The New Year brings with it plenty of changes in poker as brands across the world weigh up their rosters and decide to make changes. Sometimes, players make exactly the same choices. January is just a couple of days old, but one brand has already seen some superstars leave its ranks.

Partypoker has been making a push for more of a market share in recent years, but in losing the services of Isaac Haxton, Joni Jouhkimainen and Louise Butler at the turn of the year, they find themselves looking towards the future with change in the air.

Haxton Hailed as a ‘Giant’ Among Ambassadors

Isaac Haxton announced that his final day with partypoker was the last day of 2021.

“My time with partypoker is over,” he wrote on Twitter. “It’s been a fun four years, and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to work with them. I wish them all the best going forward. Happy new year everyone!

“Good luck in future endeavours,” said Gamble Online columnist and Unibet Poker ambassador, Dara O’Kearney. “[You’re] a true giant among poker ambassadors.” O’Kearney isn’t wrong, and Haxton seems like a major loss to partypoker. Will this be another big name who goes to GGPoker? It certainly seems plausible as the brand looks to 2022 and beyond as a way to force their way into American homes and Haxton speaks to the heartland of U.S. players, being one of the most successful America live and online ‘hybrid’ elite players.

U.S. poker legislation is pushing for a return to action in as many as half a dozen states in the next 18 months and there are reasons to be hopeful for poker ambassadors. Brands are gravitating towards U.S. based players. Just this week, Phil Galfond has admitted that he is focused on the States as opposed to Run It Once’s European and Rest of the World operations. Haxton’s exit from partypoker might also fit this narrative.

Jouhkimainen Joins Haxton on the Rail

Finnish poker player Joni Jouhkimainen also left partypoker at the end of the year, with the EPT runner-up saying: “My time with partypoker has come to an end. It’s been [a] really fun and eventful four years with this great company. Thanks for everyone that I met and worked with thru these years – hope to see you soon again on tour! I wish everyone a successful 2022.”

Jouhkimainen may be less of an obviously stellar ambassador when set against Haxton, but he is a valuable one too. Having made the final of a World Series of Poker event in 2021 in Las Vegas, the Finn will be another one who may well be snapped up by another brand, which would represent a difficult moment for partypoker.

No brand loves to lose big names, but the orange diamond have made all the right noises in wishing both Haxton and Jouhkimainen, as well as Irish player Louise Butler all the best in their endeavours after their deals closed out at the tail end of 2021.

Who Will be the Big Movers in 2022?

Partypoker may have lost some big names, but depending on their outlook, they’ll be looking to snap up more talent as the year progresses. The past few years have been interesting to say the least for the company, which started out in America, and now feel much more like a European operation.

Post-Black Friday, that decision seemed a very sensible pivot in terms of control and direction, with the growth of their MILLION$ event series proving popular in the live arena. Indeed, after the European Poker Tour scaled back a little, partypoker looked well-positioned to take over in live poker terms, with the MILLION$ tour easily the biggest of its type at its peak just a few years ago.

That, of course, was before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Live poker pivoted to online, and with the introduction of GGPoker, several strategic moves made by the newest big brand on the market changed the poker landscape considerably. It is not just that GGPoker has brought on board their own ambassadors, stars of the game such as Daniel Negreanu, ElkY, Felipe Ramos and Fedor Holz. They look best placed to dominate in the United States when online poker opens back up to the country as a whole, with series such as the weekly Super MILLION$ events providing the best entertainment to go with poker.

Partypoker’s recent release of several star names may not be the biggest headline of the new year, but it might yet become one of the biggest stories depending on which direction the poker giant decide to take their pro roster in the future.

Cliff Spiller

Cliff Spiller is a veteran casino writer with decades of experience under his belt. He's played at –and reviewed– countless of online casinos, and has written dozens of casino game guides. His strategy articles, and gambling news updates have been a fixture in the industry since 2004. A native of North Texas, Cliff is a long-suffering Dallas Cowboys fan. He enjoys sports and games of all sorts, including sports betting.

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