EPT12 Prague: The Twitcher and the Talker
Some quiet soul in a knit sweater is about to be moved to another table, and you can see in his eyes that he's happy to go quietly, to slink away, to ghost from the table without saying goodbye.
Sam Grafton is having none of that.
"Good game! Nice jumper!" Grafton yells.
It's surely a compliment. Grafton is sartorially advanced.
Even if the man in jumper is taken aback, no one else is. When it comes to engaging the public, Grafton doesn't discriminate.
To know Grafton is to know there will never be one of those awkward silences where introverts go to die. Grafton, wild-haired and adorned in a foliage-appointed chemise, will make sure there is always something to talk about.
To wit: Nice Jumper is barely gone before Grafton--apropos of something, we're sure--breaks into a story about a hand, one that has all the makings of a story about how Grafton managed to heroically fold pocket kings. There's betting and raises and re-raises, and each one is punctuated by Grafton punching the men on either side of him in their shoulders for emphasis. He's riffing like a stand-up comedian, arms a-flailing, his voice rising and falling with each dramatic turn. By the end of it, we're all in the hand, and we know for sure Grafton has folded his kings to pocket aces, a professional laydown if there ever was one.
Grafton waits a beat, lets it all soak in, and then drops the punch line.
"He said, 'Nice fold' and turned over pocket queens!"
Grafton then begins to punch himself in the jaw with both hands, knocking his head back and forth like a boxer in his final moments.
To his right, a blush-cheeked man sits in relative silence, laughing in the right places, and keeping his voice low.
"You played an EPT before?" Grafton asks.
"First time in Europe," says the Mr. Quiet.
"No!" screams Grafton. A resident of Prague and keen on being a good host, he launches into a list of the best local hotspots.
Mr. Quiet nods and thanks Grafton for the advice, and no one would ever guess that the quiet guy usually talks more in a single day than Sam Grafton will talk in a week.
This is Jaime Staples. Indeed, it's not only his first time in Prague but also his first time on the continent. He's never played a PCA. He's just now playing an EPT. It's not the resume you would expect for a man who has thousands of fans who pay to watch him talk and play.
Staples is a Twitch star, one who literally logs on to play tournaments all day, turns on a camera, and narrates everything for his fans as he does it. It earned him thousands of followers, people who subscribe to his channel like they would pay for premium TV. For hours at a time, Staples will sit, talk non-stop, and follow his fans comments in the chat box. It's the type of thing few people can do, and it's a 100% different than sitting in a live tournament.
See, when Staples plays online and broadcasts on Twitch, he talks through every move he makes. It helps his fans understand what he's doing, and, oddly enough, it keeps him from getting bogged down in his own thoughts.
"I'm so used to announcing what I'm doing and thinking it through out loud," Staples said. "So, this is a little bit of an adjustment. I think it's actually easier to talk through it. When you do it out loud, it's not really running through your head. It's running through your mouth. It's like verbal diarrhea."
Now, he's quiet, but that doesn't mean this live table is. Grafton has taken over the role of talking.
"I find it relaxing. It's a nice atmosphere to play in," Staples said. "He strikes up a conversation with the rest of the table, and you learn some things about them and what they're doing."
This is not the first time Staples has had the pleasure. A few years back, he got sat next to Grafton at the WSOP for the first time, and he learned what it meant to be in the blast radius of the Grafton Monologue Machine.
"He was such a nice guy, you know?" he said. "Sam is great. It's nice to take a backseat."
If you put a video camera and microphone on the table, Staples might end up talking in a rapid-fire machine staccato until the tournament ends. In the absence of that happening, Staples is happy to let someone else do the talking for a change, and fortunately, he's found just the man for the job.
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Brad Willis is the PokerStars Head of Blogging.