Poker sponsorship is alive and well, with a half dozen major new player signings highlighting the latest news from the online poker world. Danish poker pro Peter "Zupp" Jepsen has become the fourth player to sign with Betfair Poker and along with Annette Obrestad, Sorel Mizzi and John Tabatabai will represent Betfair's "new breed" of online poker stars. Like all the Betfair pros, Jepsen has proven himself in both the live and the online arena; he is the 2007 EPT Warsaw champion, and online he won one of the biggest pots in history when he scooped a $499,000 hand from Tom "durrrr" Dwan.
"I am looking forward to starting my sponsorship with Betfair Poker," said Peter. "They have been really welcoming and I already feel part of the team. It's given me new impetus to go out and get a big win under my belt.
Betfair Poker's Bruce Stubbs detailed what they look for in a potential sponsored professional. "When we are looking for new players we look for young, successful online players who have the ability to perform well at offline tournaments. We now have four of the best multi-disciplined sponsored players in the industry and I am confident that Peter will feel right at home on the Betfair Poker tables."
Jepsen is not the only European poker star to sign a deal. Full Tilt Poker has gone on a real shopping spree, signing up promising new players from all over Europe. Their most recent acquisition was online star Michael Tureniec, their first Swedish signing, after an impressive run of tournament results at the end of last year when he finished second at EPT London and went on to win an event at the Masters Classic in Amsterdam the following month.
Soren Kongsgaard of Denmark has also joined Tureniec in signing at Full Tilt. Kongsgaard is one of those players that has lived the poker dream by building a bankroll from nickels and dimes into a relative fortune. Kongsgaard narrowly missed out in the European Player of the Year Race in 2007 when he went on a real heater, winning four big tournaments and finishing third in the EPT Grand Final.
Portuguese poker is currently severely underrepresented on the world stage, but Full Tilt, ever busy, also signed Joao Barbosa. Last year Barbosa won the EPT Warsaw main event for €367,140 and has been knocking on the door of another title ever since, having cashed in both EPT main events in 2009 so far. He is already the most successful Portuguese tournament player of all time and has said that this sponsorship deal is a dream come true for him.
Across the Atlantic, the biggest poker room signing of the month is likely that of 2006 WSOP Main Event Champion Jamie Gold, who has signed a sponsorship deal with new room Aced.com. Gold was once with Bodog, has turned down a number of other poker deals in the past and landed with Aced in a deal rumored to involve some big numbers.
Aced, an emerging room on the Merge Gaming Network, is said to be putting a lot of money into this deal; various and unsubstantiated rumors speculating between $2 million and $10 million have circulated on the web. Although no official details have been announced, Gold's representative called it one of the most watertight endorsement contracts he has ever seen. Aced.com also expressed pleasure with its new signing and we might well see Jamie Gold become a much more visible presence on the live circuit in 2009.
Finally, no poker-sponsorship roundup would be complete without the signing of a non-poker-playing celebrity. Yet another athlete has turned his hand to poker after retiring from his chosen sport, French soccer legend Fabien Bathez. The former Manchester United goalkeeper has won just about every honor in soccer, including Goalkeeper of the Year, Premier League Title, Champions League Title and the World and European Cups with the French National team. Now that he has hung up his gloves, the eccentric Bathez has joined Poker770 and its team of sponsored pros.
That Bathez has already won $500,000 in a single tournament is impressive, however, it was at a single-table charity tournament at the Cannes Film Festival, where he beat a number of other celebrities including Mickey Rourke. The prize pool, which was made up of donations, all went to charity. Nevertheless, "Fabulous Fab" will be representing Poker770 on the European live circuit in 2009.
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