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Greg Merson Signs Sponsorship Deal with WSOP.com

One would expect someone who was crowned King of Poker by winning the World Series of Poker Main Event to have a particular fondness for the year’s most significant poker festival. I know if I won a bunch of millions at the WSOP that it would always occupy a singular place in my heart. But earlier this month, Greg Merson, the 2012 Main Event champ, went a little bonkers with his reverence for the nearly five decade-old tournament series. It now appears that there might be a reason for it.

To review, at the start of the 2014 WSOP Main Event, Merson put out a series of tweets blasting the World Poker Tour for holding its own poker tournament at the same time just down the street. The $500 + $65 WPT500, held at the ARIA Resort and Casino, ran July 4th through July 9th, the first five days of which were separate starting flights. The $10,000 WSOP Main Event had its three Day 1’s on July 5th, 6th, and 7th and its two Day 2’s on July 8th and 9th.

Seemingly not understanding that the much lower buy-in and lack of prestige essentially made the WPT500 a non-competitor to the WSOP Main Event and that, even if it was, it was scheduled in such a way so as to make it possible for poker players to participate in both, Merson ranted on Twitter, “Can’t breath [sic] on partypoker/WPT trying to step on the toes of the WSOP main event. Of course you can play both but very disrespectful IMO.”

2012 WSOP Main Event Champion Greg Merson Image Credit: WSOP.com

2012 WSOP Main Event Champion Greg Merson
Image Credit: WSOP.com

He kept going, saying, “The main event is our Super Bowl, save your 5 day re-entry money grab for another date,” and concluded with, “Just a desperate attempt by a company trying to hold onto a glimmer of the spotlight as they have continued to slid since 2006 #showers”

Greg Merson was seeing flying lawnmowers.

As I wrote at the time, Merson’s vitriol was just so peculiar. Why on Earth would he get so upset about this? Why couldn’t he see that the scheduling of the WPT500 would have absolutely no effect on either the attendance, spectacle, or prestige of the WSOP Main Event? Why was this an issue? And why would he think it was a good idea to tweet about it?

I half-expected him to reveal that his Twitter account had been hacked.

I wondered why Merson was so unwaveringly loyal to the WSOP (he was also scheduled to play in a charity event at a Caesars property on one of the days of a WSOP Main Event starting flight) and thought that maybe he had some sort of business relationship going on, though that still wouldn’t explain the hilarity of the tweets. As it turns out, he DOES have a relationship with the WSOP.

In a post on the Two Plus Two poker forums last Thursday, Greg Merson confirmed that he has signed a sponsorship deal with WSOP.com, the World Series of Poker’s U.S.-based regulated online poker room that operates in both Nevada and New Jersey. It is unknown if this deal was in place at the time of his earlier tweets, but it was likely in the works, at the very least.

It appears that Merson didn’t actually plan to announce his sponsorship in that thread, but the thread started with someone questioning his online gaming practices, so he felt compelled to respond. Over the last few weeks, Merson has occasionally posted pictures of himself playing at WSOP.com on his various social network sites. A poster noticed that Merson had been playing under the screen name “Toddmcshay,” but then later was using the handle “GregMerson.” Concerned that Merson may have been multi-accounting, the poster asked the poker community about it.

A couple days after the original post, Merson spoke up, responding, “My name change was due to signing with WSOP.com and apologize if that wasn’t more clear by my tweets and instagram. Since the name change I have not played on my other screen as it has been terminated afaik.”

WSOP.com’s Head of Online Poker, Bill Rini, later confirmed that Merson never played under the “Toddmcshay” screen name after starting up the “GregMerson” one and that, as Merson said, the original screen name has been deleted.

Merson has been playing on WSOP.com in Las Vegas, but said he is soon moving to New Jersey to play on the site out east. He should see more action after the move. According to PokerScout.com, WSOP New Jersey has an average of 130 cash players in the last seven days, while WSOP Nevada has 120. It is not a huge difference, but WSOP Nevada’s numbers were propped up by the migration of poker players to Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker and while they are now leaving, there may be some residual effect from the WSOP bump. While the seven-day average does not take into account any traffic while the WSOP was in session anymore and therefore has already reflected the exit of players from the state, it would not be surprising if WSOP Nevada’s traffic continues to sink a bit over the next few weeks. The site’s peak traffic numbers the last two days were the lowest they had been since the WSOP ended.

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