Late last week, rumors began circulating that two of the most active members of Full Tilt, Viktor Blom and Gus Hansen, are losing their positions as Full Tilt Pros. There was plenty of skepticism surrounding the reports, but the growing speculations were enhanced by the fact that The Professionals – the name chosen by the daunting duo of high-stakes poker pros – no longer appeared on the online poker website. Alas, Full Tilt has confirmed the story, stating that the site’s contract with Blom and Hansen “has expired”, while offering no interest in renegotiation.
Validation of the reports was provided on Tuesday via a spokesperson from Full Tilt who said, “We can confirm that Full Tilt’s sponsorship of Viktor Blom and Gus Hansen has expired. We would like to wish Viktor and Gus all the best in their future endeavors.”
When the popular online poker room rolled out a completely revamped version of its website last week, linkage was no longer provided to view the Full Tilt Pros, known as The Professionals. It was first thought that perhaps an error had been made, because searching within the parameters of the Full Tilt poker site for their names on Google immediately brought up the existing web page. As we know now, the omission of Viktor Blom and Gus Hansen was no mistake.
Just a few months ago, Tom “durrrr” Dwan was listed alongside Blom and Hansen as a member of The Professionals, but he chose to remove himself from the team. Perhaps that got the new heads of Rational Group to thinking about new ways to promote the online poker room. According to the spokesperson, the judgment “follows a year-long review of the Full Tilt brand and a decision to move away from pro-centric advertising to focus on the experiences and stories of the vast majority of our players.”
Despite the fact that the company assessed the situation as a means of altering the focal point from a few high-profile poker pros to a much broader range of more common player types, one has to wonder if there was more to the decision than that. Realistically speaking, Viktor “Isildur1” Blom and Gus Hansen haven’t played their best poker lately.
Hansen may have just under $10 million in live poker tournament cashes, collecting 1 WSOP bracelet and 2 WPT Championship titles along the way, but since mid-2009, he’s lost over $20 million in high stakes cash games and his last significant live cash was more than two years ago. Likewise, Blom has 7-figures in live event cashes, and while he’s always been known for his intense upswings and downswings on the virtual felt, he’s dropped below the negative $3 million mark this year alone. He also declined to participate in the 2014 World Series of Poker, doing little to increase his luminary status among the profession.
Obviously it doesn’t do an online poker room much good to sponsor a pro poker player that is no longer performing up to their former merit, but Full Tilt’s decision to sever professional ties with these high-profile players is even more justified from a fiscal standpoint. The online poker operator has been supporting these guys for years now, paying 100% rakeback to their accounts. With thousands of hands played on a regular basis at nosebleed stakes, just imagine the profit Full Tilt (or any other online poker room they play at) would make by collecting rake from their endeavors?
Whatever the case, Full Tilt seems to have major plans for the future, as the spokesperson then alluded to. “Full Tilt will celebrate the excitement, fun, and intrinsic enjoyment of playing our poker, blackjack, roulette, and slots games. A new TV campaign will launch imminently, representing this new approach,” he said, promising more details before the week is out.