Websites of Interest

Monday, April 09, 2007

Absolute Poker/UltimateBet fires Grinder, Hellmuth and others

Copyright © All rights reserved.
Absolute Poker/UltimateBet fires Grinder, Hellmuth and others

Life as a professional poker player has taken a dramatic turn for the worse.

Six months after the UIGEA became reality and made it difficult for online poker companies to do business in the United States, UltimateBet and Absolute Poker have made the decision to distance themselves from professional player endorsements and have essentially fired Antonio Esfandiari, Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi and Mark Seif.

The futures of Annie Duke and Phil Hellmuth are a little bit cloudier given their ownership status. Rumor has it that Hellmuth will no longer promote the UltimateBet brand in the United States, but will continue to do so in Europe and Asia.

The players were told that “legal issues” were the central concern and the official reason for the contract termination. There is also some thought that company executives were worried U.S. authorities may attempt to make an example out of one of their players and arrest them, probably using similar reasoning to the NETeller arrests.

The endorsement deals were worth upwards of $500K per year and included provisions for buy-ins and bonuses for final tables made and logo exposure through interviews and photographs.

The move by Absolute Poker, which purchased UltimateBet late last year, could be their first step towards leaving the US market altogether or could simply be a move to provide their brand with some security knowing that they have no employees on U.S. soil.

The UB/AP group of pros was certainly one of the better stables going. Mizrachi was the 2006 CardPlayer Player-of-the-Year, Phil Hellmuth is one of the most recognizable players in the game today, Annie Duke has managed to build her brand around being one of the game’s top female players, Antonio Esfandiari has won a World Poker Tour and a World Series Of Poker title and Mark Seif won back-to-back WSOP bracelets at the 2005 WSOP.