At one point in the history of poker, winning was the only thing that mattered. However, professional poker players were born, and the game change. Now it is all about that big win that comes with monetary worth.
Then entered Chris Moneymaker, around 2003, during the World Poker Series, and an entirely new approach to poker led to the poker boom. The aspirations of poker players with big dreams changed from pursuing a title to bankrolling from poker wins – mainly sponsorships.
In those days, Sponsorship was a huge word, a byword with strong links to success during the early 2000s. Poker players like Chris Ferguson, Phil Hellmuth, and Daniel Negreanu were patched up like new formula one having fun while on a circuit.
For a time, sponsors like Full Tilt and PokerStars battled it out to fund the November Nine in WSOP events to find out who was able to pick a winning team. For poker players, a patch was equated to money and a ticket into a tournament, among other lucrative benefits.
PokerStar, together with the poker stars it had been sponsoring, has stated that Igor Kurganov and Liv Boeree will no longer work as brand ambassadors for the firm. Since there are blurs in poker sponsorships these days, this can be considered a typical watershed moment.
The two stars leaving the firm marks the final chapter in the story of how the firm showed the stars the door, but this issue has not provided us with the surprise ending we would have expected. Negreanu exited this summer. Before that, Jason Mercier also jumped ship. Others like Bertrand Grospellier left earlier on and went to win the WSOP bracelet, while Negreanu had a close encounter with the WSOP player of the year.
Some like Boeree are not what they once were, as she once conceded that her focus has solely been on science and presenting for a while now. Others like Kurganov have maintained their elite professionalism. Kurganov is an asset, which has lent life to the idea that PokerStars is not looking to engage starts regardless of the cost implication.
So, who is?
There is PartyPoker, for one, who has an impressive list of top talent, including the likes of Sam Trickett, Patrick Leonard as well as Ike Haxton.
The current trend has been poker sponsorship. There was a time when Hendon Mob negotiated for million-pound deal on train concourse. Most other deals were struck on a flight across the Atlantic.
However, things have changed now. Poker players have improved in skill; brands have seeking other investment opportunities other than poker. The game once engaged sharp poker layers. Now they work with players who are contented representing a brand that funds casino games.
Today, a sponsorship is not the ticket it once was when the likes of Boeree represented PokerStars. When she got the EPT San Remo Main Event title, worth close to one million euros in nine years ago, then you could have stated that by agreeing to work with PokerStars, she won a lot in that period.
For people like Igor Kurganov, the need to want to work with a sponsor never arose. He has been an excellent ambassador because he fits the role very well. Besides, he is a calm person, humble and smart. He qualifies as a sponsorship material and is likely to be on Partypoker’s radar for a while now.