Matt Broughton takes you to school: exclusive interview with the PokerStars TV host
If Matt Broughton was given a dollar for every job he's had in the poker industry, he'd be rolling around with the Super High Rollers right now. After starting his career in the computer games industry, working on legendary titles such as Mortal Kombat among others, Matt got into poker after a chance encounter with a friend who worked in TV casting.
That led to a presenting job on UK show Poker Night Live, helping launch the poker careers of Matt, Kara Scott, Nick Wealthall and others, bringing live online poker action to the homes of late night TV viewers in the early 2000s. Matt's next step was as editor of the now-defunct Flush magazine, where he brought his trademark offbeat humour and insight onto the written page as poker - and poker media - continued to boom.
From there, PokerStars welcomed Broughton to the fold as he began to host radio shows, commentate on some smaller festivals before finally arriving at his current and most celebrated role as one of the beloved hosts of PokerStars TV, or as it was formerly known, EPTLive. And, of course, he's been grinding the tables himself all this time too!
In short, Matt knows his way around the poker industry. He's now volunteered to take on yet another hat as a new regular streamer for the PokerSchoolOnline Twitch Channel. Beginning Monday May 29th at 7pm GMT, Broughton will be online to battle it out against you the viewers, offer up his views on anything and everything, and of course have some exciting and valuable prizes to give away too!
The PokerStars Blog caught up with Matt to hear about his storied history in the game, his experience commentating alongside James Hartigan and Joe Stapleton and just what he has planned for PokerSchoolOnline Twitch viewers....
PokerStars Blog: When did you first start playing poker?
Matt Broughton: I'd always been a games player. I love board games, card games and video games, whatever. So when I first got home internet in 1997 or 1998 on the first homepage I ever had, it said 'Play cards against people'. I clicked on the link and suddenly I was just getting off on the fact that I was playing against a housewife in America, somebody in Germany and I thought, 'WOW'!
It was such a great game that I taught my friends and family because I wanted to play it with them. Once my friends were into poker we started buying NTSC tapes from the States of old WSOP episodes and desperately looking for chips - it sounds silly now but back then you couldn't even find chips easily!
Turning poker into a career
PB: What was your first job in the poker industry?
MB: It came about by accident really. I was working in the computer games industry at the time when a friend of mine who worked in casting sent me an advert looking for poker players who were comfortable in front of camera. That ended up being [UK TV show] Poker Night Live, and that was the first legit job I had in poker.
I worked during the day in the office and then at night I did the show with Nick Wealthall, Michelle Orpe, Kara Scott and more. They got a feed from some online poker games, and stuck a camera on us in the voiceover booth. Eventually we had a full TV studio. It was five hours live and unscripted with us just watching poker games. I still meet people now, a good 15 years later, who come up to me and say, "I used to watch you on Poker Night Live and that's what got me into poker."
PB: How did your association with PokerStars begin?
MB: It was around five or six years ago and I went up to Edinburgh to meet Joe Stapleton for the first time to record the SCOOP Radio Show. After that I got called in to do a bit of EPTLive stuff, EPTLite and then gradually I became more and more a full-time part of it, leading to where we are now.
PB: You're now fully established as one of the PokerStars TV (formerly EPTLive) commentators but when you first started James Hartigan and Joe Stapleton were the established duo to the audience. Was it daunting to come in and compete with that?
MB: This may sound a bit deep but I think that if I had been younger it might have been a problem, because of my ego. But when I came in it never bothered me - I know that in people's minds a lot of the time the identity is that it is James and Joe's show.
In the last year and more I've found that people now talk to the three of us and they are used to that rotation. Whereas before it was a bit soul-destroying because I would go on the air with Joe and immediately people would ask, "Where's James gone? When is he coming back?" but I just ploughed on, did my best and now I think I have my own identity. It was daunting but I tried to make sure I did the job I was employed to do and the rest has developed around it, especially as my relationships with James and Joe have come into their own.
Watching the best of the best
PB: What are your favourite parts of doing the PokerStars TV live streams?
MB: This might sound cheesy but I really love interacting with the audience. It's why I love Twitch too. It's a long show and we try to balance it [between poker and fun]. I really love chatting and playing with the audience - if we're lucky, there's some really good poker as well!
PB: With all due respect, you're not a high stakes poker player. So where do you draw the line between just describing the action in front of you and actually offering comment and analysis on the poker?
MB: I've somehow managed to never really stick my neck out too far because I am forever reminding myself and the audience that we're not poker players at the level of these guys. Ironically Joe said something a few years ago that has always stuck with me. Rather than going, "that's a weird move" instead think, "we are watching Jason Mercier. If he has done that it's definitely the right thing. Now what we have to do is work out why". That's a much easier way of approaching it.
PB: Who are some of the players that you most enjoy commentating on?
MB: It's a hard one to say. The obvious answer is someone like Daniel [Negreanu] because he's so chatty and entertaining. Or a William Kassouf because you know there's going to be fireworks there. But sometimes it'll be somebody that you've never heard of before who comes in and owns a table or keeps on making really amazing decisions.
Feeling that Twitch
PB: When did you first discover Twitch?
MB: I feel a bit smug because I was the first one on the team to take Twitch seriously. Because of my video games background I've been aware of it for years and I'd often watch to try and decide what game to buy next! Rather than watch trailers I'd watch someone play for thirty minutes and make a decision based on that.
When poker started going onto Twitch about three years ago I added Twitch to the list of things that we'd monitor, alongside Facebook, Twitter and so on. Obviously, PokerStars has now picked up on it too.
PB: Have you streamed much on Twitch before?
MB: To be truthful I never had a good reason to stream much before. I didn't want to become Jason Somerville - my life is interesting enough that I can't sit streaming for five days a week! And to be successful as a streamer you have to do it very regularly. But I did stream a couple of times myself and what we would do was play poker but talk video games.
I've always enjoyed the medium and it suits me but I had never had a good reason to stream regularly - until now.
PB: What can people expect from your PokerSchoolOnline streams?
MB: It will be a bit of an evolving monster but, as people know from the Poker In Your Ears podcast, I like giving stuff away. We'll be giving away cash, tickets to the Big Bang tournament and even if we just lure the viewers in with pure greed hopefully they will find out that they like it!
We'll be chatting about random stuff - people seem very interested that I keep bees! - and people will hopefully feel they can land in the chat box and ask me anything about everything. It's going to be as much a social gathering as a poker gathering.
You can watch Matt Broughton streaming on the PokerSchoolOnline Twitch channel every Monday from May 29th at 7pm GMT!