Amaya’s Rational Group has appointed a new director of social gaming, poaching Zynga’s senior director of social casino Lloyd Melnick for the position.

 Melnick joins after less than two years with Zynga and will take charge of leading the operator’s efforts to develop free-to-play poker and casino products, one of the key areas of expansion announced by Amaya following its acquisition of the business.

Like his predecessor Mark Buser, he will be based on the Isle of Man and will develop products for both the PokerStars and Full Tilt brands.

The social gaming director role has lain vacant since Buser left Rational Group in June last year. While he was expected to lead a drive to create a PokerStars-branded product capable of competing against Zynga Poker, the only product launched during his tenure, PokerStars PLAY, currently attracts around 100,000 monthly active users.

His replacement Melnick has strong social gaming pedigree, having worked for high-profile brands such as the Walt Disney Company-owned Playdom and FiveOneNine Games.

He joined social casino start-up Spooky Cool Labs as chief growth officer in March 2013, and following the company’s acquisition by Zynga in June that year, became senior director of Hit it Rich! Slots, currently one of the company’s most successful social casino titles.

Most recently, Melnick served as senior director of social casino for Zynga, responsible for building its VIP customer relationship management efforts, creating a partner network for its real-world rewards programme, and supporting licensing efforts for Hit it Rich!