Poker on Twitch is booming, hitting record viewer numbers throughout 2020.
In fact, during the Spring Championship of Online Poker back in May, the reigning king of Twitch Poker Lex Veldhuis dominated the Twitch directory to become the no.1 stream on the entire platform.
If you’ve ever played a poker session whilst watching one of your favourite streamers on the side, chances are the idea of streaming yourself has crossed your mind.
There’s nothing stopping you. In fact, in the cases of Lex and his fellow PokerStars Ambassador Ben “Spraggy” Spragg, it was one of the best decisions they made.
Lex has now built a brand new studio in his new home, with every aspect custom-designed for him to stream. Who knows? Maybe one day you could do the same, but everyone has to start somewhere.
So what essential things do you need to start streaming poker on Twitch?
Let’s get into it, with Lex and Spraggy’s help.
Don’t fall at the very first hurdle.
If you’re putting in the effort and all the hours you can muster, make sure your internet connection is able to work just as hard for you.
“The most important “piece of equipment” you can have is a good internet connection,” says Spraggy. “When I first started streaming, I had less than 1mb upload and the stream was either super low quality, or it would cut out and buffer a lot.
“Strong and stable internet is the primary issue as a stream which cuts out or stutters all the time is the main turn off for viewers.”
The way you build an audience and community is by communicating with them.
This is especially true in poker compared with other popular games on Twitch. Viewers want to know why you’re doing what you’re doing, and how you’re feeling when the results arrive.
It’s really the only way they can truly go on a journey with you.
“It really doesn’t matter about the quality to begin with,” says Spraggy. “You just need a way to communicate and start connecting with people. I started with an old gaming headset I had lying around, and used the flip down mic.”
As you progress and you stream gets better, eventually the time will come to part with some cash for a better quality mic. But you needn’t break the bank.
“I think you can get a good microphone for €60-€100 euro,” says Lex. “Basically, you should eventually get a microphone that isn’t built into a webcam or something.”
Speaking of webcams, viewers want to be able to see you in action. You don’t have to be Steven Spielberg. Just point the thing and shoot.
As Spraggy explains, the quality doesn’t have to be great to begin with.
“A quality webcam is important but not 100% necessary,” says Spraggy. “I started with a super cheap webcam that came free with an old laptop or something.
“I think a good cam is necessary in order to grow, but if you’re uncomfortable at the start you can definitely find your feet without investing a lot of money. You can build on that at a later time.”
No, I’m not talking about the free money added to a tournament prize pool when the guarantee isn’t beaten.
Twitch Overlays are the graphics, animations or tools that you use to display your stream. They sit over your actual game/video content when you’re broadcasting live.
“I think you need to have some sort of basic overlay,” says Veldhuis. “It makes your stream look clean and nice because, and it’s the first thing that catches the eye. It’s something you can build off of too. So make sure your graphics fit you.”
The same goes for alerts, according to Veldhuis. A Twitch alert is a sound or graphic which pops up on the stream when, for example, you get a new follower or you receive a donation.
“I know it can be hard to set up good alerts, but it just lets people see the effort that you’re putting in,” says Veldhuis.
If you watch a streamer regularly enough, they will eventually form part of your daily routine. Many people fall asleep to streams every night, and they can do so because the streamer is actually streaming when they say they will.
If you can get a schedule out there and be consistent, viewers are more likely to keep coming back.
“Yeah, one of the most important things is to make a schedule and stick to it,” says Veldhuis. “A lot of people don’t understand how important the first 10 viewers you get are. If those 10 viewers keep returning to your stream, they will already put you above half of the Twitch Poker directory.
“If you lose five of those viewers, then you plummet down to the bottom. So treat all of your first viewers like gold because they might tell somebody in a different channel about your stream and help spread the word.”
If you’re still reading this article, chances are you’re pretty keen on starting to stream poker. You’d have probably started even without this friendly nudge.
So what are you waiting for?
“My main advice is always to just get started,” says Spraggy. “Don’t worry about your audio being perfect, your webcam being perfect, or your graphics and overlay being perfect.”
The only way you’ll know if streaming is for you is by doing it. Allow yourself the time to see if Twitch is really something you wish to pursue.
“Don’t invest lots of money in getting started and then realise it’s not something you enjoy doing,” adds Spraggy.
Before I let him go back to his awesome new home studio, I wondered if Lex felt any pieces of technology or equipment were overrated.
“Hmmm, let’s see,” ponders Veldhuis. “I actually think a lot of lighting stuff is a little bit overrated. People worry their stream isn’t bright enough or something, y’know? But you don’t need to have a professional studio immediately. Instead, try tweaking your lamp setup and make sure that you’re in a reasonable position with the light from outside. That sort of thing.”
I was also curious if he had any regrets from his epic ascent on Twitch.
“One thing I really regret is that I didn’t record all of my streams early on,” he says. “If you record them you can look back on those early streams and evaluate yourself and your poker play. It’s really fun to have that, and I really messed up in not doing it.
“So yeah, record every single one of your streams!”