Elky's Departure From PokerStars Sparks Conversation on the Future of the Sponsored Pros

3 years ago
Elky's Departure From PokerStars Sparks Conversation on the Future of the Sponsored Pros
01 Feb

Triple Crown Bertrand "Elky" Grospellier leaves PokerStars with a statement that has sparked a conversation on the role of the sponsored pro.

Elky first rose to prominence as a StarCraft: Brood War progammer in South Korea, and like many, transitioned into playing for bigger prize pools in professional poker. 

And poker did not disappoint, he has a combined live and online earnings of over $15.4 Million (as of January 2018), and multiple world-class titles such as the coveted Triple Crown (WPT, WSOP, EPT), two WCOOP bracelets and a SCOOP watch.  

Most PokerStars Pros have got nowhere near those accomplishments, and most don't work half as hard as Grospellier did for the brand. 

He used his E-Sports celebrity to promote himself (and by extension PokerStars) to strategy game enthusiasts, like in this clip of him of him playing Hearthstone against fellow PokerStars Pro Daniel Negreanu on Blizzcon 2015.

His passion for Hearthstone eventually landed him a spot on Team Liquid and taking down his first tournament as a Hearthstone pro.

So why did such a great poker player and self-promoter leave PokerStars? 

PokerStars New Sponsored Pro Corporate Philosophy

"... Team Pro used to be a core part of their strategy, but it became evident this was not the case anymore during the last few years. I respect that."

In a statement published on his Twitter, Elky alluded to changes on how Stars Group (formerly Amaya) deals with their sponsor pros.

In the last few years, PokerStars has signed many from outside of poker to represent the brand, most recently Kevin Hart, keeping only pros who are willing to aggressively self-promote like Negreanu, Liv Boeree, and Elky himself.

However, to Elky, the changes behind the scenes are more important. During the Ian Scheinberg era, sponsored pros consulted on ways to offer "the best Poker experience and improve player satisfaction."

That has apparently changed in the last few years, however, leading to his dissatisfaction and eventual departure. 

"I am too young to only be sponsored, I want to bring added value and be consulted for strategic decision as I used to be". 

On the recent exodus of pros, Elky commented: 

What's Next For Elky

Nothing in his statement implied he is ready to leave poker, but it did leave us wondering what he would do next. If the trend continues, he will likely further pursue Hearthstone with Team Liquid, as his Twitter and Instagram feeds show he has a lot of fun. 

His departure sparked a conversation on the role sponsored pros should play. No doubt investments like Kevin Hart are important, but should sponsored pros be just influencers and promoters? Or is their role as consultants severely underrated?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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