This is a guest contribution by 53Outs.com‘s Events & Player Development Manager, Sinead Quigley Maher. If you would like to submit a contribution please contact Bill Beatty for submission details. Thank you.
When so many players are willing to go to great lengths to attain a sponsorship deal, have Victoria Coren Mitchell and Dan Colman committed poker hari kari by putting their personal opinions before the patch?
2014 has seen double EPT winner Victoria Coren Mitchell sever ties with her long time sponsor PokerStars.com. Coren’s announcement came when PokerStar.com announced their entry into the online casino market, a decision which conflicts with Coren’s personal principals. Meanwhile Dan Colman, this years winner of several titles including Big One for One Drop and WPT Alpha8 London kept forums and media busy with his outspoken opinion about the ugly world of poker and the flaws of fellow poker pro Phil Hellmuth, topics he speaks in depth about without fear of reprimand from a sponsor.
But, I have to wonder, is the poker world really ready to embrace Poker Pros with their own voice and opinions?
I am sure that card rooms around the world are more familiar with over the top diva’s mouthing off about slow play or bad beats than with a caped crusader interrupting play at the tables. Of course players have outside interests that they are passionate about but for many poker players the holy grail is the elusive sponsorship deal and the common perception is that to attain it they must be willing to do, say and act only as instructed by the Brand.
For years the standardized image of an online poker player was that of a guy sitting in a basement playing poker while being served up regular meals by a supportive parent. As internet connections improved so did our perceptions and we now conjure up a high tech room with an ergonomic chair facing a wall of computer screens, the meal-tray carrying parent replaced by a well tipped take-out delivery guy. And with the popularization of online poker came the dawning of the Age of the Sponsored Pro and the path to i-stardom.
As I travel around the world hosting online qualifiers at offline poker tournaments the single most popular question I am asked is always “How do I go about getting sponsored”. From $1 buy-in’s to VIP’s this is the one deal they all want advice on how to play. My response usually contains some titbit like ‘build a profile’, ‘qualify often under the same brand’, ‘speak highly of the poker room whenever possible’; my pearls of wisdom have never included ‘stand up for what you believe in’.
Obviously, there is one other important element needed which is the most difficult component for most of us. List the big names in the poker world and its obvious that the majority got their sponsorship backing through skill and ability in the game. Skills which resulted in pots taken down, tournaments cashed and titles won. Their understanding of the game and their opponents gives us all something to admire and learn from. Our personal liking for a particular Poker Pro naturally makes us more receptive to the brand they represent and encourages us to try to follow in their footsteps and give our loyalty and cash to their sponsoring poker room.
The concept of brand sponsorship is not exclusive to poker. Every day sports men and women around the world compete against their peers for financial support in return for brand promotion and for many a professional career would be impossible without this backing from the corporate world. However the corporate world is only interested in getting their brand in front of potential customers and who could blame them; without customers there would be no cash for sponsorship deals. The question is are new players more likely to put their hard earned cash into a poker room if the sponsored personality stands up for what they believe in. Do we need all the hype and grand entrances to keep us loyal? Would poker just be too boring to support without the banter and call outs at the table?
At the end of the day what brand sponsorship thinks is of no interest to either Coren or Colman as they have both nailed their colours firmly on the side of speaking out for what they believe in. Without reference to financial gain or enemies made they have both stood up and said their piece. And despite the ripples they sent through the poker community 2014 has been a good year for both our caped crusaders. Coren became the first person to win 2 EPT Events and Colman has racked up winnings in excess of 20 million US$. What poker player wouldn’t want to be in their shoes? So whether you agree with their opinions or not, I believe they should be admired for breaking through the façade and showing us that at the end of the day its really only about the Poker.
Sinead Quigley Maher is a freelance Events & Player Development Manager. Her company 53Outs.com offers player development and customer experience solutions to the online gambling community for poker, casino, bingo, sportsbetting and affiliates. Having worked as a VIP & Events Manager at PartyGaming, (now bwin.party) for over 5 years Sinead has taken her experience of meeting and hosting players of all levels to creating her own personal style events and player hosting and incentives company that specializies in offering effective player interactions to help improve player retention and brand loyalty. 53Outs.com also offers training programs for VIP customer service teams to assist them with personalizing their player interaction experience.
Sinéad Quigley Maher
Events & Player Development Manager