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Jason Somerville and Other Big Names Exit PokerStars

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It’s the start of a new decade and some might also say that this is a time for new beginnings. Well, that’s certainly the case when it comes to poker pro Jason Somerville, who has taken the decision to abandon PokerStars alongside a couple of other big names. Somerville revealed this news on Jan. 1, 2020.

In scenes echoing 2018 and 2019, the world’s largest online poker network has begun 2020 by allowing several high-profile players to depart from its roster of team pros. Could this be all a part of the PokerStars movement towards placing a prime focus on Twitch streamers or are these pros finding significant problems with the site?

Jason Somerville and Other Pros Leave Team PokerStars

Team Pro Being Scaled Back

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Jason Somerville is just the latest in a fairly long line of pros who have departed from the PokerStars brand and its Team Pro program. He joined the company in 2015 as an ambassador but took the decision to leave as 2020 rolled around. And while this may seem like par for the course with the way PokerStars seems to be heading at the moment, there’s something a little more questionable about this departure.

Somerville was actually the first to pioneer the movement towards online poker streaming and was hence given the nickname of the “Godfather of Twitch” as a result. With Team Pro being scaled back due to PokerStars wanting to place more of a focus on Twitch streamers, it must feel a little like his own good intentions for the platform have been thrown back at him. Yet, Somerville maintains that it was his own decision to depart from Team Pro.

Announcing his departure from the brand via social media on New Year’s Day, Somerville expressed his gratitude for the few years he had spent as an ambassador there. As it happens, it was due to the fact that he was involved with PokerStars that Somerville was able to boost the status of his own Twitch production studio, known as Run It Up. Perhaps because of the new direction that PokerStars is taking, there just wasn’t much incentive for him to remain as an active member of Team Pro.

Speaking of his decision to leave, Somerville remarked via a short video on Twitter:

Working with PokerStars the last few years brought a lot of advantages, no doubt, but it also brought some disadvantages.

Somerville went on to note that it was tough for him to be limited by being exclusive to the PokerStars brand regarding the content he would create. Now that he has left the brand, he’s free to proceed with his poker streaming as he likes.

Exchanging Poker for Sports Betting

Despite the fact that Somerville’s departure from PokerStars wasn’t necessarily a surprise considering a number of high-profile stars have gone the same way recently, his next move came from out of nowhere. Rather than continue to increase his status and prominence in the world of online poker sites, Somerville has taken the decision to make a move into the sports betting sector instead.

Jason SomervilleJason Somerville Is Leaving PokerStars to Pursue Sports Betting Opportunities

As part of the same Twitter video that he released announcing his departure from Team Pro, Somerville spoke of a new venture in the sports betting industry. While he did express his enjoyment of his time at PokerStars, the pro said that he was looking for new ventures in a new year. Certainly, a move into sports betting from poker is quite the intriguing new focus for him.

It just came as a bit of a shock to many when someone who has been so instrumental in the inclusion of Twitch streaming in online poker games is moving away from the industry. Yet, perhaps Somerville has the intention of revolutionizing the sports betting sector as well. And maybe this is something that will take place through his Run It Up streaming service. That had results that went beyond all expectations with regard to internet poker, so who knows what a similar idea would do for the sports betting industry?

One thing is for sure – Somerville has a large fan base on social media. This will doubtless assist him in bringing whatever future plans he has to fruition. If anyone can be successful with new gambling ideas, it’s probably him.

A Long Line of Pros Leaving PokerStars

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With the dawn of the new decade, Somerville wasn’t the only pro to announce his departure from PokerStars. In fact, he said goodbye to the site at around the same time as Indian pro Aditya Agarwal and Argentinian Leo Fernandez. Agarwal also announced his exit from PokerStars India with a Tweet on his official Twitter page on Dec. 28, stating that it had “been an amazing five years” for him before he went on to thank the team and his fellow pros.

Aditya Agarwal Announces Departure From Team PokerStars

Yet, their departures were just the continuation of a trend. The biggest shock of them all came in May of 2019 when Daniel “KidPoker” Negreanu took the decision to leave after a 12-year period of being an ambassador for the company. Negreanu was doubtless instrumental in helping PokerStars to become as popular as it is today, considering that he joined the team in June 2007 when it was a small brand. Always one to march to the beat of his own drum, Negreanu even remained with PokerStars when called out for staying its ambassador despite PokerStars ending its VIP Club program.

Nevertheless, Negreanu eventually took the decision to depart as well. The split, so to speak, was amicable though with PokerStars praising him for all of his dedication to the site and noting him as “a true legend of the game.” And perhaps in an even more unexpected move for Negreanu, he took to Twitter on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019 to announce that he had signed on to become a new ambassador for the GGPoker brand.

Yet, even prior to Somerville and Negreanu’s respective announcements, various others had already chosen to exit what seemed to be a sinking ship as far as Team Pro is concerned. Jason Mercier severed his ties with the brand in January of 2018, opting to place more of a focus on his family life, while one of the industry’s power couples in Liv Boeree and Igor Kurganov chose to announce their departure from PokerStars on Nov. 14, 2019. When you also consider that notable players like Randy Lew, Vanessa Selbst, Barry Greenstein, and Jeff Gross have also left Team Pro, it doesn’t look like PokerStars is really all that concerned about maintaining its collection of professional players.

Changes in Marketing Responsible for Departures?

Many people have attributed the decline of Team Pro recently as being due to the fact that Amaya purchased the PokerStars brand in 2014. Once the $4.9 billion acquisition took place, the new owners opted to take the poker platform in a different direction, with multiple changes occurring in the proceeding years. From being a “poker-first” organization, PokerStars soon became a generalized gambling platform with poker occupying a shrinking share of the marketing and promotional efforts while sportsbook and casino endeavors gained increasing prominence.

As a result, the relationship between PokerStars and many of its well-renowned pros has become severed with Amaya driving it in the direction of live streamers instead. Naturally, this has led to many other poker platforms taking advantage of the free agents. As noted, GGPoker has snapped up Daniel Negreanu as its ambassador. He is part of the team alongside others like Bryn Kenney and Felipe Ramos. Of course, with Jason Somerville opting to move towards the sports betting industry, it’s not likely that we’ll see him as an ambassador for another online poker room anytime soon.

PokerStars Not a Prime Location for USA Poker

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PokerStars may be leaking pros left and right from its platform, but this isn’t actually very relevant to U.S. players because it's not one of the more readily available online poker rooms where the United States is concerned. In fact, it’s only operational in a couple of states, so players outside of those areas won’t be able to access what it has to offer. Fortunately, there are various other platforms providing their services to many more states.

You can read up on these reputable America-friendly online cardrooms in our comprehensive U.S.A. offshore poker guide, which will assist you in selecting the best US poker sites for you. There are no laws prohibiting you from playing as you will discover if you take the time to pore over our legal online poker page.