PCA 2016: The Twitch generation has arrived
Poker on Twitch is already big and, according to Twitch pioneer and superstar Jason Somerville, it's only going to get bigger and bigger. Somerville, along with fellow Twitch experts Randy Lew, Celina Lin and Jaime Staples, were the subject of this morning's Breakfast With The Pros Q&A. Hosted by PokerStars's own Lee Jones, the four explained how they got into Twitch, why it's so important to the future of poker, and how you can get started and build a big following.
Before we get into that it's worth explaining once again just what this new phenomenon is all about.
Twitch allows poker players (or video gamers) to stream themselves while playing the game of their choice. On the surface, it doesn't sound like something that would work but when you're in the hands of a hugely entertaining and talented host like Somerville Twitch broadcasts can be just as compelling as any poker programming out there.
One major advantage of the format according to Somerville is the accessibility that fans have with their favourite streamers. "Twitch is engaging the audience instead of presenting content to them. In a six month period last year there were 2.25 million lines of chat on my stream and I answer questions from men and women of all ages that watch," he said.
Not only are the best poker streamers fun to watch- you can learn a lot too. Lew, who achieved great success as a multi-tabling cash game player has transitioned fully into a Twitch personality. For Lew, it's the perfect platform for poker. "Twitch connects two things," he said. "It's both fun and it makes people play better poker."
Previously, Lew says that poker strategy videos were so dull that even he got bored watching them (Somerville called them an effective sedative!) but now fans of shows like his will tune in religiously and often watch the entirety of a nine or ten hour stream.
Jaime Staples is one of the most popular poker streamers on Twitch, and now a certified member of PokerStars Team Online. While he's a talented player even Staples would admit that the great opportunities he's been afforded in his career have come not from his play but from his Twitch channel. Ironically, Staples says he was, "pessimistic" about whether Twitch poker would work, but its bringing poker to a new audience. "We are exposing new people to poker."
Crucially, the people on Twitch that are discovering poker for the first time come from another booming industry - video games. A clear connection is forming between players who frequently play games like Hearthstone and League of Legends and those who play poker. Randy Lew gave a great example of a famous Counter-Strike streamer on Twitch who decided to take a shot at playing a low-stakes poker tournament on PokerStars. He has millions of followers and, when he gave poker a go instead of his usual game, thousands and thousands of them were discovering the game too. This happens all the time and can only lead to good things for poker.
Poker on Twitch is great to watch but, crucially, you can get in on the act too. It's completely free to set-up your own channel and once you get going you can build a following of your own (and maybe even make some money from it too). Jason Somerville, who has over 144,000 followers, knows better than anyone how to create a successful Twitch stream. He had three key bits of advice: 'You have to be consistent. Stream four or five days a week for as long as you can so people know where to find you. You must have a warm, welcoming, positive attitude. Nobody wants to watch someone moaning all the time. And you have to be doing something unique too - be engaging - you can't just say "I call" and leave it there!'
If you aren't watching Twitch already now is the time to start. Jason Somerville, Jaime Staples, Randy Lew and Celina Lin are leading the way -you could be next.
Ross Jarvis works for PokerStars