As a small-time player, such sponsorships make little or no difference to me, not affecting one way or another my choice to play on a given site. There are probably at least a dozen other factors of greater relevance when I make such a decision, although I understand the influence sponsored players may have when it comes to attracting new players.
And as a poker writer, sponsorships are really only of interest insofar as they affect the tourneys I cover or other stories on which I might end up reporting. Which they do, now and then.
That said, I should probably clarify that while it doesn’t really matter that much to me who has left UB and who has joined them, I’m as intrigued as anyone by all of the hubbub the recent moves have created. And so, like most of you I imagine, I have been following a lot of the interviews and articles, too.
I listened to Annie Duke’s interview on this week’s episode of The Final Table podcast, the one co-hosted by Dennis Phillips. I read Phil Hellmuth’s interview for CardPlayer. I also read Prahlad Friedman’s very interesting interview with Bluff Magazine that appeared yesterday soon after his signing with the site was finally announced once and for all.
And I’ve followed a lot of the back-and-forthing on Twitter and in the forums, too. Fascinating to see some of the reactions to Friedman’s signing with same site that cheated him, as well as to the fact that his doing so comes after previously stating (several times) that he’d never sign with any site.
The whole situation with Friedman is truly peculiar. Talk about stranger than fiction. Just try explaining it to someone who isn’t as involved with the scene as we are. After the fifth or sixth twist and turn, you start to sound like a crazy person. Or at least an unreliable narrator.
Of course, the easiest explanation is to write off Friedman’s decision as a simple money grab, even if doing so means ignoring much of what he says in the Bluff piece. Even if that were the case, though, for the UB saga to take this unexpected turn is still quite remarkable.
The whole thing caused me to step back just a bit and opine on “Sponsorships in Online Poker” on Betfair poker today. I didn’t weigh in on Friedman in particular (though I do mention the news of his signing), but rather tried to make a few general observations about the value and significance of online sponsorships.
Late last week, UB pro and media and operations consultant Joe Sebok wrote a post on his blog following the departures of Duke and Hellmuth. “We’ll be announcing our newest Team UB member next week,” he wrote, telling his readers to “stay tuned” because it was “going to be a doozy.”
Whatever else Friedman’s signing might signify, it was most definitely that.