Not at lot of poker players had heard of Twitch before 2014, but when the livestreaming video games platform introduced poker among its services in late 2014, it exploded.
Jason Sommerville became the public face of Twitch and drew thousands of followers to his broadcasts, where they could watch him play online with his hole cards exposed in real time. Other pros soon joined him: Betrand “ElkY” Grospellier, Chris Moneymaker, Greg Merson, George Danzer, Casey “bigdogpck5s” Jarzabek and Jamie Staples just to name a few. The fans were overjoyed. They got to see their heroes play poker live and the chance to chat with them too. How cool is that!
Since launching poker as a part of Twitch, it’s been growing day by day. More and more pros are livestreaming and more and more fans are watching them play. Twitch is the place to be, and the pioneer spirit and freshness surrounding Twitch is part of the attraction. Where will this journey end?
PokerWomenNews caught up with two of the female pioneers – PartyPoker pro Jamie Kerstetter and Canadian online grinder Deborah “QueenBee902” Vanneste – to get their take on Twitch and to hear about their experiences streaming.
How did the two of you get started livestreaming on Twitch?
Jamie Kerstetter: “PartyPoker saw Twitch as a great platform for introducing the game of poker to new players, and asked me if I’d be interested in streaming their tournaments as I played”.
QueenBee902: “Being a micro stakes grinder and a previous micromillions champion I decided to start my twitch stream originally to stream as many of Pokerstars micromillions events as I could. I felt I would appeal to the average player trying to grind their way to being successful. And being a woman I felt I could reach a wider audience too”.
Why do you “Twitch”? What do you want to accomplish (if anything)?
Jamie Kerstetter: “I plan to be playing poker professionally for a while and bringing in new blood to this game is crucial to poker’s survival. I want to promote poker by showing new people how fun and profitable it can be. I try not to make Twitch my own personal soapbox, but I do urge people to be more politically active in trying to get more states to regulate online poker”.
QueenBee902: “For me it’s a matter of reaching a significant audience and to better my game and become even more successful at poker. To hopefully continue the stream onto the next micromillions coming up in July and even some events in between”.
What is it that makes Twitch special?
QueenBee902: “Twitch is special because it offers an unique experience to viewers. It allows me to get the game of poker out there and for people to see all kinds of poker players can be successful and thus hopefully grow the game. It’s like a live show that people come out to see, you get to be you and show case your personality that may get diminished in your everyday life”.
Jamie Kerstetter: “Twitch is unique because you can interact on a personal level with the person you are watching play and can comment and ask questions instead of just passively watching him or her”.
Aren’t you afraid of giving too much away of your own play by streaming?
Jamie Kerstetter: “Yes! But there are pros and cons. I am definitely teaching my opponents some strategies to beat me, but the overall effect that Twitch will have in the overall growth of poker seems worth it to me”.
QueenBee902: “For me there is so much room for my own game to improve! I feel like it’s also an opportunity for me to grow and advance my game. The journey is fun and interesting and it gets to play out in front of hundreds and even thousands of people. It’s definitely a process and journey”.
Do you think Twitch will survive in the long run? Or is it just a flash in the pan?
Jamie Kerstetter: “It has been going strong in the gaming world for a long time now, and it seems to me like poker will be no different”.
QueenBee902: “I agree. I think Twitch had endless possibilities and with so many different characters appealing to all sorts of audiences, I think Twitch will continue to grow for quite a while to come. I also think Twitch for some streamers will become mobile and follow them on their path outside of their living rooms around the world on their poker journeys. Like a real life book, movie, or personal journal, never knowing what the next chapter will bring. I think this will appeal to a lot of people, and they will continue to tune in to the next episode so to speak”.
What kind of response have you got from your followers and do you interact a lot with the viewers while streaming?
Jamie Kerstetter: “I have been able to answer almost every question so far, but it has become a little more difficult with every new follower because the messageboard is getting more live each time I play. It’s not bad though, because people aren’t just talking to me – they are also interacting with one another on the board”.
QueenBee902: “My followers thus far have been very interested and encouraging overall. They drive me to make a better stream, invest more of my time not only in content but in equipment to increase the quality of my stream. I try to interact with the followers while streaming. Making the experience personal for viewers, including them, answering their questions and making it about them is very important. Because in the end the stream would be nothing without them”.
There are not a lot of women streaming on Twitch – yet. Do you consider Twitch a good platform for women? And maybe a tool for attracting more women to the game?
QueenBee902: “I think Twitch can be a good opportunity for women to stream and encourage more women to enter the game of poker. A lot of people will hopefully watch the stream and think: “if she can do this, I can do this too” – whether it be stream or play the game. I think you have to be somewhat careful as a woman though and set boundaries and have a clear path for the direction you want the stream to go”.
Jamie Kerstetter: ”I think it is equally good for men and women, and I think the Twitch atmosphere probably reflects a similar demographic to poker – so I’m not sure a ton of women are being introduced to poker through Twitch – but perhaps we can change that with marketing?”.
Have you experience a lot of trolling? And what do you do in such situations?
Jamie Kerstetter: ”I was bracing myself for a lot of trolling and immature comments and was pleasantly surprised that people were actually pretty cool. I only had to ban one guy who was treating me like a webcam girl and it was cathartic to drop the almightly banhammer on his face. Power trip!”, Kerstetter says laughing.
QueenBee902: “You get all kinds of trolls and I have had to add chat banned words to my settings. I have to be firm on the direction I want the chat or the stream to go. As a streamer you have to nip these situations in the bud and try and have some control and to not let trollers upset you or affect your game. It can be a very fine balancing act. As a streamer you have to expect certain things being said to a degree. It’s important to have limits though and to implement the banhammer if necessary. In these situation I try and remain calm and focused on my game, be happy, have fun! “
Does streaming on Twitch improve your own game?
QueenBee902: ”Yes most certainly. When you have all kinds of people investing their spare time and even their money in taking in your stream, you want their experience to be top notch and to not disappoint them. To always bring your A-game. I was lucky enough on my second day of streaming micromillions to win event 9, my second micromillions title in front of over 400 viewers. It took almost 7 hours. IT WAS EPIC and everything I could hope to happen on my new stream. I will say that it does take an incredible amount of time and hard work improving your own game off stream. So be prepared for long days and some sleepless nights”, QueenBee902 says with a smile. “For me as a person with offsteam life commitments Twitch streaming is a huge project and investment of time and money, and you have to determine how much that is worth to you and especially to your viewers”.
Jamie Kerstetter: “Once again there are pros and cons. It makes me more introspective about my plays, but it is distracting to be at a final table and still chatting people up on chat. I think the pros outweigh the cons in the long run, because growing the game is the most important thing I can do right now”.
Thanks to Jamie Kerstetter and Deborah “QueenBee902” Vanneste for sharing their experiences with us. If you want to watch them play you can:
Follow Jamie Kerstetter on: http://www.twitch.tv/jamiekerstetter
and Deborah “QueenBee902” Vanneste on: http://www.twitch.tv/QueenBee902
If you’re curious to know more about the launching of poker on Twitch and the man behind, Scott Ball, check out this excellent article by Lance Bradley: http://www.bluff.com/news/fighting-upstream-the-man-behind-twitchs-poker-explosion-64429/