US Online Poker site losing 5 poker pro sponsors

According to a tweet from professional poker player Randy Dorfman, US online poker site Ultimate Poker has chosen to drop several members from its list of sponsored pros, known as ‘Team U’. Dorfman named four members of the pro poker team, and a fifth is also known to have exited the line-up. The leading face of Ultimate Poker, Antonio Esfandiari, is not among them.

How reliable is the source of this information? Dorfman is a former Team U member who left the brigade in October of last year due to differences in opinion as to how the poker site should be promoted. Ultimate Poker declined to comment on the matter, but shortly after the reports surfaced, those named below were removed from the Team U Roster page. That is more than enough confirmation, and Dorfman made it clear that he thinks it’s the management team behind UP that needs replacing.

“Ultimate Poker drops Pros Will Reynolds, Jeremy Ausmus, Phil Collins & Brent Hanks. Maybe time 4 Stations to drop people running UP? #toolate.”

Lauren Kling, the blonde bombshell whose racked up over half a million playing online poker tournaments and another $293k in live events, has also disappeared from the Team U Roster, bringing the total number of dropped poker pro sponsors to 5.

Jeremy Ausmus and Brent Hanks will be the biggest losses for UP, being the only two WSOP bracelet winners to lose their spots on Team U. Ausmus has more than $4 million in recorded live and online poker tournament winnings; Hanks almost $3 million. Poker pro Phil Collins has earned just over $4 million in combined tournament cashes while Will Reynolds is up to $2.7 million.

When Ultimate Poker first launched in Nevada at the end of April 2013, marketers made a huge move in negotiating a sponsorship deal with Antonio Esfandiari, winner of the 2012 WSOP Big One for One Drop. The 3x WSOP bracelet winner is the brand ambassador and has gone to great heights to promote UP as the first online poker room regulated in the US. His job is safe, at least for now, as are the sponsorships of WSOP bracelet winner Jason Somerville, cash game specialist Danielle Andersen and tournament grinder Dan O’Brien.

When UP first launched, it was big hit in the state of Nevada. Being the only regulated online poker room that existed in the United States didn’t hurt their cause. When WSOP.com launched 5 months later, UP gradually lost more than 50% of the customer market share, but has still maintained productive status in the Silver State. UP’s subsequent launch in New Jersey last November didn’t go nearly so well. According to PokerScout, the site was losing more and more players with each passing week right up until late spring, when the average number of players dropped so low (the last I remember was 4) that they chose to no longer be tracked on the website.

In Nevada, UP is only averaging 70 concurrent players, 25 less than its biggest competitor, WSOP.com. The marketing team behind Ultimate Poker has not given up, continuing to deliver one promotion after another in an effort to drive in more traffic, but ostensibly the additional cost in marketing means cutbacks in other departments, and as such, the latest axe fell upon the majority of Team U.

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