Nejad and Brunson Highlight Latest Poker Sponsorships
For an industry that doesn’t focus a lot on sponsorships, at least as compared to the time of the poker boom, there have been some interesting announcements in the past several months. Most deals now refer to ambassadors instead of sponsored pros, and the new vernacular matches the new types of roles assigned to people in these roles.
First, let’s recall what happened in the first few months of this year. While not an exhaustive list, it is a solid rundown of ambassador and pro moves:
-888poker: Sofia Lovgren left; Chris Eubank Jr joined, Rene Majed and Andrei Cosmin joined the Stream Team.
-Americas Cardroom: Vanessa Kade resigned; Ana Marquez joined.
-GGPoker: Dan Bilzerian disappeared, Team Russia disappeared, Team Ukraine appeared with Denys Chufarin and Iegor Zarev.
-Partypoker: Isaac Haxton, Louise Butler, Joni Jouhkimainen left, Mikita Badziakouski, Joao Simao, and Day Kotoviezy left., Courtney Gee and Monika Zukowicz left, Jeffrey Johnston joined Twitch team.
-World Poker Tour: Steve Aoki joined.
-PokerStars: Sebastian Huber joined Team Online.
-Unibet: Ian Simpson left, David Lappin and Dara O’Kearney re-signed.
And now, the most recent ones.
Tice Joins Ignition
Ignition Poker operates under Ignition Casino. That is, perhaps, why Landon Tice is an ambassador for Ignition Casino, though he is very much a poker player.
Tice and Ignition announced this deal in mid-May, a unique partnership for the young pro with a big online presence. By all accounts, Ignition has never sponsored a pro, much less a poker player. However, the US-facing poker site has been working to capture more of the market share. Tice may be a step in that direction.
Not only is he a poker prodigy and a rising star in the poker industry, but he is now officially partnered with Ignition Casino! Welcome to the team @LandonTice! 🔥♠️🙌 #ignitioncasino #ignitionpoker #teamignition #ignitionpartner pic.twitter.com/2DszLzuTPD
— Ignition Casino (@IgnitionCasino) May 17, 2022
Nitsche Leaves 888poker
After seven years as one of the most well-known 888poker ambassadors, Dominik Nitsche left the team at the end of March.
We wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors after a great ride with us! Thank you for everything! pic.twitter.com/B7c11Rz8tm
— 888poker (@888poker) March 31, 2022
While 888poker tweeted a warm goodbye, Nitsche himself didn’t tweet anything. He has been promoting his DTO Poker Trainer.
Simpson and Mantovani Join 888poker
At about the same time, 888poker welcomed a new pro to its lineup. Alexandre “Cavalito” Mantovani of Brazil joined the team. He had $361,407 in live poker tournament earnings at the time of his signing and has cashed steadily in live and online poker events since 2016.
“I’ve always dreamed of being a professional representing a poker site,” Mantovani said. “And I’m very happy to have reached another goal in my career!”
Brazilian poker player Alexandre “Cavalito” Mantovani (@AleMantovaniPkr) now wears the 888poker patch and will be representing the team both online and at live events.https://t.co/So3kPkDYMA pic.twitter.com/dtz3TqZpIn
— Chad Holloway (@ChadAHolloway) March 30, 2022
In May, Ian Simpson announced that he, too, signed with 888poker. After leaving a five-year relationship with Unibet earlier in the year, he signed on to be an 888poker ambassador and streamer. Since 888poker has been focusing on partnering with more streamers, adding a well-known person like Simpson will increase the company’s visibility on Twitch.
♠️♦️ANNOUNCEMENT ♣️♥️ pic.twitter.com/hFznPfVPTi
— Ian Simpson (@IanSimpsonPoker) May 21, 2022
Bilzerian and Nakamura Leave GGPoker
Many people thought that GGPoker cut ties with egoist and misogynist Dan Bilzerian when he disappeared from the GGPoker Ambassadors page on International Women’s Day in March 2022. But weeks later, GGPoker issued a statement on Twitter that “Dan Bilzerian remains a partner.” It seemed as if this was an attorney-instructed move.
Everyone was silent about the “partnership” as Bilzerian remained absent from the GGPoker site…until a video interview emerged in early June.
At the 1:12:00 mark, prompted by a question from the interviewer, Bilzerian said, “I just couldn’t fuckin’ post (on social media). I just couldn’t promote it. It just seemed cheesy.”
He went on to say that he didn’t have “the heart” to do “fuckin’ promos” and wouldn’t “sell out.”
He made other assertions about high-stakes cash games, some type of television show, and traveling to Turks and Caicos on his own dime to play a freeroll (with his name on it) that cost him $170K in jet fuel. He also claimed he was supposed to earn affiliate fees, all payments to the tune of “millions of dollars per month,” but GGPoker didn’t pay that.
“We just agreed to kinda like end it, ya know?”
If there were attorneys negotiating behind the scenes, Bilzerian took a machine gun to those conversations by publicly disparaging GGPoker and the deal…and probably lying about it. And he said it was over.
Tamon Nakamura’s departure from GGPoker Japan was a different story. High-stakes pro Adam Hendrix called out Nakamura on social media as a scammer during the WSOP, claiming he took money to play the Poker Players Championship…and just didn’t play it.
As it turned out, Nakamura had confessed months prior on social media to inappropriate financial dealings and having some problems. He vowed to repay his debts – “a lot of debt” – and do better. But his actions at the WSOP indicated otherwise.
GGPoker’s Japan contingent stepped in to write that the company terminated Nakamura’s contract in light of the WSOP actions. They said he breached the contract via a “serious breach of duty” and “credit loss.” GGPoker then reimbursed Hendrix and any other player to whom Nakamura owed money.
Nejad, Gross, and Farrell Join GG
Just during the World Series of Poker, GGPoker has welcomed several new players to its list of ambassadors. The first two came with a press release and press conference at the WSOP in Las Vegas. Ali Nejad and Jeff Gross joined GGPoker’s global team of ambassadors.
While the two may play some poker, they will primarily focus on connecting with GGPoker players via original content. They also hope to broaden the game’s reach to bring new players into the fold.
Nejad is known as the voice of many poker shows and streams, from PokerGO to the World Poker Tour, dating back to the poker boom. His official title is GGTeam Media Ambassador.
Gross is known for his podcasts and livestreaming. He will be the Voice of GGPoker.
Humbled, grateful, and excited. To the start of something special… 🥂🥳 https://t.co/OF9jyuvcvQ
— Ali Nejad (@Ali_Nejad) June 16, 2022
The most recent signing came just this week when GGPoker welcomed Niall Farrell to the team as a UK Ambassador. He noted on social media that he will be representing the UK community. It appears that he will lead the team, though he is the only one in the newly-formed GGPoker UK contingent thus far.
Excited to officially announce that I have joined @GGPoker as UK ambassador!
Will be doing some fun stuff over the next few months for our UK community so keep your eyes peeled 👀
(We took about 60 pics btw and this was somehow the best one 😂) pic.twitter.com/0vuFTMYhxG
— Niall Farrell (@Firaldo87poker) July 7, 2022
WPT Adds Owen, Neeme, and Brunson
The most interesting company to create and build a stable of poker pros this year has been the World Poker Tour. For the majority of its 20 years in business, the WPT rarely partnered with players for any kind of sponsorships. (I only remember a brief stint with the WPT and Antonio Esfandiari becoming partners many years ago.)
It started in January, as the World Poker Tour began its celebration of its 20th anniversary. They announced that world-famous deejay and music producer Steve Aoki would become an ambassador. Several months later, the team began to grow.
In April, the WPT announced a partnership with Brad Owen, one of the original poker vloggers. While he mainly plays cash games, the new WPT Ambassador would play some tournaments, vlog as he follows the WPT to many of its stops, and host meet-up games (MUGs) at some stops. Owen called it a big step in his poker journey. “I believe our partnership will help us both continue to grow the game of poker,” he said.
I couldn’t be happier to be joining @WPT! I’ll be traveling to tour stops and hosting Meet Up Games around the world. The 1st MUG event will be at Choctaw on May 12th. We’re giving away 2 WPT Choctaw ME seats and 2 WPT Prime Passports. To win, follow the rules in the pic below: https://t.co/wFNYErZe8z pic.twitter.com/QO4lPvutdT
— Brad Owen (@TheBradOwen) April 26, 2022
About one month later, the WPT announced a natural follow-up partnership with Andrew Neeme. Most people say he was the original poker vlogger, and he and Owen have partnered for many of their meet-up games in the past several years. As with Owen, Neeme is mainly a cash game player, but he is expanding his horizons while also bringing his talents to the World Poker Tour.
Incredibly special and surreal moment for me. I’m linking up with @WPT to bring more poker vlogs, streams, and MUGs around the world. The WPT was instrumental in getting me and countless others into poker, and I couldn’t be happier to work together to do more. https://t.co/iUPD6on49h
— Andrew Neeme (@andrewneeme) May 24, 2022
Just a few weeks ago, the WPT announced the most surprising partnership of them all. Doyle Brunson will serve as a WPT ambassador. Brunson rarely works with online poker sites, outside of the time he had his name on Doyle’s Room online poker site. But he has played WPT events for years and holds a WPT title.
Brunson will work with the WPT on promotional projects and play as many tournament stops as possible. He hopes to host meet-and-greet opportunities. A legend of the game and known as the Godfather of Poker, he was a big signing for the WPT.
We are proud and honored to welcome The Godfather of Poker, @TexDolly to the WPT family!
He brings his legendary legacy as a member of the Poker Hall of Fame and the WPT Champions Club to the WPT ambassador roster.
— World Poker Tour (@WPT) June 21, 2022