Before poker Black Friday, online poker pro sponsorships were running rampant in the US through Full Tilt Poker and Poker Stars mainly and during the WSOP Main Event final table. Poker sites saw value in having poker ambassadors wearing their company patches at live events with spillover through various media outlets online and in print.
With the re-emergence of online poker in the US taking a legal route now, we can expect online poker rooms to start locking down some of the more prominent faces in the poker world as their site representatives. Most of the online rooms are run by large land based casinos and will have the budget to pay for lucrative sponsorship deals.
Ultimate Poker, a site owned by the same people who run the UFC and who also own Station Casinos and not to be confused with Ultimate Bet, have signed on Antonio Esfandiari ahead of their online launch.
“We’re thrilled to have Antonio Esfandiari represent our company,” Ultimate Poker Chairman Tom Breitling said in a news release. “Antonio is the ultimate champion and modern poker player. He brings the gaming lifestyle to the online arena with his work-hard, play-hard attitude.”
Esfandiari is the the first poker pro to represent a US-licensed online poker company. Antonio, aka “The Magician” is at the top of the career live tournament earnings list with more than $23 million in tournament winnings, including two World Poker Tour titles and three World Series of Poker bracelets. His $18 million win last year in the $1 million buy-in “Big One for One Drop” propelled him to the top of the list.
Ultimate Poker expects to attract fans from Ultimate Fighting Championship, which is owned by parent company Fertitta Entertainment.
Esfandiari has made numerous poker appearances in Canada over the past couple of years. He is a Playground Poker Club member where he has had a previous event named after him and fellow poker pro Phil Laak.