The World Series of Poker is the biggest poker tournament in the world because it offers poker players an opportunity to change their life forever by providing them with lucrative financial opportunities. Poker players who managed to make the final table had a chance to win a considerable cash prize, a coveted WSOP bracelet, extensive media coverage which usually led to them obtaining a contract as a brand ambassador with one of the leading poker companies in the world.
Before Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars were acquired by Amaya Gaming, both companies used to fiercely compete to hire poker players who made the main table at the WSOP. The idea was to get the most popular and recognized poker players to be the face of these online poker websites. These poker players were awarded a number of benefits including contracts that were in the range of a million dollars.
Full Tilt Poker had the biggest team of star poker players and offered a rakeback along with hourly wages which amounted to around $35 per hour. The Full Tilt roster was over 150 players and the company used to pay out close to $10 million a month in wages. Phil Ivey who represented Full Tilt for a number of years was reported to have been paid close to $1 million each month.
The online poker market in the United States declined significantly in 2014 and online poker websites reported a major decline in revenue. Ultimate Poker shutdown operations in New Jersey and Nevada while other poker websites looked at different strategies to reduce their costs. Amaya Gaming also decided to change PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker’s strategy of using brand ambassadors for promotional activities and decided to let go of their star roster.
Full Tilt Poker dropped the likes of Viktor Blom, Tom Dwan and Gus Hansen while PokerStars dropped Jose Barbero, Humberto Brenes, Marcel Luske, Angel Guillen and George Danzer. PokerStars dropped 60 brand ambassadors in 2014 and is left with just 39 brand ambassadors for now.
In a statement, PokerStars representative said
While we are not actively searching for new U.S. pros, we are always open minded about recruiting new members of Team PokerStars Pro. We currently have a number of U.S. members of Team PokerStars Pro who are very successfully spreading poker to new audiences, and we are proud to maintain those relationships.