PokerStars has signed Aditya Agarwal and Kosei Ichinose to Team Pro contracts, it announced yesterday via the PokerStars Blog.
The pair are the first Indian and Japanese grinders, respectively, to receive sponsorship deals with the site.
Both players have been playing on the site for many years and found considerable success at the tables, both online and live. Their career highlights include Agarwal finishing 212th in the 2013 World Series of Poker Main Event, and an outright victory for Ichinose in a 2013 Asia Pacific Poker Tour event.
Poker’s International Profile is Growing
The news has been met with enthusiasm as a sign of the international appeal of the game and global reach of the industry:
The signing of these Team Pros from India and Japan is an important step in helping promote the game in countries where poker is only just coming to the fore,” said Kirsty Thompson, PokerStars’ Head of Pro and Celebrity Management. “Both players are highly respected within the poker sphere, and their success and passion for the game will no doubt spread throughout their local and national communities.”
While regulation has stifled the online poker industry in the United States, the meddling of politicians has not been able to halt the international growth and popularity of the game.
Even if the US market does eventually become largely open to virtual card rooms, we can without a doubt expect advertising and growth opportunities for operators to continue all around the world.
The new ambassadors are ready for the challenge. Ichinose is quoted in the post as saying he hopes to spread the game in Asia, with Agarwal adding that his intention is to “inspire more players to play and enjoy the sport.”
Poker as Cricket
However, the addition of Agarwal and Ichinose to Team PokerStars was arguably slightly overshadowed by the PokerStars marketing department, and that’s because the most entertaining thing to come out of the announcement was actually the manner in which it was made.
Marketing is without a doubt a cultural activity, and the marketing department at PokerStars made the perfect play in tying poker to an already established sporting norm in India — Cricket.
Widely enjoyed and ingrained in society in India, a graphic illustration that discusses the similarities between Poker and Cricket is featured at the bottom of the blog post.
Referring to a poker player as a “sportsman,” the illustrations demonstrate the similarities in prize money, global travel, and the essential nature of studying and reacting to opponent tendencies.
Finally, it concludes with:
“In cricket, poker and anything you love in life, training is key if you want to be the best. Aim high and don’t give up on your dream!”
Good advice, and something that certainly won’t hurt the desire of the newest members of the global poker playing community to get out to the tables in the near future. Congratulations to poker’s newest ambassadors!