PokerStars Festival Hamburg: Felix "xflixx" Schneiders, "The Twitch journey has only just begun."
There were a lot of skeptical voices in the poker world a few years ago when poker players started using Twitch. Jason 'JCarver' Somerville led the way but a lot of observers thought that streaming yourself playing poker wouldn't work, and that the platform was best for what it was designed for initially: the eSports world. Almost four years on and most of those negative voices have been quietened.
PokerStars Team Pro Online Felix "xflixx" Schneiders is playing the Main Event today and has become a big part of the Twitch poker movement. The German pro sat down with the blog for a chat about his journey in poker and the role Twitch plays in his life. When he joined Team Pro Online four and a half years ago, no-one in poker was looking at Twitch as a thing.
"[Being on the team] is still as amazing as it was at the beginning, even though it means something different to me these days. Back in the beginning when I was recruited for Team Pro Online I was still playing professionally, so paying bills with poker money. But that has sort of changed over the years with me realising there's more to my life and also to play to my strengths which is making content. I started out with YouTube and showed people how I built my bankroll, but then Twitch came on board and that became my passion along with poker. The combination is insane and I love that PokerStars has such a huge support in the Twitch efforts, growing the game - it's all getting better every day."
Creating content has become so important to anyone who wants to build and connect with a community, whether you're a vlogger, Instagram star and/or a streamer. But as this industry booms, it becomes harder for one to standout in a marketplace flooded with content. If you're not going to become the biggest of mainstream stars, then it's vital to find a niche in order to stay relevant and in the "game". Schneiders realised this and found his niche.
"I was actually creating content in English on YouTube and started that same way on Twitch, creating a community that was relying on my English content. But over the years I started to realise that I was not really being authentically myself.
"So a year ago I took a step back because I decided from one day to the other that I would start streaming in German and focus on my German audience. Even though I was talking in the English language with English content, half to two thirds of my community was still German. Being able to talk in my mother tongue was much easier and also more authentic. It's so important to be authentic on Twitch as there's no way around it - you have to be yourself if you're putting yourself out there every day. So that's what I'm doing right now - building my German community - and I'm really excited to be in Hamburg for the PokerStars Festival. Some of the people that are really rooting for and supporting me are here for a meet and greet - so that's amazing!"
With some non-poker Twitch streams regularly attracting seven-figure viewing figures, it's becoming the new TV for the next generation coming through. Does this mean that poker on Twitch has the potential for more growth, and how much crossover can there be between the poker and Esports players?
"I think the Twitch journey has only just begun. Personally, I've only been going three years and I feel like there's so much to discover, grow and reach out to. I've just started reaching out to other streamers and a lot of them have never even played poker or even realised that it exists online, but I show them it can be a lot of fun.
"I've started to recently connect with communities in Germany with huge audiences in different games and the key thing about Twitch is showing them how much fun poker can be if you play it with the right mindset and share it with a community. Poker is usually lonely as you play it on your own online, unless you play live. It's hard to build a community while playing online and I struggled before I found Twitch and could show people how much fun it can be."
In the eSports world, you have professional players and professional streamers. There are players that can achieve both, but the majority of eSports players have to focus on one or the other to be able to compete with rival players or streamers. I wanted to know if that was the same for poker players/streamers.
"It really depends on who you are and your self awareness. You need to discover what you're good at and what you enjoy. Generally, everyone who plays poker, enjoys it. The professionals do otherwise they wouldn't be playing for a living and the guys that create content and stream do as well otherwise they would be streaming other games.
"I think you could go so many different routes, but as you say, you have to find out what excites you about playing poker. Do you want to be the best like an athlete or in a sport, or entertain and build a community through content? That's the path I have chosen and that works for me. It's my dream really, and I realised that through poker, which is quite funny as I started out as trying to be a professional!
"I could wake up tomorrow and think maybe I should give this professional thing another go, but I need to give 100% to one thing. It would be like any athlete that's trying to be great at a certain sport. You have to put all your time into it, and that's kind of tough to do as a streamer. You can't put enough time into strategy or learning the game more to succeed as a professional as well."
Coaching was a big part of Schneiders' life as he was an emerging professional player and he still likes to share his knowledge in that way. Is that still the case and has Twitch impacted it?
"I still do a lot of coaching but in a different way. I used to do one-on-one coaching with people but that's become tricky these days. Now I do a one-hour coaching sessions for my entire community and we do it live. They'll give me hands and we'll go over them, and I'm able to reach everybody and give the most number of people while still doing what I enjoy: teaching, creating content and improving myself in poker. It's the perfect fit for me!"
What can we expect from Schneiders in the coming years?
"My biggest goal is to grow the sport of poker in my German community, spread it to as many people as possible, especially non poker people, non streamers, people that don't even know about poker, and get it out there. I want to show them how much fun poker can be but not only that, to show them how much other things you can learn from this game. I've learned how to build my Twitch community, build my YouTube channel, build all my social media channels and build my business/brand really - all this by just learning to get better at poker. It taught me I can be my own boss."
For many years during poker's "boom", the game gained a lot of growth by marketing it to players as a way to make a lot of money and become a professional, like the poker stars we all saw on TV. As the game progressed, it got more professional, the tools and knowledge were available for everyone to get better and that dream became harder to achieve. But here's the thing: poker is a game, right? Why can't it thrive just on the back of it being really fun to play, and really fun to watch people play?
Many spectators of sports like tennis and Formula 1 say they're not as fun to watch anymore as the characters have gone out of the game. As those sports grew more professional and became big business with a lot of money at stake, only those with the upmost dedication and professionalism were able to compete at the highest level. There was no room for personality. Sound familiar?
Poker is in a different era now and we have to accept that. There may not be room for many 'Wild West' type characters at the top of the poker world anymore, but what Twitch has shown us is that there's still plenty of room for those characters to exist, thrive and most importantly connect with people and build communities that will become the next generation of poker players, ensuring a healthy future for the game we love.
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