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The online poker giant PokerStars seems to be going through a whirlwind of changes, from making changes to its platform and format to revamping its roster of team pros and ambassadors. The latest players to bid goodbye to the brand are popular Twitch streaming poker professionals Jeff Gross and Jaime Staples.
Change of Guard
Since early 2018, PokerStars had imbibed a changed approach to its ambassador strategy. After the departure of several accomplished pros such as Felipe Ramos, Vanessa Selbst, Jason Mercier and even the brand’s longest-tenured sponsored player Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier, PokerStars was looking to take on newer marketing goals which called for a revamped team of pros.
Instead of giving patches to players silently sitting at final tables, the PokerStars marketing team decided to try to reach a broader domain of potential customers. Superstar athletes Rafael Nadal, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar Jr., whose fans number in the tens of millions at least, became spokesmen for PokerStars. Even Olympian Usain Bolt and actor Kevin Hart were signed on by the poker giant.
Eventually the focus shifted to players who had a strong presence in the streaming community. Streaming pioneer Jason Somerville signed on after building his Run It Up channel into one of the largest, most engaged poker communities in the world. Somerville was followed by Jeff Gross and Jaime Staples.
PokerStars Team Pros
Jeff Gross, who is also a CardsChat poker ambassador, came to the spotlight back in 2016 when he started his “PokerFlowShow”. Since then he built his following to an impressive 55,000-plus followers which brought him to the attention of PokerStars. They eventually signed a deal in 2017.
Gross had amassed over $3.2 Million in live cashes, which made him a natural fit for the brand with a presence both at numerous live events and his strong online following on Twitch. His natural charisma and ability to make connections had even earned him the nickname “Professional Best Friend.”
Jaime Staples, though lesser known than Gross, had also built a name for himself on Twitch with almost 120,000 followers. Staples had also participated in and won a high-stakes prop bet against Bill Perkins that brought him even more recognition.
Since their term as PokerStars Team pros both Gross and Staples have been involved in several campaigns run by the brand. Most recently, both former team pros had been a part of PokerStars’ PSPC challenge.
Staples had hosted the #MyUltimateSweat Platinum Pass Adventure challenge, which was won by Indian architect and recreational poker player Nikhil Segel. Gross had joined hands with Andrew Neeme to conduct the #VloggerInParadise challenge which awarded Platinum Passes to Matt Keifer and Oliver Biles.
Parting Ways With PokerStars – Surprise or Planned?
Following PokerStars change in strategy and Gross and Staples’ integral participation in the brand’s marketing campaigns, it has come as a surprise to many that the pros have decided to part ways with the poker conglomerate.
However, in a recent interview director of corporate communications for The Stars Group Eric Hollreiser had hinted at the company changing its marketing visions yet again. While he had said that the company was “100 percent committed” to Twitch, he had also said that the company thought of the streaming platform as “an experiment.”
“It’s terrific, and the streamers are great, and they’re building an audience and building a community,” he said. “At the same time, realistically speaking, it needs to be at a much larger scale to have a meaningful impact.”
In a video released on his YouTube channel, Gross revealed that he was unable to come to an agreement with PokerStars. He said he appreciated his time with the company and was grateful they gave him a shot as an ambassador.
“It’s been an amazing, amazing journey,” he said. “Signing my first major deal was super, super exciting.”
Gross expressed his gratitude for several people within the company including fellow ambassadors Daniel Negreanu and Andre Akkari, to whom he said he owed special thanks.
He ended on a high note stating, “This is just the beginning, this is not the end of Jeff Gross Poker, of streaming, of Twitch. The FlowShow is coming to a theatre near you. Got a lot of fun projects planned. We’re gonna have a lot of fun together. Thank you to PokerStars, and I’ll see you guys very soon.”
You can catch the video here.
Staples too posted a farewell video on YouTube and said that he’ll look to continue promoting the game the way he has been as a PokerStars ambassador. Like Gross, he sent out a round of thanks to the folks he had worked with at PokerStars, as well as his fellow team members.
“You made the days awesome. It’s been such a pleasure working alongside you for the past four years,” he said.
“As for the future for me, I’m really excited. It’s a little bit scary but at the same time, I know that if I continue to work hard, and I’m true to what I believe is going to make this game great, everything will work out in the long run.”
Catch the video here.
While these players have ended their association with PokerStars, the brand still boasts of a huge plethora of varied talents which includes the likes of WSOP bracelet winners Daniel Negreanu and Chris Moneymaker, popular streamers Jason Somerville and Lex Veldhuis, along with Indian stalwarts Aditya Agarwal and Muskan Sethi.