DraftKings, which during last summer’s World Series of Poker (WSOP) seemed to be reigning high and proud, will not be seen on the upcoming final table broadcast on ESPN.
WSOP will land all eyes of the poker world beginning November 8, as the November Nine commences live on ESPN. The Rio will welcome back the Main Event’s nine finalists for a no-limit showdown with a prize of $7,680,021 waiting for the winner. But DraftKings will be a no-show.
The honor and achievement of attending the November Nine is a life-altering experience, but DraftKings has respectfully asked the WSOP to remove its signage and branding from the event and terminate its sponsorship contract immediately.
The daily fantasy sports (DFS) operator has been embroiled in a legal and public opinion struggle over the last month as its contests have come under fire and even FBI scrutiny.
Speaking on behalf of the WSOP and its parent company Caesars, Vice President of Corporate Communications for Caesars Interactive Entertainment Seth Palansky said DraftKings “asked us to cease any sponsorship activities … and we complied.”
What’s Done is Done
Pre-taped coverage of the Main Event in July has been airing since September 14 on ESPN. As of this week, DraftKings’ presence is still heavily felt, its logos surrounding the room and strategically placed on the, well, felt.
Though Caesars will strip the posters and banners for the three days of November broadcasts, little can likely be done for what’s already been shot.
DFS operators are tactically trying to distance themselves from poker and gambling as politicians, attorneys, and media pundits deliberate on whether the weekly contests constitute gambling or are skill-based activities. DraftKings and rival FanDuel argue it’s the latter.
That wasn’t always the case, with DraftKings CEO Jason Robins once describing his platform as a mashup between traditional fantasy leagues and poker.
What About Max?
November Niner Max Steinberg will be seated at the final table. The 27-year-old turned $27 on DraftKings into a $10,000 Main Event entry through a satellite contest.
The big win on the daily fantasy platform required Steinberg to sport the DraftKings logo on his apparel, which he can be seen wearing on ESPN during his ascent up the leaderboard. But come next month, Steinberg won’t be displaying the DFS emblem.
DraftKings cut ties with the WSOP, and apparently also with Steinberg. “I am no longer affiliated with DraftKings,” Steinberg tweeted on October 21.
Steinberg heads into the November Nine in the middle of the pack in fifth with 20.2 million chips.
The folding of DraftKings on the World Series of Poker has created more discussion on poker’s marquee event than the actual tournament itself. That might be due to Joe McKeehen’s commanding big stack lead, his 63.1 million chips accounting for 32.8 percent of the total in play.
Many poker fans and sports enthusiasts in general have had enough of hearing about daily fantasy sports.
The onslaught of television commercials from DraftKings and FanDuel over the last year, and now the subsequent coverage of the daily fantasy legal discourse has led to a rather negative public opinion among outsiders.
94-year-young William Wachter might have said it best during this year’s Main Event. When asked what he wanted to say to all the players at the Rio, Wachter responded, “Shut up and deal.”