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Online poker brand PokerStars has been on war path with rival poker brand, partypoker lately, propelled by departure of a number of PokerStars’ team pros in recent months, who signed up with the latter. After two most popular Twitch streamers Jeff Gross and Jaime Staples bid adieu to Team PokerStars in February, within days, the brand inducted winner of the PokerStars Players NLHE Championship (PSPC) Ramon Colilas. Just when it seemed that things had settled down, within a fortnight, Kevin Martin also parted ways with the gaming giant. Following Martin was Jake Cody who left in early March and a month later, it was Randy ‘nanonoko’ Lew announcing that he would no longer be representing the brand.
Just when the poker fraternity started to talk about what seemed like a mass exodus from PokerStars, the gaming behemoth has chosen to fight back. Beefing up efforts to retain its squad of pros, PokerStars has endeavoured to re-introduce more streamers under its fold.
Right along Lew’s departure, PokerStars signed up French pro Kalidou Sow and now, the company has gone full throttle, announcing a full roster of 12 new faces joining its stable! While four of them – Arlie Shaban, James Mackenzie, Nick Walsh and Eva Reberc have come on-board as full-time ambassadors, the remaining eight will represent the Red Spade as part of its team of poker streamers.
Though PokerStars remains the global industry leader it has certainly felt the pinch of recent aggressive moves by partypoker which include a major drive by the latter to improve its site functionality, tournament and cash game offerings. Just when growth of online poker has slowed down globally, partypoker has seen a big jump in its revenues. In the first few months of 2019, the company’s revenues grew by 38% and the brand has already overtaken 888poker to become the second-largest online poker site after PokerStars.
Content creation is undoubtedly the key to engage the rapidly growing and younger group of poker watching audiences and while all major brands have presence on Twitch, partypoker took to streaming in a bigger way in February by launching its ‘Team Online’ squad of poker streamers.
Gross and Staples who enjoy a massive fan following on Twitch chose to leave PokerStars and join partypoker’s ‘Team Online.’ The cold war between the two sites got bigger after Martin who had joined PokerStars in 2016 also left the brand for partypoker.
Kenneth Alexander, CEO of partypoker’s parent company GVC Holdings admitted in March, “partypoker has been in a bit of a David-Goliath battle with PokerStars,” and claimed that partypoker was “biting at their [PokerStars’] ankle.”
By roping in 12 content creators who are fast emerging on the streaming map, PokerStars finally seems to have hit back. Most of the new inductees are new, and have been known for pursuing creative and innovative ways to engage their audiences.
New PokerStars Team Pros: Who Are They?
The four new PokerStars Team Ambassadors are – Platinum Pass winner and streamer Arlie Shaban, founders of PokerStars Power Up site OP Poker James Mackenzie and Nick Walsh, and content manager of OP Poker, Eva Reberc.
Shaban rose to fame when he contested in the TV show Big Brother Canada 2 where he placed eighth. He became a known figure in the poker fraternity when he streamed 1,000 hours over 125 consecutive days on Twitch. In August 2018, he joined Jason Somerville’s Run It Up (RIU) as brand ambassador.
The avid streamer has been visible on PokerStars for the most part of 2018 after he was put through ‘12 Labours of Arlie’ by the anonymous ‘Poker Gods’.
Ironically it was Kevin Martin who has inspired Shaban, in his own words, to become a full-time streamer. Shaban has joined PokerStars just two months after the former left it! Not that Shaban has any qualms about joining the site. “I’ve given poker everything I must give, even more than I thought possible, and to be awarded the biggest trophy of my career by becoming a PokerStars Ambassador is the actual dream come true,” he said.
Mackenzie, Walsh and Reberc are streaming pros from alternative game strategy site, OP Poker and are well versant with the PokerStars’ new game variants and strategic game innovations. Mackenzie is a well acknowledged heads-up specialist and Walsh who at one time played online at PokerStars under the moniker ‘Lost_Gambit’ is known as the player who hit the highest multiplier Spin & Go on PokerStars. The duo joined PokerStars after OP Poker entered a partnership with the site as part of which Mackenzie and Walsh will be PokerStars’ official ambassadors as well as strategists for gaming innovations.
Further on, Reberc who’s the only female brand ambassador in the new list of recruits is an avid gamer. By signing her up, PokerStars is looking to attract more women to the mind sport.
The New PokerStars Team of Twitch Streamers
PokerStars’ new team of content creators has eight talented next-gen Twitch streamers joining an already established group that includes Jason Somerville and Lex Veldhuis. Till now, the online poker site has categorised its roster of pros who have presence on Twitch as ‘Team Online.’ Moving away from the definition, the brand has now defined its new group of signees as ‘Streamers’
UK-based Mason Pye and Georgina James who are known on Twitch as ‘PyeFacePoker’ and GJreggie respectively had competed in Jason Somerville’s Platinum Pass Adventure last year. Though neither could win a Platinum Pass to the Bahamas, their talents were noticed. Also joining the PokerStars roster is New Zealand’s Tom Hayward aka ‘Pleb_method.’ Hayward is a musician and audio engineer apart from having poker playing skills and has begun to make waves on Twitch with his creative and interactive streaming.
Spanish streamers Alberto Perez aka ‘Catof_Poker’, Guillermo Inclan and Steve Enriquez and France’s Benjamin Bruneteaux and Julien Brecard enjoy a popular fan base in Southern Europe. They have been working with PokerStars for some time now and have now joined hands with the brand for a more engaging, dedicated equation. As they provide commentary, special streams and dedicated content for their audiences, they will also represent the PokerStars spade.
Talking about the all-new team of PokerStars’ Streamers, Team PokerStars pro Lex Veldhuis said, “It’s no secret how much love I have for Twitch and how important I think it is for the growth of poker. I’m really happy PokerStars is recognizing the effort these streamers are putting in and empowering them on top of that. It will be very inspirational to watch them develop and grind.”
Pye and James are rising sensations on Twitch and by signing them up, along with the rest of the all-new PokerStars’ team of streamers, the online gaming site seems to have take the increasing competition in the poker streaming realm in its stride. By focussing on new faces, the brand also seems to be clearly set its eyes on wooing the younger, Twitch-watching generation.
Cover Image Courtesy: PokerStars Blog