Lewis Hamilton showed up for the $10,300 Event #7 of GGPoker’s High Roller Week on Tuesday. His brief appearance (busting 113th of 130) has triggered a slew of speculation on whether he’ll be signing a sponsorship deal with them.
Last month Marc Surer, one of F1’s more prominent talking-heads, described Lewis Hamilton as “playing poker” with Mercedes over delays in renewing his contract.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Bernie Ecclestone described Hamilton’s stint with Mercedes as him “playing with four aces,” suggesting that Hamilton might only be as good as the car he’s dealt.
Both Surer and Ecclestone were being metaphorical. But in a strange case of life following art, just weeks later here we are, with an inch high bobble-head avatar of Lewis Hamilton, M.B.E. wearing a GGPoker cap and sitting with Isaac Haxton and Artur Martirosian.
LADIES & GENTLEMEN…
Please give a warm welcome, on his debut at the @GGPokerOfficial tables, to 🥁 🥁 🥁…
— GGPoker – HOME OF ONLINE POKER'S LARGEST PRIZEPOOL (@GGPokerOfficial) November 10, 2020
Speculation that GGPoker is on-boarding Hamilton as a brand ambassador seems a stretch at the moment. Not least because GGPoker has come forward and said he was only playing as “a guest.”
Although many sports stars have been shills for our great industry — F1 stars haven’t. Tennis (Becker, Nadal), soccer (Ronaldo, Neymar Jr), and field hockey (de Melo) sure, but never F1. This is in part because until very recently top brass at F1 HQ viewed gambling sponsorships as a little bit gauche.
But with a changing of the guard, F1 signed their first gambling sponsor in March this year. 188Bet was the lucky winner. Some of the stations that carried the Belgian Grand Prix in August even had PokerStars banners overlaid on the top of the screen.
In favor of the sponsorship theory is the fact that GGPoker had a personalized avatar prepped for Hamilton. And that with the Turkish Grand Prix coming up this weekend, his location flag suggested he was still at his home in gambling-friendly Monaco. Or — rather less likely — in Indonesia. (It is a source of great vexillological vexation that the two flags differ only in their aspect ratio and shade of red dye).
Either way, it suggests he put his schedule out to ensure he could play the event.
If he was joining the team he’d be in good company. Daniel Negreanu, Bertrand “Elky” Grosspellier, and Fedor Holz are all on the team. And Bryn Kenney has just left, freeing up a spot.
At least if he overplays his hand with Mercedes he’ll have a fallback.
Featured image: Twitter