ElkY Departs Team PokerStars Pro as Marketing Refocus Continues
Add another prominent pro to the list of those no longer employed as a brand ambassador for the world’s largest online-poker site, PokerStars. This time, it’s leading French star Bertrand Grospellier, a/k/a “ElkY,” who’s no longer to be patched up under the Stars brand.
Grospellier made the announcement yesterday via several social media channels, and though he and PokerStars appear to have parted on very amicable terms, there’s enough in what he posted to continue to be curious about PokerStars’ ongoing marketing shift. Grospellier joins American poker pros Jason Mercier and Vanessa Selbst in being excised from Stars’ sponsored-pro lineup in recent weeks, and others may on the chopping block as well.
Grospellier took a clear shot at current Stars Group (formerly Amaya, Inc) upper management when he wrote:
After 11,5 years of a great partnership, it is time to move on for PokerStars and I.
We had a wonderful journey together, and I am so glad for all the great people it gave the chance to work with and befriend, but 2017 showed me it was time to stop and open up a new chapter. 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.
On my side, I am happy to have been involved — except those last few years, unfortunately — on how PokerStars could offer the best poker experience and improve players’ satisfaction. It was an amazing experience, especially during the Scheinberg era, until 2014, when their vision brought poker, PokerStars, and the players to constant new heights.
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.
I am now content and eager to start a new and very exciting challenge… more info soon! 🙂
Whether or not ElkY was outright released or was offered a renewal contract too paltry for serious consideration is unclear, just as it was for Mercier and Selbst, who left the expansive Stars Pro lineup at the start of 2018. Nonetheless, many pros have chafed under the direction the site has taken since its acquisition by Amaya back in 2014.
There’s little doubt that ElkY would be among the growing chorus of poker-world peeps likely would have liked to have seen original Stars co-founder Isai Scheinberg bite the bullet and reach a settlement with the United States’ Department of Justice, and thus stay at the Stars helm. That would have been difficult, and Scheinberg undoubtedly made a better financial choice by selling out, but the embarrassments of the Baazov / Amaya era are still ongoing and the renamed Stars Group is still foundering a bit as it changes gears for the future.
Grospellier didn’t declare what that “new and very exciting challenge” might entail, but something to do with esports is a safe bet. He’s already involved with the Euro-based TeamLiquid, and Grospellier has a long, long background in esports, even before “esports” was a term. Though a native of France, Grospellier was a professional StarCraft player in South Korea before his breakthrough poker triumphs last decade, and that e-gaming experience is part of what made him extra-attractive to PokerStars in the first place.
It’s also odd that Stars is turning away from a prominent French poker pro at the same time it’s investing in the new Western European pooled-player offerings. Those currently combine France and Spain, with Italy and Portugal likely to be joined in as well. PokerStars was the first to offer pooled tourneys open to both French and Spanish players, as they touted in a presser just a few days back.
One might think that there’s room in there for the marketing of a prominent and personable French pro, but… it seems not. The situation does, though, offer contrast to the discontinuation of the Stars deals with Mercier and Selbst, since PokerStars continues to encounter strong headwinds in its attempts to reopen the US online-poker markets beyond a toehold in New Jersey.
ElkY’s efforts on behalf of PokerStars were well appreciated by at least some at the company. Stars’ Director of Corporate Communications, Eric Hollreiser, was quick to praise Elky on his years of brand-promoting service. “You’ve been a great ambassador for the brand and for poker @elkypoker,” wrote Hollreiser. “All the best for the future….”
Added Hollreiser, with just a dash of corporate spin, “Elky is great. That said, @pokerstars continues to have the strongest lineup of ambassadors that represent the diversity of modern players and the aspirations of the current and future generation of players.”