Rumors have been confirmed that Jonathan Duhamel has parted ways with PokerStars. Speculation started during the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown, when Duhamel showed up without a PokerStars patch anywhere on his attire. And a quick trip to the world’s largest poker site reveals that the 2010 WSOP Main Event champ no longer appears on the pro roster.
Duhamel joins what’s become a growing trend across the online poker industry, where sponsored players have diminished value. Stars has recently let go of Alex Kravchenko, Dario Minieri, David Williams, Humberto Brenes, Jose Barbero and Marcel Luske. And a big sign that PokerStars no longer values former WSOP Main Event winners was when they dumped 2009 champ Joe Cada after he merely asked for 100% rakeback.
Other sites that have moved away from sponsored pros include Bodog, Full Tilt and Party Poker. The prevailing thought is that simply sticking a big-name poker pro in a tournament and slapping a team patch on them doesn’t draw recreational players. So many sites are busy trying to create an amateur-friendly experience over relying on a roster full of famous pros.
But this isn’t to say that sponsorships are totally dead these days. Stars has proven this by signing several players over the last few months that meet their brand strategy. First off, they signed Jaime Staples and Jason Somerville because of their big presence on Twitch, the live-streaming site that’s seen as the next big thing in poker. Other signings reflect PokerStars’ ambitions in Asian – even in countries like Japan, where poker isn’t even legal. For instance, they signed model/actress Yuiko Matsukawa namely because she’s a hot girl with mainstream fame in Japan.
Whatever PokerStars’ ultimate plan is with regard to sponsored players, it clearly doesn’t revolve around those who are just good at poker. Instead, signed players need to be multi-dimensional (w/ a Twitch presence) or just be cute/Asian like Matsukawa with no clue on how poker works.