The idea of Twitch for many on the internet seemed a little silly at first. Watching other people play games – why bother? At least that is the way the thought often goes at first. With further consideration, though, the actual relevance became much clearer.
Check out people playing games to see if you would enjoy them, revisit games of your youth without the need to track down old or out-dated equipment, or just hang out and watch a similarly minded individual joke and struggle against a challenge, and this was just the start. The appeal of Twitch was quickly established, moving it from a curiosity back when it launched in June of 2011 to the international force with an Alexa rank of 31 where it sits today.
Not just for watching standard gameplay, Twitch also led surprising developments in other hobbies. Among these include speed running, CPU-vs-CPU battles, and, the focus of this article, the rise of live stream poker.
So what is it is specifically about Twitch when helped bring live stream poker to the mainstream, how do the biggest names manage their presence, and how have a few leveraged this gameplay into a career in and of itself?
Entertainment or Learning Tool?
Just as with the traditional topic of videogames, there have been questions as to which avenue was the strongest determining factor in bringing poker to the mainstream. Do people tune in just to be entertained, or is this a means utilised by up and coming players to pick up helpful tips and tricks?
Just as with regular video games the answers can be both, and at the same time. This really comes down to what the viewer wants, but as poker streaming involves a lot of out-loud thinking, it’s only natural that the thought processes of these professional players will end up making an impression on viewers.
Since Twitch offers two-way communication, this is a two-way street. The audience can ask the player to detail the exact reasons for a decision and likewise can point out any questionable moves or those with a statistical shortcoming.
Entertaining for the audience, yes, but also informative and helpful for those on both sides of the screen.
How do the Most Popular Poker Players do it?
Getting started streaming in online poker had the same barriers to entry as traditional video gaming – very few. Get the right software, which is often free, sign up for an account, and you are ready to go. As for why Twitch’s biggest names in poker streaming got into the game, the reasons here don’t simply follow one course of inspiration.
Jaime Staples was one of the first in the game on this front. Starting in 2015, when he joined PokerStars as a member of Team Online, Staples worked to not only further his career as a player but to build himself as a brand. As it turns out, live poker, a so far untapped market on the internet, would be the perfect fit for creating and maintaining a constant public persona.
As one of the earliest in the online Twitch arena, Staples noted that his first experiences were not exactly enormous successes, bringing in a peak viewership of around 25 people. Through Twitch and its audience, Staples found a productive outlet in which to openly discuss his game as he played, both relaying his method to others, and helping learn from his audience and himself in the process.
As this grew interest in both sides of the game, others like Parker Talbot and Jason Somerville would also enter the fray. These two men, now well known as major success stories in the world of online poker, bringing in $3m and $2.2m respectively in their careers, both came into the game for a similar reason. This was, in their words, to help reinvigorate their game.
Online poker, like many other popular variants such as hold’em, and Omaha, can be games of patterns. While falling into these patterns can help lay a line down for success, they can also stagnate your game and limit flexibility, and through online interaction, these men managed to overcome these issues.
Live streaming poker in the modern era brings in tens of thousands of viewers a day, and in no short part, this is due to the work and early success of players like Staples, Talbot, and Somerville.
What About a Poker Career?
Earning enough to carry a career in poker streaming might seem a little different than other avenues, but most of the technical earning possibilities are the same. Sure, gambling is unique in that players can earn money directly from playing well, but this is hardly the only way revenue is generated.
Just as with playing other video games, poker players have the same other three primary potential income sources – advertisements, subscriptions, and sponsorships. The first two of these tend to be on the smaller end of the equation, as only online streamers with hundreds of thousands of active viewers will be able to earn enough to support themselves from these methods.
Instead, it is sponsorship which tends to be the biggest contributor to bankroll and personal finance. As the sponsored players tend to garner the most attention, this creates a feedback loop, where the more attention they have the more the industry grows, leading to the level we see today.
How can the Poker Streaming Industry Grow?
Digital entertainment has been making significant strides in the last few decades. Going from curiosity to larger than even the film box office, the growth of this entertainment avenue is still developing alongside the commensurate increase in digital device ubiquity.
The path forward for poker streaming, of all types, is now in a healthier position than ever before and is still far from reaching its peak. As for how large this industry could eventually grow, and how many players can continue to make a living from this business is yet to be seen, but if past trends are any indication, we still have considerable potential left yet.