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?

For example, last week Maria Lampropulos stunned the poker world by winning the PCA for seven-figures less than a year after winning £1 million at a partypoker Live event. She isn’t sponsored by partypoker, but they chose to congratulate her despite the fact that the event in question is a direct rival to theirs:

Likewise partypoker ambassador Patrick Leonard is more than happy to pin this hand review of the PokerStars WCOOP on his twitter page:

Ditto PokerStars are fine with reporting when their players win bracelets at the WSOP, which is a direct rival to their big ticket live events, and branded by 888poker:

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I could go on. I remember a time when sponsored players, affiliates and poker rooms would walk on eggshells not to mention the name, or even acknowledge the existence, of potential rivals. You probably wont see most of them go as far as linking directly to them, but the cat is out of the bag. Most operators realise that burying their heads in the sand and pretending poker is not happening away from their tables just makes them look disingenuous.

The big question is does it harm their brand when their players thrive in a rivals event? For example, lets say take the aforementioned Fedor Holz. In November he won the opening event of the PokerStars High Roller Series for $178,498 at a final table that included his fellow partypoker ambassador Patrick Leonard. On the one hand this makes partypoker look like shrewd draft pickers for their brand and that they know who the top online players are. On the other, it sends a message that the events at PokerStars are so good you see their biggest rival’s ambassadors migrate over there. No doubt we will see the same thing happen in the other direction when the partypoker Online MILLIONS happens at the end of the year.

I must say though, I do admire the freedom 888poker have given Parker Talbot, who really is one of the top streamers today. It seems that with such a direct route to conversion, one area where sponsors might be quite protective of their brand is Twitch. You don’t often see many established streamers with a sponsor play on rival sites. However, Parker Talbot is given free reign to play on any site he wants despite his 888poker deal. It cannot help them when he is showing off some of the bigger buy-in events from PokerStars or partypoker, but it certainly enhances a feeling of good will and authenticity towards them. The appeal of Parker (compared to somebody who is very much a ‘company man’ like Team PokerStars streamer Jaime Staples) is that is is quite raw and uncensored, so it’s nice he doesn’t need to censor where he plays.

The reality is that I don’t think most sponsored players greatly influence where other players spend their time and money. I don’t think anybody is going to abandon partypoker just because Fedor plays in the WCOOP. It does possibly harm the player’s sponsor if, when bringing attention to the win, it highlights an overall superior game offering. However, whatever harm is done, it seems even worse to pretend the world outside of your site doesn’t exist. The cat is out of the bag, every partypoker player knows PokerStars exists, every Unibet live regular knows the MPN Tour is a regular fixture on the circuit, and so on. In the age of social media anything other than complete transparency is going to be a much bigger marketing disaster, long term.

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