Rational Group is continuing its support of the growing eSports vertical, with its PokerStars brand to sponsor professional Netherlands-based Team Liquid, with the deal seeing the team add poker to its repertoire of games.
Several Team Liquid members will showcase their online poker skills via the Amazon-owned live video streaming platform Twitch.tv, demonstrating the similar skills, challenges and competitive elements that poker shares with eSports.
The players will also take part in some of PokerStars' live events such as the Barcelona leg of the European Poker Tour later this year, as well as testing new poker variants such as Knockout Poker and competing in the operator's online tournaments.
Three Team Liquid pros will be involved in these activities; Finnish player Janne 'Savjz' Mikkonen; Sweden's Jeffrey 'Sjow' Brusi and Germany's Dario 'TLO’ Wünsch, who are described as experts in online card game Hearthstone and real-time strategy game StarCraft.
Mikkonen and Brusi both have previous experience playing poker, with the latter describing it as "a very interesting and complex game," having played extensively before beginning his eSports career.
"“I’m no stranger to the game. I used to play a lot in the past," Mikkonen added. "PokerStars is the most respected and reliable company in that business, so I’m super excited to be sponsored by them."
The third player Wünsch, however, describes himself as a poker novice, but noted similarities between StarCraft and poker.
“Poker and StarCraft have always been two scenes very close to each other," he explained. "Both are games of incomplete information with incredibly high skill ceilings.
"I’m looking forward to trying myself out in poker and viewers will be able to see me learn the game as a total amateur on my Twitch channel.”
A number of Team PokerStars members including Bertrand ‘ElkY’ Grospellier, Lex Veldhuis and Randy ‘nanonoko’ Lew will also feature on the trio's Twitch streams, having played StarCraft and beat-em-up Street Fighter competitively before becoming poker professionals.
In November last year Grospellier became the professional poker and eSports player, after joining Team Liquid, having originally started out as a professional gamer before shifting to poker.
The partnership is the latest eSports tie-up agreed by the Amaya-owned Rational Group. It follows a deal to launch Rational's Full Tilt brand on popular digital gaming platform Steam in November 2015, and the operator featuring eSports odds on its newly-launched BetStars sportsbook.