The 36-year-old French pro Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier made his major breakthrough on the live poker scene in 2008, when he took down the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) Main Event for $2 million. The former StarCraft ace had announced his arrival on a much more rewarding stage. He was also the first person ever to reach “Supernova” and “Supernova Elite” and won the live Triple Crown, and in 2009, Grospellier set the world record for multi-tabling Sit & Goes during the PokerStars Grand Final in Monte Carlo, playing 62 tournaments in an hour while showing a profit. ElkY also became the first player to represent an online poker room and Esports team when he joined Team Liquid as a Hearthstone player.
His claim to fame came after he competed as the first professional gamer in South-Korea, the most competitive ground for (online) gaming till this day. Grospellier won the PCA back in 2008 and won the WPT Festa al Lago in the same year. In 2011, he won his WSOP bracelet in the $10,000 Seven Card Stud event. He’s also the proud owner of two WCOOP titles and a SCOOP victory.
ElkY becomes the fourth player to leave the largest online poker room. In a way, it makes sense. Most contracts will end in December but there are so many things that don’t make sense. For example ElkY will dye his hair blue one day, and bleach it white the next. He travels the world playing video games for a living, and dates beautiful women who travel the world playing video games for a living. He has a Twitch Channel that commands the interest of over 53,000 people.
If anyone fits the mould of a sponsored player, it’s ElkY.
We understand letting Jason Mercier go. As good at poker as he is, from a marketing perspective, there isn’t much going on, and online poker companies dropped being a winning player as a metric a long time ago. There is nothing special about Mercier from a marketing angle.
Vanessa Selbst is different. As an openly gay woman who happens to arguably be the best female poker player so far, and the only one to repeatedly and consistently challenge men at the very highest level, Selbst is a valuable asset. Selbst’s passion for the game apparently has deteriorated in recent years. Although she’s remained an ambassador for PokerStars since Black Friday in 2011, she admitted on her Facebook post that poker is now more difficult for amateurs. Selbst was one of several pros who since Black Friday has been unable to play online in the United States. And while traveling the world to play live tournaments may have been enjoyable for a while, her interests have changed, she said. “That was really fun for a period of time in my life,” Selbst wrote, “but as my late 20s turned into my early 30s and my priorities changed toward building a stable home and community and starting a family, the constant travel is no longer tenable.”
We now know sponsored poker professionals clearly are not as big a part of the PokerStars marketing strategy in 2018, once again this is in unambiguous contrast to partypoker, who last week announced the signing of former PokerStars Pro Isaac Haxton. PokerStars has said goodbye to quite a few (long-time) Team Pros in recent weeks. Felipe Ramos broke the news of him and PokerStars going their separate ways during the PokerStars Championship Prague in December of last year. Right after New Year’s, Vanessa Selbst and later Jason Mercier followed the same path and announced their departure from PokerStars Team Pro.
One can’t understand the reasons for ElkY’s departure until you know PokerStars’ strategy when it comes to the Team Pro concept.