It’s night of the long knives at down at Ultimate Poker; the site culled over half of its Team U of sponsored pros this week, representing a change in marketing strategy, perhaps, for America’s first ever legal online poker site.
William Reynolds, Bret Hanks, Lauren Kling and former November Niners Jeremy Ausmus and Phil Collins were suspected of receiving the axe earlier in the week, having disappeared from the Ultimate Poker website’s “Team U Roster”.
Then Randy Dorfman, a former Team U Pro himself who resigned at the end of last year, along with Tom Marchesse, just months into his contract, confirmed the news on Twitter in slightly embittered terms:
“Ultimate Poker drops Pros Will Reynolds, Jeremy Ausmus, Phil Collins & Brent Hanks. Maybe time 4 Stations to drop people running UP? #toolate,” he exclaimed.
The shaved down Team U now comprises Antonio Esfandiari, Jason Somerville, Danielle Andersen and Dan O’ Brien.
The acquisition of a team of pros was vital to Ultimate Poker’s marketing strategy when it launched at the end of 2013; ambassadors who would rekindle public trust in online poker after the damage wrought upon its reputation by the events surrounding Black Friday.
Dorfman’s resignation statement in November 2013 offered an intriguing window into the world of Ultimate Poker and suggested all was not rosy
Antonio Esfandiari, in particular, was a major signing. Having become the biggest all-time money winner after his victory in the first ever one-drop, he was, at the time, the most marketable free agent on the planet. His reputation was spotless and he was already a familiar face to American TV poker fans. It was hoped he would represent continuity between pre-Black Friday poker and the new era in a wholly positive way, and that recreational players would feel that they were reconnecting with an old friend.
Whether the cull is indicative of a slash in the marketing budget due to less-than-expected revenue, or merely a new marketing direction, is open to speculation. However, Dorfman’s resignation statement in November 2013 offered an intriguing window into the world of Ultimate Poker and suggested all was not rosy.
“I have resigned from Ultimate Poker as their Team Pro,” he said. “At this point in my life there are more important and creative things for me to be involved with. To have your ideas and experiences from the game I love fall on deaf ears while you bust your ass to build a game for a new company just was extremely frustrating to me. I wish UP (Ultimate Poker) the best and I hope things do turn around for them. I met some great people there and hopefully the chemistry between all involved gets straighten (sic) out soon.”
It seems that it’s tougher than ever to get sponsorship these days, with poker sites dropping players far more frequently than they are offering contracts. Just this week, PokerStars dropped its long-time collaborator Humberto Brenes from “Team Latin America”, along with Nacho Barbero and Angel Guillen.
The company has said that because of budget cuts it will be phasing out its regional sponsored teams and can no longer support multiple representatives in certain regions.