Five days before he began chasing gold bracelets at the World Series of Poker (WSOP), Daniel Negreanu decided to quit his day job.
In a video statement posted to Twitter on May 23rd, “Kid Poker” announced that his 12-year relationship with PokerStars had come to an end:
“I have an important announcement to make about my 12-year run, which is an incredible run, with PokerStars.
You know, it was a great run, but we’re no longer gonna be an ambassador for the company.
I’ve had the opportunity to travel the world … play in Barcelona, Monte Carlo, and the PCA, which were like three of my favorite stops.
But I wish everyone the best, as I said, and I’m super excited about the future with my new woman, and yeah, love is in the air.”
Married Life and Global Ambassador Role Don’t Mix
Negreanu tied the knot with girlfriend and poker media personality Amanda Leatherman six days before “amicably” splitting with PokerStars. Predictably, he wasn’t shy about letting fans know that becoming a married man played a role in the decision:
“I’m super excited about the future with my new woman (and) life taking on a new direction.”
Negreanu joined PokerStars as a sponsored Team Pro back in June of 2007, before quickly blossoming into the online poker leader’s global ambassador.
Rebecca McAdam Willets – who serves as associate director of group public relations for PokerStars – said the company’s official goodbyes via press release:
“Daniel has been one of the most influential faces of poker and indeed PokerStars for 12 years, and it has been wonderful to have his passion, support and insights throughout our relationship
We wish Daniel the very best for the future, as well as wedded bliss and tons of run good this summer.”
The unexpected departure didn’t seem to have any ill effects on Negreanu’s performance on the felt.
Playing in the first WSOP event he was eligible for only days later, the runner-up for all-time live tournament poker earnings padded his nearly than $40 million resume with a final table run and 6th place finish in the $10,000 buy-in No Limit Hold’em (Super Turbo Bounty).
High-Profile Exit Continues PokerStars’ Pivot from Sponsored Pros
PokerStars parent company The Stars Group – a Canadian online gambling industry titan formerly known as Amaya – is currently transitioning from its previously poker-centric business model to the more lucrative casino and sportsbook verticals.
As a result of this companywide pivot, well-known Team Pros like Jason Mercier, Vanessa Selbst, and Felipe Ramos each bowed out as sponsored pros to begin 2018.
This year, the ranks of former Team Pros swelled with the additions of Barry Greenstein, Randy Lew, Jake Cody, Jamie Staples, Kevin Martin, and Jeff Gross.
Whether or not Negreanu chose to part ways with PokerStars, or vice-versa, has yet to be revealed.
During the ongoing purge of poker-related expenses by Stars Group – which notably included drastic cuts to PokerStars “rakeback” system used to reward high-volume VIP players – Negreanu found himself in the unenviable position of defending his corporate benefactor’s controversial policy changes.
This infamously led to Negreanu declaring that “more rake is better” for recreational players and professionals alike, an assertion which was roundly mocked by his peers within the high-stakes community.
In his video announcement, Negreanu alluded to the ways in which leaving PokerStars might make his ability to contribute to public discourse easier:
“In a lot of ways, it’s somewhat freeing.
For years, when I make a statement about poker, people say, ‘You’re just saying that because you’re being paid to say that.’
Which I know is not true – I could pass 1,000 lie detectors to prove that – but what’s great about the situation now is I can go back to essentially making comments and statements about the poker community that I guess would have more credibility because of that.”
Now the most coveted free agent in poker – should he seek a subsequent sponsorship arrangement with another operator – Negreanu also served up fodder for the community’s rumor mill:
“I’ve had the luxury over the last 20 years of being on the inside when it comes to the business side of poker, the professional side of poker.
I know what poker players are missing. I know what some of the people in business miss about what it’s like to be a professional poker player.
I’ll still fairly discuss any issues, positive and negative, with them, with PartyPoker, with WSOP.”
In the wake of the PokerStars news, poker pundits like Joey Ingram took to Twitter and wondered aloud if PartyPoker – the new home for several former PokerStars Team Pros – might offer the perfect landing place.