Gus Hansen, Viktor “Isildur1” Blom No Longer Full Tilt Pros
It’s not that it is stunning, as I think many people suspected this was coming, but it is still a bit strange. Full Tilt Poker is now devoid of big-name pitchmen. This week, Full Tilt confirmed that Gus Hansen and Viktor “isildur1” Blom are no longer sponsored pros of the site. This comes just days after their pictures had been removed from the site, sparking rumors that they were cutting ties.
In a statement circulated to media outlets, Full Tilt said:
We can confirm that Full Tilt’s sponsorship of Viktor Blom and Gus Hansen has expired. This follows a year-long review of the Full Tilt brand and a decision to move away from Pro-centric advertising to focus on the experiences and stories of the vast majority of our players. Full Tilt will celebrate the excitement, fun and intrinsic enjoyment of playing our poker, blackjack, roulette and slots games. A new TV campaign will launch imminently, representing this new approach. There will be more news on this later in the week. We would like to wish Viktor and Gus all the best in their future endeavours.
Hansen, Blom, and Tom “durrrr” Dwan comprised a team of players called “The Professionals,” signed to represent Full Tilt Poker in October 2012, shortly before the site was re-launched after the Black Friday debacle. Hansen was the first name announced in the beginning of that month, named the site’s “ambassador.” He was also one of the members of Team Full Tilt pre-Black Friday, though he was never considered one of its core members and his reputation remained largely unscathed after the player funds scandal.
Team Full Tilt began with the original investors in the company, Andy Bloch, Chris Ferguson, Phil Gordon, Phil Ivey, and Howard Lederer. Soon, Clonie Gowen, Jennifer Harman, John Juanda, Eric Lindgren, Mike Matusow, and Erik Seidel got onboard and for a few years, the team was set. Full Tilt had great numbers of “red pros” and “friends of Full Tilt” over the years, but it was not until 2006, during the World Series of Poker, that it announced that Gus Hansen had officially been added to Team Full Tilt. Allen Cunningham was added after Hansen, Patrik Antonius become a member in June 2008, and Dwan was added in November 2009, the first member of Team Full Tilt to have made a name for himself mainly through online play.
Viktor Blom also fit the Dwan mold, almost exclusively sticking to internet poker at the beginning of his career. He quickly became almost a mythological figure, hiding behind his “Isildur1” screen name (that’s not a bad thing, mind you) and throwing around tons of money in the highest stakes online cash games in 2009. Nobody knew who he was, only that he was from Sweden and that he treated poker chips like bottle caps. As of the time he and Dwan joined “The Professionals,” Blom had been involved in the ten largest pots in online poker history, according to highstakesdb.com.
Three months before Black Friday, PokerStars announced the signing of “Isildur1” to its team and revealed his true identity at the 2011 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure.
Fast forward to the present and now the only sponsored players on Full Tilt are the Black Card Pros, who are simply the players who end each four month qualifying period with the highest ranking on the Black Card Leaderboard. There are no visible, big-name pros representing the site; Dwan left in December 2013.
What Full Tilt said in its statement makes sense. It has been readily apparent for a while now that it has been moving more towards appealing to the recreational player. It has been adding more casino games and it has rebranded itself to “Full Tilt” rather than “Full Tilt Poker.” With poker not nearly as visible on television as it was almost a decade ago, casual players simply are not as familiar with or impressed by poker pros as they once were when “Jesus” and “The Professor” were kings. Full Tilt Poker was founded based on the idea that anyone could logon and play and chat with the pros – I specifically remember playing for play money with Perry Friedman before real money was even an option on Full Tilt and how novel of thing that was – so having a stable of recognizable names didn’t just make sense, but was the cornerstone of Full Tilt’s brand identity.
But now, there is no need for it. Of the three “Professionals,” Hansen is the only one casual players might recognize and that is if they watched poker on television several years ago. Blom and Dwan mean virtually nothing to the recreational player, the kind of player Full Tilt is trying to attract. There are many people who love railing the nosebleed games, games in which Hansen, Blom, and Dwan have been fixtures over the years (Hansen has infamously lost $20 million online), but those people have been aware of Full Tilt for a long time and will likely keep playing there regardless of whether or not there are any headline pros. There is simply no reason for Full Tilt to keep paying these guys if their presence is not bringing in the casual players, the players who spend money on the site.