GGPoker Terminates Vanessa Kade’s Affiliate Deal in Wake of Dan Bilzerian Dispute

  • Vanessa Kade was owed an apology but instead got her GGPoker affiliate deal terminated
  • Daiva Byrne ignored and dodged questions on Dan Bilzerian’s misogynistic comments to Kade
  • Rival poker sites embed diversity and inclusion into their corporate cultures 
  • An outcry of support for Kade on Twitter makes the role of Outreach & Community advocate appear untenable
Poker player folding hole cards
On Tuesday, Vanessa Kade announced that GGPoker has ended her affiliate deal because she was publicly critical that the online poker site signed Dan Bilzerian as an ambassador. [Image:]

Kade tweets communication of deal termination

Several weeks ago, GGPoker partnered with the FLIP Facebook Group and Daiva Byrne signed as the site’s Outreach and Community Advocate. Against the backdrop of Dan Bilzerian’s disgraceful comment to Vanessa Kade and the negative fallout from GGPoker’s decision to hire him as a brand ambassador, Byrne appeared to have her work cut out for her. 

A good start might have been to encourage GGPoker to apologize to Kade for what Bilzerian said to her, and perhaps that happened behind the scenes. On Tuesday, however, far from receiving an apology, Kade actually received a message terminating her affiliate deal with the site. She tweeted the communication:

It is not fair to point fingers at Byrne for this decision on the part of GGPoker, but it does put her in a precarious and possibly untenable position. Facing harsh scrutiny, she took the role, vowing to look to the future, promising to create change from within. Her reputation was on the line with that pledge.

Being a brand ambassador or advocate is a two-way street. You have a responsibility to the company, but it also has a responsibility to you. If Byrne stays any longer, GGPoker is going to rip what’s left of her credibility to shreds. Nobody would blame her if she decided to fold this hand and move on.

Byrne prevaricated on mention of Bilzerian

Over the last few weeks, there has been a lot of lip service to diversity and inclusion from GGPoker and Byrne. The site held a promotional freeroll and organized an International Women’s Day charity tournament. Gestures of this nature are a fine start but fairly meaningless if not followed up by substantive initiatives. 

completely ignoring a direct question on Bilzerian and misogyny

Byrne appeared on Robbie Strazynski’s panel show The Orbit and she did an interview with PokerNews’ Jason Glatzer. In the former, she filibustered her time, completely ignoring a direct question on Bilzerian and misogyny. During the latter, she avoided direct questions on Bilzerian with whataboutism right out of the Kellyanne Conway playbook.

“I can’t think of any other operator in recent years who put up the resources and put a big effort into this topic…pushing women in poker, working on inclusivity and diversity,” she told Glatzer. The problem is that is simply not true. 

Poker sites committed to diversity and inclusion 

Other sites have been doing plenty. In fact, Byrne’s former sponsor Unibet was one of the first companies to join the All-In Diversity Project back in 2018 when she was on their books. The mission statement of that project is to create a level playing field in terms of equality, diversity, and inclusion throughout the gambling industry. Unibet has also supported the UN charity He For She – a solidarity campaign created by UN Women to provide a platform for a global audience to engage and become change agents for the achievement of gender equality.

Industry leader PokerStars leads many diversity programs and, on March 8, the operator issued a press release announcing a new female insights community. Dubbed “Our Voices”, it creates a space where “PokerStars directly encourages and engages in discussion on both female-focused and general topics, activities and ideas.”

Entain, the parent of partypoker, also made an announcement on March 8 about its partnerships with Girls Who Code and the Tech Girls Movement Foundation to close the gender gap in STEM (science, technology engineering, and mathematics) sectors.

Outpouring of support for Kade 

Since Kade posted her tweet, there has been an outcry in the poker community. partypoker pro Louise Butler said enough was enough:

Catena Media’s new markets director Jessica Wellman added her voice, predicting a full-blown controversy:

This ugly situation could easily have been avoided. GGPoker made its bed when it saddled its horse to a world-famous misogynist. Byrne made hers when she took on this excruciatingly difficult role and now sits in the ultimate liability position, taking flack from all sides – though it is unfair if she takes the full brunt of this wrongdoing. OP-Poker’s community and content manager Eva Reberc tweeted:

Silence is compliance and, of course, that goes for all representatives and employees of GGPoker now. But with these actions against Kade, they have unquestionably made Byrne’s job even harder. Ambassadors and advocates put their reputations on the line but, as Kade followed up, everything starts with the sites:

Speaking exclusively to VegasSlotsOnline News, Kade summed up GGPoker’s ignominious behavior, saying: “GGPoker shamelessly tried to buy their way out of the negative blowback of partnering themselves with a well-documented misogynist by hiring Daiva as a sort of human shield.”

She added that the initiatives GGPoker has launched “to attempt to demonstrate that they actually care about women in the industry” have missed the mark “and have, if anything, exposed them to more criticism and not less.”

“I suspect their reaction here is just a petty, punitive response since they really have no other course of action other than to do nothing, or actually deal with the issue,” Kade concluded.

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