When Jeff Gross showed up for the fifth starting flight of the 2016 World Series of Poker $565 Colossus II Saturday morning there was something a little different about him: An 888poker patch on his chest.
The man Antonio Esfandiari once famously dubbed poker's "Professional Best Friend," who has $872,755 in earnings from 24 cashes and a handful of final tables at the WSOP, was made a member of the 888poker team before the start of play, and proudly donned the patch straight away.
"It's great," he told PokerNews. "I had been involved in negotiations with them and done some home game stuff with them, so when they asked me, I know they're one of the main sponsors of the WSOP and I've been coming here for many years, so of course, yes. It's great. It's a reputable brand. Last year I helped [November Niner Thomas] Cannuli at the final table, and he got a deal with 888, and I know some of those guys, so it's awesome. I'm really excited to be a part of the team."
The always affable and constantly driven Ann Arbor, Michigan native plans to attack the 2016 WSOP the same way he does everything in life: With a smile on his face and enthusiasm in his heart.
"I'm playing everything from the $500 buy ins to the $111k, so I'm playing the whole range," Gross said. "I was really impressed with that guy Rainer Kempe. I saw the other day he won the 2016 Super High Roller Bowl] $300k and the next day hopped right into the Colossus. That's kind of my mentality. I love playing the game and I'll play the whole range."
In fact, Gross said he finds the poker player's summer camp environment at the WSOP particularly attractive.
"It's nice to have all these tournaments come together in one place," he said. "You don't have to travel, and it's just every day. I played the Colossus each flight, and I already cashed in it, but I'm here playing it again today. I'm just here to play. I'm ready and I'm excited."
Always looking to be on the cutting edge and doing what he can do to promote the game and his own personal brand, Gross started streaming on Twitch this year, and says there's a good chance he'll do some more of that this summer.
"Twitch seems to be the future," Gross said. "I saw [Jason] Sommerville doing it, Jaime Staples and Kevin Martin, and I got really interested in it. Actually, my first ever stream I was in Uruguay. I had kind of shoddy Internet, but I got it up either way, and I got 22nd in the Sunday Million. So that gave me an influx of viewership, and that made it really fun. Since then I've kind of been doing it on and off. It's hard because you have to be out of the country to play on 888 or other sites, so I'm doing it when I can. This summer I'm going to try to do a bit of a daily stream, just talking about my day and how it went. I'm probably not going to be playing any poker there, it'll just be me hanging out."
Gross got that "Professional Best Friend" tag because he's one of poker's nice guys, and has befriended a number of members of the growing poker community, including recreational players like billionaire Bill Perkins and 18-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps, showing up on the rail whenever any of them runs deep. A true people person, and a man who has real love for the poker community, it's a nickname he's quite proud of.
"It's fun, I love it," he said. "I really love people and it's flattering for sure. So I'm cool with it, and I know there definitely could be a lot worse nicknames. Hopefully I can just continue to be that."