Joe Cada, Marcel Luske and some other high-profile poker pros are on the forefront of a trend, but it’s probably not a trend they want to represent.
Because while PokerStars has made Joe Cada and other World Series of Poker Main Event champions into celebrities, and in turn has used them to secure their position as the world’s largest online poker site, it seems that gratitude is once again the least deeply felt emotion.
While it all might have seemed like a match made in heaven just a few years ago, now PokerStars has apparently grown weary of some of their star stable, and is summarily letting them go, with Cada and Luske among the most notable to not have their contracts renewed.
Joe Cada announced via Twitter that his relationship with PokerStars has come to an end. After mentioning the split offhand in a tweet to ESPN’s Andrew Feldman earlier this month, he confirmed the end of their partnership and gave more insight into how it ended on Wednesday.
Cada Says Lack of Rakeback Ended Relationship
“If everyone is wondering what happened with Poker Stars and myself it’s pretty simple. I asked for 100 percent rake back, they said no,” Cada tweeted. In conversations with followers, he elaborated: “I asked for zero money. I just wanted the rake back that I used to get.”
On the surface, the move is a surprising one, given Cada’s stature in the poker world. Cada won the WSOP Main Event in 2009, becoming the youngest champion in the history of the tournament in the process. The $8.5 million payday also attracted the attention of PokerStars, which quickly signed him to their professional stable, Team PokerStars.
Cada has backed up that title with some recent results as well. He won his second WSOP bracelet this past summer, wining the $10,000 No-Limit Hold’em Six-Handed tournament in June.
Several Other Pros Also Dropped
But PokerStars seems to have taken steps to reduce the number of sponsored pros they’ve kept on staff recently. Though the company hasn’t been outright dropping players, they have made a point of not renewing contracts. Earlier this year, three major Latin American pros saw their PokerStars contracts expire without being extended, including the legendary Humberto Brenes.
Cada isn’t the only big name to be let go in the most recent wave of departures. Popular Dutch professional Marcel Luske was also released, even though the winningest tournament poker player in the history of the Netherlands has had an excellent year. Russian professional Alex Kravchenko, who is best known for winning a WSOP bracelet in 2007 and later making a run to fourth place in the Main Event, also saw his contract expire without renewal.
It’s unclear whether these decisions are related to the takeover of PokerStars by Amaya Gaming, or if they’re just in line with the general pullback from sponsoring large numbers of pros seen across the online poker industry. Other companies have made similar moves lately, with 888poker dropping JC Tran after just one year. Ultimate Poker has also recently slashed its professional team to focus on just a handful of high-profile ambassadors.
With the number of sponsorships out there for poker pros seemingly shrinking, there’s no telling how many of these players will be able to find new companies willing to take them on. But it seems as though that won’t be a problem for Cada, who has already signed on as the ambassador for the Norwegian Cruise Line’s first ever Norwegian Poker Challenge Cruise. The November cruise will tour the Caribbean and feature four tournaments, including a $1,100 Main Event with a $200,000 guaranteed prize pool.