Interview: Ben Spragg joins Team Online
Everyone at PokerStars got a big kick out of the news that Jeff Gross joined Team PokerStars Pro this week. He brings a fascinating new perspective to the game, and one which he shares with great success on his Twitch channel.
But Gross was not the only pro to join the PokerStars ranks this month. Team Online's ranks also welcomed new talent in the form of Benj Spragg "Spraggy" from the UK, and Fintan Hand "EasywithAces" from Ireland, both accomplished players and, like Gross, accomplished Twitch hosts, and appear alongside each other in a regular Podcast (which you can check out here).
We spoke to both of them as they signed on the dotted line to find out more about their poker journeys, and on joining Team Online.
Up first is Ben Spraggy. You can click here to read our interview with Fintan Hand.
How did you become interested in poker?
I started watching TV poker and couldn't wait to get going as soon as I turned 18. I remember watching "tuff_fish" videos on YouTube, of him tilting wildly and finding them hilarious. From there I played home games with friends for £5 a pop. We would play in my friend's garage and even had our own poker felt which I distinctly remember being torn away from the table in a fit of rage one week by my buddy. From those early days we were all hooked on the game and soon transitioned to micro stakes online.
What are some of the highlights of your poker career so far?
Being able to play full time and never needing to get a real job is like a five year long highlight. In terms of success my run at the UKIPT in Galway where I managed to take sixth, for €30,000 was fun. Despite having made more money in my earlier years playing I have to say that taking my $100 deposit and turning it into $17,000, all in front of some great people on twitch, may well be my proudest achievement in the game.
What does it mean to you being a member of Team PokerStars Online?
I remember when I first started playing on PokerStars and using the "find a pro" search feature to rail people who, as someone just starting out, I looked up to immensely. To now become a part of that list is something I'm really proud of. I'm keen to do my utmost to use my place on the team to make sure people fall in love with the game the same way I did seven years ago.
What do you hope to achieve as a member of Team Online?
The emphasis has to be on fun. It's very easy to get bogged down in the grind. When you're playing full time you see everything in terms of your bottom line. In doing so we often lose sight of that love we have for the game. As a member of the team I want to help people enjoy poker again, win or lose. I would love for the online poker experience to be as fun as those games I played in the garage with my friends. If I can help bring a new audience of players into the game and have them find the passion for it that I did I will consider it a job well done.
How did you become interested in streaming?
I felt really burnt out with poker at the back end of 2015 and was looking to transition to something else. I had streamed a little bit prior to this but never really gave it my full attention. With a lot of time on my hands I decided to give it a whirl, but nobody wants to watch a bad player like me play video games. The only game people wanted to watch me play was poker. So I lowered the stakes, played a $100 bankroll challenge to reignite the fun. It worked, and now I love playing poker more than ever, all thanks to the stream.
What do you consider your best stream moment?
For me the first tourney win on stream, a 1st place in the $7.50 PKO for around $2k was immense. In terms of my poker career it's a relatively small score but in terms of boosting a bankroll I had been nurturing for months it was incredibly relieving/rewarding.
What is the best part of streaming to you?
The interaction and being able to hang out with great people all day. The poker grind can, at times, be isolating, so to have hundreds of people chilling in the chat, many of whom spend time on the stream daily, is a great experience. I love being able to entertain, share jokes and laughs, and play the game that we all love.
How do you think being a PokerStars Team Pro Online will affect your content and audience?
I really hope the content doesn't change at all. The stream has grown from nothing to where it is today because I try to offer as fun an experience as I can. The stream is all about fun, I tend not to be too strategy heavy, although I'm always willing to answer questions. But my primary concern is entertainment.
I've always said twitch streams are about entertainment first and poker second - winning along the way is a welcome bonus. Hopefully in joining the team it will allow the content to reach an even bigger audience and I look forward to spending time with newcomers and hope they have as much fun watching the stream as I do presenting it.