With the skill set needed to beat both online poker and strategy-based video games largely the same, it’s no surprise that players on both sides have crossed over and had success in both of the two industries. Now, PokerStars is further solidifying that connection, announcing today a sponsorship deal with leading eSports organization Team Liquid.
As part of the deal, three of the eSports teams’ most popular Twitch streamers will add poker into their repertoire, and attend live tournaments like the European Poker Tour. The gamers will also test new PokerStars products like Knockout Poker and battle in some of the site’s biggest online tournaments.
The three Team Liquid members involved are Jeffrey ‘Sjow’ Brusi of Sweden, Janne ‘Savjz’ Mikkonen of Finland, and Germany’s Dario ‘TLO’ Wünsch. The trio is recognized as some of the world’s most fearsome Hearthstone and StarCraft players.
While they are most known for their play in the eSports industry, they won’t be going into poker tournaments completely blind. Both Brusi and Mikkonen have some poker experience and expressed excitement in getting back to the game.
“I’m happy to announce that I’ll be streaming poker under the PokerStars flag,” said Brusi in a press release. “I used to play a lot before I started my eSports career and it’s a very interesting and complex game. If you want to see an old poker player re-learn the game, tune into my stream.”
Mikkonen, who has several Hearthstone titles to his name, said he was no stranger to the game and called PokerStars “the most respected and reliable company in (the online poker) business.”
Wünsch, who recently made the Top 8 at DreamHack Leipzig, is the only one of the three who has little to no experience with online poker. But there is little doubt that he will learn quickly.
“Poker and StarCraft have always been two scenes very close to each other,” Wünsch said. “Both are games of incomplete information with incredibly high skill feelings. I’m looking forward to try myself out in poker and viewers will be able to see me learn the game as a total amateur on my Twitch channel.”
On the flipside, several pro poker players have taken an interest in eSports gaming. Daniel Negreanu is a self-professed Hearthstone addict, and plays the game for several hours a week. Team Liquid member Bertrand ‘Elky’ Grospellier, formally a pro StarCraft gamer, signed his own deal with the organization last November. The two poker pros faced off in an exhibition game late last year at videogame expo BlizzCon.
As part of the agreement, Team PokerStars Pros will make an appearance on the three gamers’ Twitch streams. Lex Veldhuis and Randy ‘nanonoko’ Lew, both of whom played StarCraft and Street Fighter at a professional level before discovering poker, are a few of the pros that will stop by and give advice to the Team Liquid gamers.
Veldhuis, also signed sit Team Liquid, said that even as a poker pro, he never lost his passion for gaming.
“I’m an avid eSports fan, participating in Team Liquid forums and following the StarCraft and Dota 2 scenes closely,” he said.
“The sponsorship deal is an awesome way to show online gamers how closely related poker is and how they can apply deep-level thinking and strategy to another hugely popular game.”
You can catch all the action on the above Team Liquid members here: