Every poker player hopes to win profits through their skills alone. But it’s always nice to supplement these winnings through other avenues. An online poker sponsorship is the perfect way to do this. These deals can offer live tournament buy-ins, high rakeback, or even a guaranteed salary.

The only problem is that sponsorships aren’t as prevalent as they once were. That being said, is it still possible to earn one of these deals? I’m going to answer this question by discussing the possibility of getting sponsored by an online poker site. But first, I’ll cover the era of big sponsorships and why it died out.

The Poker Boom Popularized the Sponsorship Concept



Online poker experienced a big boom from 2003 to 2006. This time period saw the industry explode while money flowed into many poker sites. The surplus of revenue allowed internet poker rooms to spend big on advertising and marketing. Part of these marketing efforts involved signing numerous pros to sponsorship deals.

Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars, and UB Poker were the three biggest sites in terms of sponsoring professional players. Each had dozens of pros wearing their patches at live tournaments. Full tilt was definitely the biggest spender in this category, as their team numbered in the hundreds at its height.

Some Full Tilt pros earned a seven-figure salary on top of having their live tourney buy-ins paid for. Even smaller sites got into the act by spending major money on sponsorship deals. DoylesRoom is one example, as they signed Chris Moorman, Steve Gross, and David “Doc” Sands. Obviously there’s value in having a famous poker pro represent your brand. But the enormous amount that sites were spending on these deals wasn’t worth it in most cases.

Black Friday Killed Off Many Poker Sponsorships



Prior to Black Friday, bigger online poker sites didn’t properly evaluate what they poured money into. The industry was booming and many sponsorship deals seemed to make sense. But major sites like PokerStars, Full Tilt, UB, and Absolute Poker were forced to vacate the US market after their owners were indicted on April 15, 2011.

The Southern District of New York Attorney’s Office indicted these companies’ owners on charges of money laundering and bank fraud. These poker rooms used shady payment processors to circumvent the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (2006), which had its own effect on the sponsorship mania five years prior. The online poker industry took a downturn following the events of Black Friday. The biggest sites were no longer drawing the revenue from the US market, which featured 330 million people.

Full Tilt, Absolute, and UB all closed around a year afterward. They couldn’t afford to repay their customers, let alone keep their countless sponsorship deals going. PokerStars has continued to maintain a large stable of pros in recent years. But Team PokerStars is still nowhere near its boom years height.

Sponsored Players Still Have Value Today



Legal events have reduced the number of available internet poker sponsorships. Furthermore, sites have realized that mindlessly paying pors to wear a patch isn’t effective marketing. But this isn’t to say that sponsored players are completely worthless in today’s poker world. Many sites still see the value that certain pros bring to the table.

The only catch, though, is that a sponsored pro needs appeal beyond just poker. This isn’t like the old days, where Full Tilt paid somebody handsomely just because they won the most recent World Poker Tour event. Instead, sites are looking for players who have appeal in multiple areas. Pro athletes, celebrities, Twitch streamers, and models have value beyond the felt.

Poker sites especially like a great player who can gain mainstream attention through TV and other avenues. Daniel Negreanu and Liv Boeree are two examples of pros that’ve experienced poker success and made a number of TV appearances.

How Can You Get an Online Poker Sponsorship Today?



The internet poker industry may not be thriving the same way it was a decade ago. But over a dozen sites are still pulling in lots of money from the game. Therefore, iPoker rooms are still willing to sponsor players under the right circumstances. You just need to meet the criteria they’re looking for in order to qualify.

The most obvious way that you can get sponsored is by having fame in another industry. Simple examples of this include Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus striker), Rafael Nadal (elite tennis player), and Neymar Jr. (Paris Saint-Germain striker).

Chances are that you don’t have the same popularity as Ronaldo. If so, you’ll be looking for a more practical way of getting a deal. Assuming you’re not a major celebrity, then you’ll definitely need to be really good at poker and have measurable results.

Again, you can’t rely on poker results alone to get signed. But this is one part of the equation, because sites don’t just sponsor any random Twitch streamer or YouTuber. After you become a good player, you need to stand out in other areas such as social media, Twitch streaming, having respect within the community, or outstanding poker accomplishments.

Jaime Staples and Jason Somerville have managed to earn lucrative sponsorship deals thanks to their numerous Twitch followers. Both do an excellent job of holding their audience’s attention through poker tips and discussions.

Partypoker has recently begun signing pros who have respect within the community and can get players’ opinions on how to make the site better. Randy “nanonoko” Lew is an example of a player with outstanding accomplishments. Lew has earned millions of dollars through multi-tabling over the years and continues grinding in cash games at PokerStars.

You can see that there are multiple routes towards getting a sponsorship deal. And there’s no easy way to get noticed and be signed. The players I’ve mentioned in this section have spent years playing the game and building their brand. Therefore, perseverance and hard work are keys to landing a deal.

What Do You Get as a Sponsored Player?



The nature of a sponsorship deal can vary based on the site and player. But here are three possible perks of a deal:

  • Tournament buy-ins covered
  • Rakeback
  • Salary

Keep in mind that a sponsored pro may only receive one or two of these benefits. But even receiving 100% rakeback at your favorite site or getting a few live tournament buy-ins covered can be valuable.

Much of what you receive for a sponsorship depends upon the site in question. Stars can afford to pay the most and offer the best benefits to its players. Most smaller poker sites can’t pay somebody a six-figure salary just to represent them. But they can cover a $10,000 WSOP Main Event buy-in or give a player up to 100% rakeback.

What Will You Have to Do as a Sponsored Player?



The demands of a sponsorship deal can vary. But one of the most common requirements involves wearing your sponsor’s patch during live events. Poker pros have been wearing patches for over a decade. These patches pay off if you make a deep run in a televised tourney, where more viewers will see you.

Appearing in online promotions is another potential requirement to representing a poker site. Some iPoker rooms theme an entire promo around a sponsored pro appearing in bounty tournaments or challenging players to heads-up cash games.

Certain deals may even require a pro to provide work for the site. This can be anything from advising the software development team on features that can improve players’ experience, or representing their site on forums. Overall, the demands of a sponsorship are usually worth it in comparison to the compensation.

Do You Really Need a Sponsorship?

Sponsorship deals were once important for prosto survive in the game. This was especially the case for live tournament pros during the boom years. Making it in live tourneys is extremely tough due to the large buy-ins and variance. You could toil away for years in these events before you’re finally able to notch a big score.

Because of this, many poker pros salivated over the prospect of getting sponsored and having their tournament buy-ins covered. The poker landscape has changed greatly, though, because deals are no longer crucial with regard to being successful.

Online poker is available to most countries throughout the world. This allows anybody with enough funds and a bank account to start playing tournaments and cash games for real money. Of course, this isn’t to say that earlier sponsored pros couldn’t play online. But many players today realize that it’s easier to sit at home, save on travel costs, and build a bankroll without hitting the live circuit. Those who still want to compete in major live tourneys can do so much easier thanks to satellites. One can spend dollars or even pennies to work their way from a small satellite to an expensive WSOP seat.

Another benefit to playing over the internet is that there are plenty of major online tournament series available. Events like PokerStars’ Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP), 888’s Super XL Series, partypoker’s POWERFEST, and PokerStars’ World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) offer massive prize pools.

I’m not trying to steer you away from pursuing a deal. Getting rakeback, covered tournament buy-ins, and actual paychecks can provide a huge boost. However, the days of actually needing a sponsorship just to be successful are long gone.

VIP Rewards Help the Unsponsored

Don’t feel bad if you fail to meet the criteria that I covered before on earning a sponsorship. Very few players have the type of Twitch following, community acknowledgement, or celebrity status to get a deal. But this doesn’t mean that you have to entirely miss out on some of the benefits that sponsored pros receive. Online VIP programs give you the opportunity to collect rakeback, tournament tickets, freeroll tickets, and more.

Of course, not every online poker loyalty program is created equally. This is why you want to choose sites that give you the best opportunity to cash in. PokerStars, 888poker, Ignition Poker, and Americas Cardroom offer some of the industry’s best VIP programs. Each of these sites allow you to climb their loyalty ladders towards better rewards.

If you have a favorite poker site beyond this group, then check out their VIP plan and see what’s available. Playing a high enough volume can lead to the type of bonuses that make it feel like you’re sponsored.

Conclusion

Online poker certainly doesn’t feature the same amount of sponsorship offers that it once did. Black Friday effectively wiped out three of the largest poker sites and forced others to rethink the heavy sponsorship model. This isn’t to say that you can’t still get a deal, though, because many iPoker rooms are still signing players.  You just have to look at things from a different angle than the old path, which involved winning a big tournament or two before landing a deal.

Modern sponsored players have value beyond just the felt. They also have a social media following, fame outside of poker, and/or are respected by the community. Of course, you still need to be good at poker in order to get sponsored. Only world-famous athletes and celebrities have a shot at being signed otherwise.

But the key is to bring all-around value to poker sites. The easiest way to do this is by becoming a successful Twitch streamer and developing an overall following. Internet poker rooms like players who already have followers beyond the site. Twitch, YouTube, and Twitter are all ways to accomplish this without being a celebrity.

But don’t get down if you never land a sponsorship. These deals are far less frequent in the modern poker era. Furthermore, it’s not totally necessary that you have a deal. The widespread availability of online poker makes it easier for anybody to get started.

Also be sure to take advantage of your favorite poker site’s VIP program. Moving up to the highest loyalty level can lead to huge rewards. More importantly, extra rewards boost your chances of winning and being successful in poker.

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