Full Tilt Sponsors Hearthstone Team

Two different worlds of competitive card games collided recently as Full Tilt has partnered with G2 Esports as a major sponsor. Initially, the sponsorship will be focused on G2’s Hearthstone team, though it does sound like there are plans to expand the partnership if things go well.

Hearthstone is an extraordinarily popular online card-based strategy battle game, hosted by the aptly-named Battle.net service. Like poker, Hearthstone is very easy to learn, but extremely difficult to master. The game is completely free to play – there is no wagering involved online, as in poker – but still remains quite competitive for most people because of the desire to move up in the online rankings. Of course, as one might guess based on the fact that this is about an e-sports Hearthstone team, many of the best players in the world compete in organized live tournaments for cash prizes.

hearthstone logoHearthstone is a similar game to Magic: The Gathering and Pokemon, in that players construct a deck of cards to take into battle against another player. Each card has its own strengths and weaknesses – for instance, a card might do little damage to the opponent but might at the same time shield its owner from attacks. Another card might do a ton of damage, but cost too much mana (essentially a limited amount of energy that can be spent on moves each turn) to use frequently. The goal is to whittle the other player’s “hero” down to zero health through strategy card selection and play combinations.

As the game is free to play, everyone is given a basic selection of cards from which to construct decks. Additional cards can be earned through play or in the game’s store. The store accepts in-game currency, which is also earned through gameplay, as payment, as well as real money. But again, there is no requirement to spend real money on the game and plenty of people have fun never spending a dime.

In speaking of the partnership, G2 Esports’ founder and CEO, Carlos “ocelote” Rodríguez Santiago, said in a press release:

Gaming and poker have a long intertwined history with successful gamers effectively transferring skills such as mental strength, determination, concentration and endurance for long hours of play; to the game of poker. Therefore partnering up with an innovative site like Full Tilt was a natural step.  We are confident that the sponsorship will help introduce Full Tilt to our fans in a complementary way, giving the site and the game of poker in general, greater exposure in the esports world.

A recent example of that poker/esports crossover came in November, when Daniel Negreanu and Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier squared off in an exhibition Hearthstone match at Blizzcon 2015 in Anaheim, California. Negreanu won the best 3-out-of-5 heads-up contest.

Grospellier actually used to be a professional gamer many moons ago, competing with the AMD/Hexatron team in StarCraft in 2002. Negreanu is a relatively newcomer to esports, but has already made his way up to “Legend” status on Hearthstone.

Amongst the other similarities between poker and Hearthstone is live streaming. While streaming has only just started to become big in the poker world in the last year or two, it has been a major part of the Hearthstone community for quite some time. Many players have grown their own celebrity and made lots of money purely by streaming their games on Twitch. Like with poker, these players stream to entertain their viewers, educate them on proper strategy, or both.

G2’s Heartstone team is composed of the players Adrian “Lifecoach” Koy, Jakub “Lothar” Szygulski, Dima “Rdu” Radu, and Thijs “ThijsNL” Molendijk. Lifecoach is a former poker player with $134,717 in live tournament earnings to his name. He has no recorded cashes since 2007, though (when he finished 16th in the European Poker Tour Prague Main Event), as he has, of course, moved on to professional esports.

ThijsNL, whose nickname sounds like he would have a poker background, is currently ranked second in GosuGamers’ world Hearthstone player rankings, but has been rated as the top dog.

Full Tilt’s Marketing Director, Mark Ody, also weighed in the partnership in the press release, saying:

Esports players love the thrill of competition, the battle of wits, and facing off against a tough opponent as they move into the unknown.  That’s why we think that they’ll love learning more about poker, which is one of the modern world’s finest games, because it is a great mix of turn-based strategy and role playing games.  On the other hand, poker is much safer than the old days of the Wild West, so it is no longer a first-person shooter.


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