Goodbye Team Pro
Wednesday, 26 November 2014
On Friday night, PokerStars.com announced that it will be rolling out online casino gaming alongside its internet poker. As a result, on Saturday morning, I terminated my endorsement contract with them.
Their news was very sudden, so I didn’t have much time to consider my position, but I knew I had to act quickly before I could think better of it. Obviously this is a scary and sad decision for me to make. I have been with PokerStars since 2007 and Team Pro has been a core part of my identity. Obviously I will miss the money and am nervous of managing without it. Also, ironically enough, my plan for the next year or two had been to travel less and play more online.
But I can’t hang around, sleep on it, have meetings and talk myself into staying, when my gut tells me that the right thing is to walk away. This is no criticism of PokerStars itself: business is business, they are providing a new service that people want, and I know they intend to abide by some key principles of responsible gaming. It’s not anti-casino either; I spend a lot of time in casinos, and I have been known to indulge in live table gaming.
But I cannot professionally and publicly endorse it, even passively by silence with my name still over the shop. Poker is the game I love, poker is what I signed up to promote. The question I’m probably asked most often in interviews is about the danger of addiction, going skint and so on. I’m always careful to explain the difference between the essentially fair nature of poker, where we all take each other on with the same basic chance, and those casino games at unfavourable odds which can be (especially online) so dangerous for the vulnerable or desperate. Although PokerStars assured me I would not have to actively promote the casino arm, I know in my heart that continuing in my current role could risk helping to send people to a place where they would encounter something I think is dangerous. That’s not the way I want to make a living.
I will watch from the outside to see what the new site looks like, how safe and responsible it seems, how the advertising feels and the direction the company takes. Maybe in the future I will be able to work with PokerStars again on something which is pure poker. I don’t know, but certainly there are no hard feelings between me and that company which has done so much for the beautiful game over the last decade. They have been gracious and understanding about my decision. Many of the people there are good friends of mine and I’ll miss working with them. The EPT and UKIPT are great tours which I will continue to play, if a little less often. I have had seven wonderful years as a proud member of Team Pro and I wish it wasn’t over. This is a very sad and regretful day for me. I still believe that PokerStars is, at time of writing, the best place to play online poker.
Players and gamblers of the world: I’m sure I’ll still see you all across the occasional baize table. Best wishes to all at PokerStars, whether working within the company, wearing the badge or giving action on the software. Play safely, be careful and good luck.