Team Winamax just got a lot stronger. The top online poker operator in France, Winamax, recently locked up two of the premier poker players in Europe: Mustapha Kanit and Adrian Mateos. Kanit, one of the top pros from Italy, won over $9.2 million in career earnings. Spain's Mateos won over $9.6 million, including the WSOP Europe Main Event back in 2013 for a €1 million score ($1.3 million USD). The announcement comes at a perfect time because France is on the verge of merging their player pool with three other countries: Italy, Spain, and Portugal. The shared liquidity pact could potentially triple the player pool over night.
Team Winamax is already home to some of the top pros in France and Belgium, including Davidi Kitai, Sylvain Loosli, Gaelle Bauman, and Romain Lewis. Not to mention French poker legends such as Patrick Bruel and Michel Abecassis are on Team Winamax's roster.
It seems like common sense that the top French online site would snatch up two of the best players from the countries with shared liquidity. The timely addition of Kanit (Italy) and Mateos (Spain) to Team Winamax as brand ambassadors comes at a crucial moment when Winamax is jockeying for position in the fickle online gaming market in Europe. While on the cusp of expanding to a population base that's three-time the size of France, Winamax has put themselves in an enviable position.
Winamax seized the opportunity to capitalize on the recent news of four-nation liquidity between France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. The addition of Kanit and Mateos are major coups in both countries. Not only are they popular in their homelands, both players have positive reputations and mass appeal with the global poker audience.
In a press release, Winamax emphasized that Kanit and Mateos are among the "most renowned players in their respective countries, and are amongst the most respected players in the professional circuit."
Stephane Matheu, Team Winamax's coach, explained, "The Team is blowing up to huge proportions with the arrival of Mustapha and Adrian. Adding two players of this caliber to the Team will make the group aim even higher. Not to mention that these are two incredibly kind people. We are at the start of a new era, and it's very exciting!"
In March 2015, Kanit playing under his moniker 'lasagnaaammm' shipped the Sunday Million on PokerStars for a $177K score. Less than two months later, lasagnaaammm binked the $10K SCOOP Main Event for a sick $1.3 million score. After his second SCOOP win, Kanit passed $4M in career online earnings. According to Pocket Fives, Kanit has over $4.6M in online wins. If you combine his live scores and online tallies, Kanit won nearly $14 million.
I have always had a lot of respect for Team Winamax. The notion of a Team is very real with them. Having observed them in tournaments, and having had conversations with team members whom I regularly converse with, such as Davidi Kitai and Sylvain Loosli, we can see that they are true friends and are constantly helping each other.
Kanit also made history when he became the first-ever #1 draft pick during the Global Poker League. The Rome Emperors, helmed by team manager Max Pescatori, got awarded the #1 pick in the inaugural draft. Pescatori didn't even think twice when he selected his fellow Italian with the top spot. With the exception of Fedor Holz, Kanit was the top hybrid player (online/live) in Europe at the time.
Adrian Mateos was pumped about his future with Team Winamax. Mateos tweeted, "Very pleased with his decision to join Team Winamax. I am honoured with the trust that Winamax places in me. As with everything I do, I intend to give it my all within the Team."
Mateos first made a name for himself in October 2013, when the young Spaniard won the WSOP Europe Main Event at the Casino Barriere in France. Mateos outlasted a field of 375 runners to win the €10,400 buy-in championship. Mateos also edged out Fabrice Soulier heads-up for the victory and $1.3 million USD. Mateos proved his first major win was no fluke, when he binked the EPT11 Grand Finale in Monte Carlo in 2015. Mateos won €1,082,000 (or $1.2M USD) and faded a field of 564 runners.
Most recently, Mateos played the 2017 WCOOP on PokerStars from the United Kingdom, where he cashed in the High Roller event but missed the final table when he busted in tenth place. Many Spanish online grinders migrated elsewhere in Europe to compete against the global pool of players. Mateos settled on the U.K., but now he can return home to Spanish soil and bust local donks, along with players from France, Portugal, and Italy.
For nearly a year, regulators had been hammering out a shared liquidity deal for an online poker network that would include players from France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. For French online operators, this clutch move nearly triples their potential market. France, Italy and Spain represent the fourth, fifth, and six largest populations in Europe (trailing behind Russia, Germany, and the U.K.). Portugal is 14th overall.
France's population is a smidge under 65 million, with Italy boasting nearly 60 million, and 46 million for Spain. Portugal has roughly 10 million people. In total, this new shared liquidity covers 180 million people, or approximately 25% of all of Europe.