Online Poker and Absolute Poker Drop Pro Sponsorships

by Omar

Over the past several years, one of the biggest accomplishments for professional poker players was to become a sponsored pro from an online poker site. Phil Ivey, Patrik Antonius, Viktor Blom, Doyle Brunson and scores of other top flight pros have enjoyed the perks that come with a sponsorship deal.

For better or worse, these players became ambassadors for the sites whose logos they wear at all types of events and appearances.  For many like Phil , Jean-Robert Bellande  and Annie Duke  others, they have used the opportunity to create their own brands and merge into pop culture. Duke and Bellande parlayed poker stardom into appearances on Celebrity Apprentice and Survivor, respectively. Others like Joe Sebok and Prahlad Friedman saw their company logos turn into virtual bulls-eyes, drawing the wrath of poker fans and observers for representing, the site of the worst cheating scandal in online poker history.

It now appears, however, that the days of online poker sponsorships are now over for at least the foreseeable future as and Absolute Poker have terminated all of their existing sponsorship agreements.  For all of the mudslinging that primary pro Joe Sebok has taken, all he has to show for it now is a brand new pink-slip, along with any  the money he managed to save. Joining Sebok on the unemployment line are Prahlad Friedman, Eric “Basebaldy” Baldwin, Maria Ho, Brandon Cantu, Tiffany Michelle, Scott Ian, “Hollywood” Dave Stann, Adam “Roothlus” Levy, Bryan Devonshire and Trishelle Cannatella.

In a statement released by the sites’ main operator, Blanca Games, they state, 
“To ensure the on-going viability of the business, it has been necessary to downsize certain aspects of Absolute Poker’s and UB’s operations. These efficiency measures have been taken to enable the brands to continue to operate their non-U.S.-facing business. These actions are the result of the severe impact of ‘Black Friday’ on the business, and these efficiency measures have negatively affected not only the financial position of the brands, but also their staff and personnel. Regrettably, the negative effect of ‘Black Friday’ has extended to the Company’s highest profile group of poker professionals, known as ‘Team UB.’”

Management at Blanca Games has informed the team of ten UB pros and one player representing Absolute Poker their contracts have been terminated. This was a difficult task for Blanca’s management, and we are very disappointed that we have been compelled to sever ties with our sponsored pros. Over the years, the Company has been successful in gathering a group of young, extraordinarily talented and brand-appropriate poker professionals who have proudly sported its logos. We are truly saddened that circumstances have dictated this course of action, and we regret that we are no longer in a position to partner with our sponsored pros, or to provide them with a source of income for playing the game that they love. We appreciate their significant time and dedication shared with us, and we thank them for the loyalty and patience they have continued to show us even during the unsettling events of the past few weeks. We respect and admire them for their many accomplishments, both at the poker tables and away from them, and we will always be grateful for their valuable contributions to building the UB and Absolute Poker brands and creating a rock-solid community at the pair of online poker rooms.”

The announcement marks the biggest public move since Black Friday and it appears to e just a matter of time before PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker follow suit.

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