Posts Tagged ‘team’

Bertrand ‘ElkY’ Grospellier Latest Team PokerStars Pro to End Sponsorship

 Bertrand ‘ElkY’ Grospellier Latest Team PokerStars Pro to End Sponsorship

Continuing the exodus from the world’s number one online poker room, poker professional Bertrand ‘ElkY’ Grospellier announced yesterday that he was ending his association with PokerStars and its Team PokerStars Pro stable.

In a Twitter announcement yesterday, Grospellier issued his decision to his fans and the poker community. “After 11.5 years of a great partnership, it is time to move on for PokerStars and I,” Grospellier began. “We had a wonderful journey together and I am glad for all the great people it gave me the chance to work with and befriend…2017 showed it was time to stop and open a new chapter.”

“Team Pro used to be a core part of their (PokerStars’) strategy,” Grospellier continued. “It has become evident this was not the case anymore, during the last few years. I respect that. On my side, I am happy to have been involved – except those last few years unfortunately – on how PokerStars could offer the best Poker (sic) experience…it was an amazing privilege, especially during the Scheinberg era…when their vision brought poker, PokerStars and the players to constant new heights.”

Grospellier didn’t explain any further what the difference was since 2014, when the Scheinberg Family sold PokerStars to the then-Amaya Gaming (now the Stars Group), and he only cryptically offered a view to his future. “I am too young to only be sponsored,” he finished. “I want to bring added value and be consulted for strategic decision as I used to be. I am now content and eager to start a new and very exciting challenge – more info soon 😉.”

Originally one of the top video gamers in the world, Grospellier easily moved his mind and his skills into the world of poker back in 2004. He was the first player to reach the vaunted “SuperNova” and “SuperNova Elite” levels over the years, but his skills weren’t limited to only online (two World Championship of Online Poker titles and a Spring Championship of Online Poker win). He won a World Series of Poker bracelet in 2011 in a $ 10,000 Seven Card Stud tournament and was a terror in High Roller events around the world. His more than $ 13.5 million in career earnings seat him firmly in the Top 50 in the 29th place slot.

The continued exodus of Team PokerStars Pros is something that must be concerning to The Stars Group, however. Earlier this month both Vanessa Selbst and Jason Mercier, for their own reasons, chose to leave what is considered THE top sponsorship that a player can earn. Especially when you look at the length of time that Selbst, Mercier and Grospellier had been with the organization (all were around a decade in their sponsorships), there gives one pause to think about what might be causing these departures.

There is no doubt that the “culture” has changed at PokerStars. During the days of the Scheinbergs, the players were the focal point of the business and the management and Team PokerStars Pros went out of their way to make the experience special for those who played on the site. The players, for their part, were also integral to marketing and (some) management decisions that they could offer their expertise for.

That all changed – and changed rapidly – once Amaya Gaming purchased PokerStars and its related entities in 2014. Now faced with having to please a Board of Directors and stockholders, the decisions were made more on the financial side and input from the PokerStars Pro members wasn’t as valued as it once was. It is something that is significant and cannot be ignored in considering the moves by the pros.

You can believe that Mercier, with a new wife and a child, is now wanting to change his life. You MIGHT even believe that Selbst’s statement about poker “not being fun” anymore is the truth. But when Grospellier steps up and says that he is leaving because his input wasn’t being requested anymore, then you know there’s some issues coming out.

We more than likely haven’t seen the last of Grospellier. At no point did he say he was “retiring” from poker and the cryptic statement at the end of his announcement leads one to believe that he will be getting into another online poker endeavor in some manner. What we can do is just as we did with Selbst and Mercier – wish him the best and look forward to when he does make any type of return to the game.

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Jason Mercier Leaves Team PokerStars Pro

 Jason Mercier Leaves Team PokerStars Pro

Another American poker pro has left Team PokerStars, as Jason Mercier has announced his departure from his role as a site ambassador. As with fellow pro Vanessa Selbst, Mercier’s stint with PokerStars was effective at the end of 2017.

In a blog post on PokerStars’ website, Mercier explained that the reason for his decision – his contract with PokerStars was up at the end of 2017 and he had to think about what to do about renewal – revolved completely around his family and his newborn child.

His son, Marco Henry, was born three months ago. As any parent knows, having a child changes one’s life and priorities immediately. Said Mercier:

After my son was born, I knew things were going to be different. One of the major things to address was my relationship with PokerStars. My contract was set to expire at the end of 2017, and I wasn’t sure what exactly was going to happen there. I had a lot of questions rolling around my head. Do I even want to travel now? How much can I travel? Should I continue playing poker so much? How’s it going to be on the road with a baby? Does PokerStars want me to do more? Is my wife going to continue to play poker? DO WE NEED A FULL TIME NANNY!!??

Mercier said he “delayed my inevitable contract discussion” with PokerStars, but as the end of the year drew near, he realized it was time to call it quits. He needed to stop traveling full time and be home with his family.

While I have never been and never will be in the sort of position Mercier is in as an extremely successful poker pro, I did make a somewhat similar decision with my career in the poker world, though on a much smaller scale. When I started out in poker, I covered the WSOP live in Las Vegas in both 2005 and 2006. In 2006, my wife was pregnant with our first child, who was born that October. The following year, this site’s ownership (different ownership than today) asked if I could cover the WSOP again. I said no, as I did not want to leave my wife and infant, especially since my wife worked full-time. While I missed being at the Rio, it really wasn’t a difficult decision, and fortunately, my boss was onboard with it.

“The conversation about my contract was short and sweet,” Mercier wrote. “There were no hard feelings and there never would or could be. I was a PokerStars Pro for eight and a half wonderful years. I’m forever grateful that they took a chance on me when I was just a 22-year-old kid who had just captured his first gold bracelet in the summer of 2009. There were times when I thought I might be a PokerStars Pro for the rest of my life… hey, a kid can dream can’t he? Thank you to all of the wonderful people I worked with at PokerStars, your support and friendship has been invaluable.”

At the end of the blog post, Stephen Bartley of the PokerStars Blog staff, added a footnote from the site. He briefly described how they had met Mercier and how one thing that stuck out about him was that “he came across as a man who valued nothing more than the trappings of his family, and his friends.”

“So it was not really surprising to hear that it was his wife Natasha, and young son Marco took priority over a poker career at this stage of his life,” Bartley wrote. “The pride he takes in being a father and husband is clear for anyone to see. So while he’ll be missed as a PokerStars regular, we pass on our thanks and best wishes to Jason and his family, and look forward to seeing him at a PokerStars event soon.”

Cover photo credit: WSOP.com / Jamie Thomson

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Las Vegas’ WNBA Team Has a Great New Name

 Las Vegas’ WNBA Team Has a Great New Name

When the news broke in October that the San Antonio Stars of the WNBA were purchased by MGM Resorts International and moved to Las Vegas, a few things popped into my head: a) that stinks for fans in San Antonio, b) how interesting that a gaming corporation acquired a professional sports team, c) Las Vegas really has some sports momentum right now, and d) they are TOTALLY going to flub the team’s name, if it is renamed.

To my shock and delight, though, I was proven wrong on that last point! MGM Resorts International recently announced that the new name of its WNBA team will be the “Aces.” How about that? A simple, catchy, gambling-related name for a Las Vegas sports team! And if someone doesn’t like the gambling connotations of the name, just use an excellent alternate definition of Aces, like “great” or “people who are really good at sports!” It works for everyone!

“Selecting a new name is an important and symbolic step,” said Las Vegas Aces President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach Bill Laimbeer. “Las Vegas has enthusiastically embraced us, and we’re incredibly excited for this opportunity. We have a strong roster driven to succeed, which makes this name an ideal choice. ‘Las Vegas Aces’ is a nod to the excellence, confidence and competitive spirit of our new hometown.”

Excellence, yeah, when you go with one of my alternate definitions of Aces. Confidence, I guess, if you stretch it a bit. Competitive spirit? No. It’s a nod to poker and blackjack. But hey, it’s a great name, so let’s stop arguing.

As mentioned, that the league owners approved of the sale of the Stars to MGM and the subsequent move to Las Vegas is significant, as professional sports leagues in the U.S. have seemingly forever been against sports betting, or at least have tried to make the public think they are. Now, the Connecticut Sun of the WNBA were already owned by Mohegan Sun, so there is certainly precedent in the WNBA, but the sale and move is significant nonetheless. There has been a migration to Las Vegas in the past year: the NHL’s Golden Knights are in their first year, the NFL’s Oakland Raiders have already announced they are moving to Las Vegas and will be there by 2020, the Las Vegas Lights FC of the United Soccer League will begin play in 2018, and now the Las Vegas Aces are in “Sin City.”

This is the second relocation for the franchise. It began as the Utah Starzz, one of the WNBA’s original eight teams, owned by the NBA. After the 2002 season, the NBA sold all of the teams and the Starzz moved to San Antonio, to be renamed the Silver Stars (the “Silver” was eventually dropped). Good seasons have been few and far between for the franchise, which has finished with the worst record in the WNBA the past three seasons.

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MGM Acquires WNBA’s San Antonio Stars, Will Relocate Team to Las Vegas

 MGM Acquires WNBA’s San Antonio Stars, Will Relocate Team to Las Vegas

Fear of gambling keeps getting harder to justify for professional sports leagues as MGM Resorts International has purchased the WNBA’s San Antonio Stars and will move the team to Las Vegas for the 2018 season. After decades of staying away from the gambling capital of world, the leagues are now flocking there. The NHL’s Golden Knights just began its inaugural season, the NFL’s Oakland Raiders will be moving to Las Vegas by 2020, and the United Soccer League’s Las Vegas Lights are slated to begin play next year.

The NBA, which backs the WNBA, has had Summer League games in Las Vegas for a number of years.

WNBA President Lisa Borders told the Associated Press, which originally broke the story this morning, that the league has been eyeing Las Vegas “for some time.”

Simultaneous to the Stars’ move comes the hiring of former Detroit Pistons great and New York Liberty head coach Bill Laimbeer as the Stars’ new head coach and president of basketball operations.

“He’ll run the basketball side of the business,” Borders said in her interview with the AP. “The MGM team and the league will work to staff the business side. The folks that will run business, sales, social, digital, all the functions to run the business.”

The team will play at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. Lilian Tomovich, MGM’s chief experience and marketing officer, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal of the decision, “Mandalay Bay is a smaller, more intimate arena with about 12,000 seats. We feel it’s the absolute right size arena for the fans to have that intimate experience to come watch basketball.”

As mentioned, aside from NBA Summer League games and minor league baseball, the major professional sports leagues in the United States have kept their distance from Las Vegas, claiming that sports betting can damage the integrity of the game. This is true – sports betting could damage the integrity of the game – but the fallacy of this argument is that it really doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not a team is located in Las Vegas.

In instances when someone committed sports betting crimes – say, taking money to shave points – the teams involved haven’t been based in Las Vegas or Nevada. The gambler or mobster was able to bet the money no matter where the teams involved were. Perhaps they bet with an illegal bookie, perhaps they actually placed the bets legally in Vegas (or had an accomplice place the bets). It doesn’t matter.

And today it is even sillier to worry about a team being in Las Vegas when it comes to betting on the games, as the players involved in the games could always place bets online if they want. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics kick off the NBA season tonight and if he wanted, LeBron James could logon to an online sports book and bet on or against his team quite easily. And he is nowhere near Las Vegas at the moment.

MGM is the second gambling corporation to take ownership of a WNBA team. The Connecticut Sun has been owned by the Mohegan Sun since 2003.

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New Team Poker Organization Attempts to Capture Poker Players’ Attention

 New Team Poker Organization Attempts to Capture Poker Players’ Attention

For at least the last couple of decades, there has been attempts at creating a poker system that would involve teams. While poker is, at its essence, an individualistic pursuit, casual fans and newcomers have stated in the past that “team” competition is something they also like. Several attempts have come in a live format and now one has started for the online world.

Team Gaming announced recently their “Team Poker” concept, which has been trademarked by its founder, Glyn Ottorfy. Citing previous efforts that present “no good team play option for online poker, partly due to the potential for collusion,” Ottorfy’s “Team Poker” system has created a system that allows for tournament competitions, team versus team battles and promotions, among other things. Also taken into consideration are team sizes, with a handicap process which allows smaller teams to compete on par with larger ones.

In the effort to combat collusion, the “Team Poker” concept employs what is called by the company a patent-pending “Seating Protocol” which “eliminates any potential for collusion between teammates in poker tournaments by never allowing teammates on the same table with opponents.” Few details are provided on this “protocol,” however, including how it would apply to final table circumstances.

“Our patented system brings a synergism and camaraderie to poker that only teams can enable,” said Ottorfy during the announcement of the new organization. “We plan to re-ignite the poker industry with team and league play in addition to the traditional individual performance and reward system. Team Poker is truly the new paradigm in poker.”

Ottorfy is looking to crowdsource the backing to get Team Poker up and running. Team Poker has been posted to Indiegogo, where the goal is to raise $ 50,000 within the next two months. Several award levels are offered to those who get involved, including subscriptions for play on the site and team waivers. The newly released Indiegogo campaign has had a bit of a time getting off the ground, however.

The “team poker” concept has been an idea that has been brewing since the early 1990s. Former gaming executive Robert Turner, in a discussion with this writer, recalled having an idea for a “team poker” concept as far back as 1991. “Marsha Waggoner and I took a team from the U. S. to Australia around 1992,” Turner commented. “Mike Sexton and Phil Hellmuth were on the trip, wish I had pictures!”

In 1999, Turner was behind the creation of World Team Poker, which he would spend the next decade bringing to fruition. “We signed 285 world-class players to contracts for the league,” Turner noted, which would be divvied up originally on a country status. In 2010, the first World Team Poker competition was held at the Bicycle Casino, with Team China (featuring former World Champion Johnny Chan and Maria Ho as key cogs) taking the inaugural championship.

A second World Team Poker event was set for play in Las Vegas at the South Point Casino in May 2011, but fates would intervene. “We were set for play, had Fox Sports 1 on tap for airing the tournament in prime time, but “Black Friday” caused a delay,” Turner recounted. “We’re still keeping hope alive (about bringing World Team Poker back), however, if online poker could make a comeback.”

In its own way, the inaugural Global Poker League also presented a “team” concept. Started in 2016, the GPL captured the attention of many in the poker world, but a second season has been a bit slow in its premiere. The GPL founder, Alexandre Dreyfus, has stated he’s trying to fix issues with the league, such as its length in 2016 that lasted from March until November, before moving forward with the league.

Whether Ottorfy will be able to develop “Team Poker” remains to be seen. Changing the mindset of the “lone wolf” poker player, however, is a difficult task. Even if it is only online, Ottorfy’s “Team Poker” faces an uphill climb.

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