PokerStars has announced the signing of two new poker pros hailing from India and Japan, highlighting the brand’s efforts to expand into new markets where poker’s popularity is still in its early stages.
The two players are Aditya Agarwal, who becomes the first Indian Team Pro, and Kosei Ichinose, the first Japanese Team Pro.
“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 Kristy Thompson, PokerStars’ Head of Pro & 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.
Agarwal Has Made Deep Runs at WSOP
Agarwal grew up in India, but moved to the United States for school. While he was at a university studying marketing and engineering, he began playing poker; by the time graduation came around, he was already playing professionally.
Agarwal has won nearly $400,000 in live poker tournaments, including making three deep runs at the World Series of Poker Main Event since 2007.
“I’ve been playing at PokerStars since 2004, so this is a dream come true for me,” said Adarwal, who will play under the user name ‘Adi Agarwal.’ “As a poker ambassador I want to help promote the game in India, and inspire more players to play and enjoy the sport.”
Ichinose Became Japan’s First Supernova Elite Player
Kosei Ichinose also began playing poker away from home, as he learned the game while attending school in Canada in 2006. Since then, Ichinose has seen success in major online tournaments as well at wins in events at the Macau Millions and the Asia Pacific Poker Tour over the last two years.
In total, he has amassed over $300,000 in live tournament earnings throughout his career. He’s also the first person from Japan to ever reach the Supernova Elite level in PokerStars’ rewards system. Ichinose plans to use the username ‘Kosei Ichinose’ on PokerStars.
“I’m proud to be associated with PokerStars as I have achieved so much in the game by playing on the site,” Ichinose said. “I now look forward to helping spread the popularity of poker in Asia and representing the brand at major international tournaments like the upcoming Aussie Millions later this month.”
The Aussie Millions will be the debut performance for both Agarawal and Ichinose under the PokerStars banner, with both expected to play in the Main Event there at the end of January.
Adding two new sponsored pros is a move that goes against the recent trend for online poker sites, as many professional players have been dropped by major Internet poker brands in recent months.
At the end of 2014, Kara Scott’s relationship with partypoker came to an end, in large part because of the reduced television presence of the company. Just days into 2015, legendary cricketer Shane Warne parted ways with 888poker as well.
PokerStars itself found itself dropping a large portion of its pro roster last year. They cut several of their ambassadors in Latin America, including the legendary Humberto Brenes, and failed to come to agreements to extend relationships with other players, including former WSOP Main Event champion Joe Cada.