The announcement that partypoker signed high-stakes poker pro Isaac Haxton to its team of ambassadors this week was quite a puzzling one.
It’s easy to guess what partypoker can offer Haxton. Cold hard cash being the first and most obvious thing that comes to mind. However, it’s much more difficult to determine just what Haxton can do for partypoker.
Haxton exploded onto the post-poker boom live tournament scene finishing second in the 2007 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. Over the years, he climbed the ladder to become a fixture at the nosebleed stakes online. He is now a regular at high roller tournaments the world over.
Hardcore poker fans, the kind that have had accounts on partypoker since the site was telling players with bad poker faces it doesn’t matter online, know exactly who this guy is. More casual fans of the game, members of the general public at large, and most people partypoker might consider potential customers, probably have no clue.
There just aren’t that many people willing to sign up with an online poker site just because Haxton is endorsing it. Plus, those that would, probably already have.
So, if Haxton isn’t really going to be bringing any new players aboard, just why does partypoker want him endorsing the site?
The Haxton principles
A statement from partypoker Managing Director Tom Waters suggested the company is interested in Isaac Haxton because he’s previously demonstrated a real commitment to his principles. In other words, they’re hoping Haxton can provide them with a little integrity.
Integrity must be a rare commodity in such short supply in the world of poker being that partypoker is apparently willing to go to the guy that not only bit the hand that fed him but chewed it right off, to get it.
Haxton signed on to endorse competitor PokerStars back in October 2012. At the time, PokerStars Team Online manager Dustin Iannotti said Haxton came on board because he had always believed PokerStars was such a great company.
Things changed dramatically over the next three years. In fact, on Jan. 2, 2016, Haxton took to Twitter and the Two Plus Two poker forums to announce he had resigned from PokerStars in protest of changes made to the site’s Supernova and Supernova Elite programs.
In truth, his PokerStars Team Pro Online contract had expired at the start of the new year. Haxton claims he made the decision not to renew it. PokerStars may or may not have already come to the conclusion he wasn’t bringing much to the table in terms of attracting new customers. They may or may not have previously made plans to either lowball him or drop him altogether.
Online poker hero
Regardless, Haxton watched his sponsor announce in November 2015 that players who had spent the year earning Supernova and Supernova Elite status would not be receiving the benefits they expected. He felt the move was dishonest and unfair. He said he believed PokerStars was behaving unethically. Then, he stuck to his principals and cut ties with them.
He was right. PokerStars pulled the rug out right out from underneath it’s highest volume players. Plus, it sheepishly announced the plan at what amounts to the 11th hour. The whole thing was rather ugly. It tainted anyone and everyone associated with the brand.
Haxton showed a lot of integrity by leaving. Walking away from what must have previously been a decent amount of money because he couldn’t stomach the stench of corporate greed made Haxton a bit of anomaly in the poker world. It also made him a hero.
But apparently, he didn’t want that job either. In fact, he spent the better part of the next two years abandoning that image. Mostly by incessantly whining about moves PokerStars made on social media. Eventually, he went from principled leader of the poker community to petulant child.
The unofficial endorsement
To make matters worse, while he turned on his former sponsor at every turn, he continued to turn up at most of its big live events.
He was mad at PokerStars for screwing over Supernova and Supernova Elite players. Mad enough to stop officially endorsing the site. Mad enough to criticize every attempt PokerStars was making to attract new players to the game. Just not mad enough to stop giving them his business. Which, if not official, is tantamount to an unofficial endorsement of the site.
Apparently sticking to your principles doesn’t pay well. Until you can convince the competition that despite all evidence to the contrary, you’re still willing to do it for them.