With PokerStars as a Sponsor, FURIA is Building a Competitive Poker Lineup
Brazilian esports organization FURIA is building up a poker lineup after announcing a sponsorship by online poker company PokerStars. Initially signing poker players who will stream their games under FURIA’s banner, a competitive team is also underway to enter face-to-face and online tournaments.
FURIA co-founder and professional poker player André Akkari spoke with The Esports Observer about the new sponsorship and the organization’s new projects:
“When I started to get involved with esports, PokerStars started to see that the attention regarding my image was divided between these two fronts: poker and esports,” Akkari said. “For many occasions the company spoke to me, asking how I was feeling with this experience and about the market potential. So when they saw that the FURIA project was being successful, they started to make ‘provocations’, and I took this opportunity to provoke them back, saying that they needed to be in this market, that it is full of opportunities. It went like this until a certain moment when both parties felt that it was the right time for taking the step and joining in this project.”
The relationship between Akkari and PokerStars is not new. As one of Brazil’s best-known poker players, Akkari has been sponsored by the company for 16 years He entered the esports world through an investment in the CNB e-Sports Club and dropped it in 2017 to found FURIA with Jaime “raizen” Pádua and Cristian Guedes.
Akkari reveals, although, that the setup of a poker lineup was not a condition of the PokerStar’s sponsorship: “We already had this plan independently of closing sponsors. Two investors are strong representatives of the poker world, so we already came into it with the poker DNA.” Akkari is talking about professional poker player Rafael Moraes, who is also an investor at FURIA. “So poker was already in our plans and we would release it even before having PokerStars as a sponsor, so when it happened it was just perfect.”
“Poker has these two areas: the online and the offline,” Akkari said. “We want to bring people to be in both those areas competing with the FURIA jersey, having performance monitoring, and especially using the ‘FURIA method of competition’, which is created by us and involves psychologists, mind coaches, physiotherapists, nutritionists, etc. So there is a lot involved in each lineup we have, and we are building the poker team to be also served by it. This perspective of a team structure for competitions is something that is not usual in the poker world, but we are making it.”
The contract with PokerStars includes displaying the brand through all FURIA’s teams, content (except productions for audiences under-18), lifestyle products, and other special projects. Poker classes will be held through streams with Akkari himself, Rafael Moraes, and the recently signed poker streamer Lali Tournier. Also, Akkari revealed to TEO, that a new facility is being built by the organization in São Paulo, and the project includes a special “PokerStars Room,” completely personalized with the sponsor’s brand.
When asked if fans should worry that FURIA will be losing its focus on esports, Akkari said that every lineup is the organization is independent with its own structure and generating its own revenue. The objective then is to cover as many competitions as possible, as they each reach different demographics, and apply the “FURIA method of competition” in all of them. The organization is even planning new lineups for the near future, which will, in Akkari’s words, “break paradigms”: “Why can’t the assets applied to a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) team also benefit other people who live out of performance? This thought is the picture of what we are doing.”
In the next months, PokerStars will be announcing changes in its business strategy, becoming more an entertainment hub instead of only a poker website, being involved with the esports world part of it. It works in line with FURIA’s intention of being a lifestyle brand instead of just an esports organization, as Akkari told TEO.
Currently, FURIA is one of the main Brazilian esports organizations, investing in eight different esports, including Rainbow Six Siege and Garena’s battle royale Free Fire, while holding a spot in the Brazilian League of Legends Championship (CBLoL) franchise and fielding one of the best CS:GO teams in the world.