing, with this new medium where anybody can become a broadcaster?

Kara Scott: I think we have no choice, media is always going to change and move in different directions, but I don’t think it is going to be replacing traditional media. If we look at eSports, the stuff they do on YouTube and Twitch, these big scale broadcasts, those are basically TV shows. That’s not just kids in their basements wearing headsets, they have really high production values.

The medium might change, but there will always be room for both. If you look at poker we have guys like Parker Talbot who is really great. Or, I worked with Doug Polk on the WSOP broadcast this year, he is a big YouTube guy, and working with him was pretty cool. He came prepared, he worked hard, he took it seriously. I don’t think everyone who does what he does can make the jump to TV. I don’t think it translates 1-to-1. Some people are really good broadcasters within their niche and some people are just really good broadcasters. I couldn’t do what they do either. One doesn’t equal the other. [Read more…]

Marketing cryptocurrency to poker players

Marketing cryptocurrency to poker players

Ryan Gittleson

Ryan Gittleson

Earlier this week I interviewed Ryan Gittleson of Virtue Poker about the Ethereum based poker room they are developing, for PokerStrategy.com. During the interview I naturally asked a few questions about the marketing and industry side of things that I felt was less interesting to the PokerStrategy.com audience but very interesting to my own small fledgling poker B2B audience, so here it is. There is some crossover between the interviews and I suggest you check out the PokerStrategy.com piece first to learn about the interesting ways in which Virtue Poker plans to solve shuffling, money management and dispute resolution. You can also see their very interesting White Paper which covers all of that and more. This wasn’t originally planned as an interview for my blog, it just fit here better, so I may follow up in the future with more questions specifically targeted for poker affiliates, media etc. 

Barry Carter: Most people trust RNGs these days, are you solving a problem that doesn’t need fixing?

Ryan Gittleson: I did a lot of market research over the last few years to see what our ultimate selling proposition was. The most important thing to players was first quality of games but the overarching theme of not having to trust and operator with your money and shuffling the cards. The core value proposition of the smart contract means we can’t touch your money. There is a long pathway to gaining people’s trust, we are a new startup, so how can we gain people’s trust? This solution not only addresses concerns people have previously had, it allows us to gain a lot of trust and build our brand quickly.

BC: While impressive and reassuring, I fear that your USPs might actually scare casual players off by drawing attention to some of the worst scandals poker has faced.

RG: The first question is how we communicate these value propositions to a broad audience. I have a marketing background and content marketing is a great way to help people understand what problems we are looking to address. Part of our value proposition is positioning ourselves as different to what has existed in the past. Even though PokerStars is a trusted brand, people still remember them getting shut down by the DOJ.

The second question is how do we get recreational players on the site? That’s the audience that needs incentives to get them depositing. We are looking to create a series of freerolls and satellites and our first and most loyal players can compete to win tokens. Also, it still blows my mind that rakeback for 15 years was based on volume, incentivising high volume play. We are using rakeback to support losing players, and will limit multi tabling. [Read more…]