The online poker business is a tough market that anyone new will have to work hard to gain any kind of traffic. A year and a half ago, J88Poker took on that challenge by entering the online arena. To help attract players, one of the methods they chose was through an ambassadorship program. However this in itself was not a new concept.
In the past, brands such as PokerStars and Poker King Cup have signed on Asian players as Team Pros. Today, Celina Lin is the last Asian remaining in the PS list while PKC has discontinued the program. According to Amy Zhang, J88Poker Overseas Business Director, the creation of the Team Pros was vital to building their online reputation.
“J88Poker is a new brand. When we started, players didn’t know us therefore we had to find a way to build a good image in order for players to give our site a chance. By signing respected figures to represent our brand, someone players knew, they may consider visiting our site. Our initial ambitions was to be a global company but have since decided to concentrate all our efforts on the Asian market. Our Team Pros are all from Asia. One from Taiwan, two from China, and two from Korea. We only allow Asian players in our site.”
Another reason for creating Team Pros is to be closer to the players. It is a way to listen and communicate especially that the brand has now entered the live tournament arena. On their first-ever live venture, J88Poker drew an impressive 360 entries to their Main Event held in Taiwan, generating a pot over NT$6.2M roughly around US$200K. The brand is currently hosting its second live event at the same location and with the help of their ambassadors, they have easily exceeded their previous numbers.
So let’s meet the J88Poker Team Pros. (Translated by Amy Zhang)
Chen An Lin- Taiwan
The most decorated Team Pro is Taiwanese professional poker player Chen An Lin. His portfolio runs deep with achievements from various parts of the world. Last year he won the Macau Millions for around US$147K just months after finishing 8th at the Aussie Millions Main Event for US$141K. Prior to signing with J88Poker, Lin was under contract with PokerStars.
“PokerStars helped make my resume look better but being with them had restrictions as compared to J88Poker. Because it is a small company, a new company, they are more easy going. I can offer advice. I also plan to start my own YouTube channel and J88 is very supportive.”
According to Zhang, it was Lin who suggested the brand do an offline event which he helped facilitate with CTP Club.
Chen Hao – China
Signed in February this year, Chinese pro Chen Hao was previously under Tencent. In 2016, Chen claimed his biggest live score to-date after winning the WPT National Sanya Main Event for around US$229,500. On deciding to sign with J88Poker, Hao said,
“Last year the Chinese poker society was very unstable. J88poker is a good company, a good business. As a Team Pro, there are a few challenges I face. One, as a a poker player, I would like to win more. Second, as a Team Pro, I would like to help improve the image of the brand so more people know us. Third, as a professional player from China where poker is in the grey, I would like to initiate some kind of change for the society and industry. I would like to prove that it is not gambling. It is something that people can enjoy. Last year everyone was saddened because they ruined the industry. I would like to save the industry.”
Jin Tian – China
The first player signed by the brand was Jin Tian from China. Having only been playing poker professionally for three years, Jin is already a well known figure in the community. While she is still hunting down a major title, Jin‘s largest single earning was in December 2018 at the Jeju Red Dragon High Roller event where she pocketed over US$35K. As a Team Pro, especially as a female team pro, Jin has this to say,
“When players see me, those who don’t know me, they see two things: a professional poker player and a female so they want to beat me. They want to try to bluff me out. The fish misjudge often. They apply pressure and are aggressive. As a Team Pro, it’s important for me to balance my attitude in order to play my game. I would like all female poker players to remember to stay strong when faced with this situation.”
Jaewook “Justin” Shin – Korea
The first Korean to be signed was Jaewook “Justin” Shin. Having started his live tournament poker career in 2015, Shin shined brightly last year with a 2nd place finish at the Manila Megastack Main Event for USK46.5K then a victory at the APT Final High Rollers Single Day for another five-figure US$28K. This year is looking strong for with another High Roller win at WPT Vietnam. Shin is honored to be approached by J88Poker to be part of their team.
“As a poker player anyone would like to accept the team pro assignment and be sponsored. I am more famous now than before. The one challenge I face with this responsibility is I can’t get angry at the table. I have to be mindful of my actions.”
HakDo Kim – Korea
The only Team Pro not an active poker player is HakDo Kim. Kim is a very famous comedian from Korea but has been a poker player in the dark for nearly nine years. Not anymore as he is signed by J88Poker and is happy to spread the word to his fans.
“Hold’em is not that famous in Korea. Many people view poker as illegal. So when I announced that I am a poker player, many Koreans were shocked. Once my fans found out I play poker, they began to be curious about the game. Korean society is so strict so through my status, I let people know that poker is okay and from there, maybe begin a new generation of minds.”
Among HakDo‘s cashes was a small but very memorable first-ever victory at the PokerStars 2018 Manila Super Series 6-Handed event for US$2K. HakDo tasted his first five-figures in January 2019 at the APT Vietnam Main Event for nearly US$19K.
Future Team Pros
According to Zhang the brand has plans of signing more pros but online team pros from their pool of online players.
“We are thinking of online team pros for players that never go to the live events and only play online. This will also give them a chance to attend our offline events for free. We are still on the planning stages. We would like to sign on more general online players, not pros. The word spreads and others think they can become the next one. Not have to be a well known pro to become one. It’s a win win for us and them. We would like to create our own culture, our own distinct poker culture dedicated to the Asian market to make it brighter for every type of poker player.”
Making Off – Tricia David with Chen Hao
Article by Tricia David