Online poker giant 888 poker has announced a partnership deal with Flow Esports, a professional eSports team comprised of several of the world’s top Hearthstone players.
The team is headed by Daniel Märkisch, who ranks as one of the most popular Hearthstone streamers on Twitch, and who regularly attracts an audience of more than 10,000 weekly viewers.
Also included are Hearthstone pros Tobias ‘TwoBiers’ Graap, Vetle ‘Xzirez’ Stubberud and Johannes ‘JonnyStoneHS’ Steindl.
“We at 888poker are continually looking for opportunities to collaborate with forward-thinking professionals,” said the company in a release. “In FlowEsports, we see a group of players that is not only professional but also down-to-earth and extremely talented.”
Both Märkisch and Steindl are experienced poker players, and both participated in the recent World Series of Poker Circuit event in Rozvadov, Czech Republic. Märkisch made a deep run in the Main Event, banking €9,459 for his 20th place finish, while earning some respect from the poker community in the process.
As part of the deal, FlowEsports streamers will sport 888 patches while on camera, and start regularly streaming poker to their respective audiences. “The partnership between FlowEsports and us promises to be a successful one, filled with free tournaments, money-added prize pools and other great prizes,” 888 added in the release.
Hearthstone, a strategy-based online fantasy card game, was released in just 2013, yet already boasts over 40 million users. Like poker, players use their cards to decrease the resources of their opponents. In Hearthstone, these resources are referred to as Life Counters, and are the equivalent of poker chips.
With its similarities to poker, it comes as no surprise that poker pros like Bertrand ‘Elky’ Grospellier, Daniel Negreanu and Randy ’nanonoko’ Lew have taken a keen interest in the game. Grospellier and Lew, who recently signed with eSports organization Team Liquid, both began their careers as professional video gamers before making the switch to the far more lucrative online poker tables.
Appealing to Millennials through eSports
With its new partnership, 888 follows in the footsteps of PokerStars, which joined forces with Team Liquid earlier this year. That franchise, which also includes Hearthstone pros Jeffrey ‘Sjow’ Brusi of Sweden, Janne ‘Savjz’ Mikkonen of Finland, and Dario ‘TLO’ Wünsch of Germany, has already begun introducing poker to their Twitch followers through sessions on PokerStars.
Global Poker League founder Alex Dreyfus has criticized the online poker industry for failing to innovate, and has expressed concern that games like Hearthstone will soon leave poker behind. “Although poker is already very engaging, we are failing to renew and reach new generations,” he wrote in the Huffington Post last year. “Millennials want to be part of the next big thing, and share what they are doing with their friends and social audience. Poker is not in that picture.”
With the FlowEsports and Team Liquid partnerships, it’s clear that operators are beginning to understand the need to stay relevant in the age of eSports. By tapping into that growing market through sponsorship deals, they hope to fill their poker tables with a new generation of players.