PokerStars, one of the world's largest online poker websites, announced Wednesday it would be sponsoring Team Liquid, one of the world's largest esports franchises, in a groundbreaking deal. In addition to sponsoring Liquid, the esports organization will have some of its players from Hearthstone, StarCraft II and League of Legends introduce poker to their audiences on the Twitch streaming platform. Liquid will also be sending some of its members to PokerStars tournaments throughout the year, such as the European Poker Tour in Barcelona.
"We're excited to partner up with PokerStars, and we are proud to be able to introduce this giant to the industry," Liquid's co-owner Steve Arhancet told ESPN about the sponsorship. "Our players will be streaming poker, playing tournaments, and we will come up with lots of other fun activities throughout the year. There is tremendous overlap between the game of poker and esports, and many of our players have a background and history in both."
Poker and esports have always shared a close relationship, as many past video game competitors have transitioned from the world of the consoles and computers to the poker table following their retirements. Notable names include Liquid's Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier, and Korean all-time greats Lim "BoxeR" Yo Hwan and Hong "YellOw" Jin Ho. StarCraft over all other esports titles has generated the most poker talents, with the strategy elements of the real-time strategy genre transitioning well to the world of poker.
"My business partner and Co-CEO of Team Liquid [Victor "Nazgul" Goossens] has a long-standing history as a poker professional, which has paved the road to where Team Liquid is today," said Arhancet. "With the know-how we have of both industries, we are confident in making this a successful partnership for years to come."
Team PokerStars pro players, including the aforementioned ElkY, Lex Veldhuis and Randy 'nanonoko' Lew, will also join the competitive gamers on stream at times. The world's biggest-winning live-tournament player Daniel Negreanu, who has more than $32 million in earnings, will also partake in fusing the two worlds by being on Team Liquid player streams.
"I'm very excited about the PokerStars sponsorship and having the opportunity to fly to new jersey and play on their site," Liquid's Christian "IWillDominate" Rivera told ESPN. "Before I played league professionally, I would grind a mixture of live games and sit-n-go's at PokerStars for hours a day. I'm hoping that after five years of playing next to no poker I can still perform profitably and give my fans a good show on stream."