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The 2015 calendar year has seen the rise of Twitch Poker in a way that has had a positive impact on growing awareness for the game we all love. Poker live streaming talents such as Jason Somerville and Jaime Staples have attracted thousands of viewers to their near-daily online poker streams.

Although Twitch TV has quickly established itself as the go-to method for live streaming online poker, it requires some planning and software setup to make it feasible in a live poker setting. However, poker fans now have a tool at their disposal for streaming live action via their smart phone touch screens. It’s called the Periscope app, and was purchased by Twitter in March of this year.

About Periscope Live Streaming App

Periscope is a live streaming application for smart phone users that is available for both the iOS and Android platforms. Its direct competitor is Meerkat. Users can begin instantly streaming with a simple command and use their mobile phone as a video camera to record anything within sight.

Think of it as as a viable alternative to the cumbersome Google Glass. Instead of using one’s neck and shoulder muscles as a constant swivel, casters can manipulate what is being displayed to a live audience by moving their smart phones while streaming.

The feed is then broadcast on Periscope.tv in real time. Viewers can follow their favorite Periscope streams by awarding hearts — similar to the way friends utilize “likes” and “follows” on other social media websites.

There are many potential opportunities and pitfalls that Periscope presents for live poker games. I’ll break down a few.

The Benefits: Periscope Streaming of Live Poker Action

Poker is at a junction where it can heavily benefit from organic fan-based promotion. Periscope is an ideal tool for making this happen.

With the 2015 WSOP Main Event November Nine just around the corner, the Series is in a unique position to maximize its outreach to thousands of casual poker fans who have never seen a WSOP final table in real time.

Amateur casts of the action from the Rio All Suites Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas were previously limited to short video clips that were subsequently uploaded to YouTube, but Periscope makes near-full length broadcasts possible.

Once the 2015 WSOP Main Event has concluded, there will still be plenty of chances for fans to insert themselves into the environment of live poker events by conducting spontaneous interviews with media representatives and players while also capturing live poker action from the rail.

Poker needs a groundswell of fan-based interest, especially in the United States where online poker is only regulated in three states: New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware. Just imagine the impact Periscope could have when used for promotional events such as Team PokerStars Pros Visit California Casinos. Fan-generated streams of face time with the likes of Daniel Negreanu are priceless for increasing awareness and support for poker.

The Drawbacks: Periscope Streaming of Live Poker Action

On the flip side of that token, new live streaming technological capabilities inevitably present a number of challenges for the poker industry. Many land-based casinos are already very sensitive about any live recording taking place on-site. Adding live cast capability to that mix is going to result in security and broadcast rights issues as well as pave the way for controversial publication of disputes between poker players and casino staff.

On the security front, there is the possibility of hole card information being transmitted in real time that will threaten the integrity of live poker to its core. Players competing at the felts will need to be more wary than ever about ensuring their hole cards cannot be viewed by anyone when they peek at them.

Failure to do could result in virtually undetectable cheating that makes the 2010 WPT Barcelona scandal (in which a media representative on the rail allegedly signaled hole card information to a player who was competing heads-up for the title) seem like a primitive scam operation.

Broadcast rights of big live poker events will also be threatened by Periscope. Lucrative deals between poker event brands and television networks aren’t as common as they used to be, but they still occur.

ESPN will be once against televise this year’s WSOP Main Event November Nine final table. However, the network will be competing with perhaps a dozen Periscope feeds that will not be on any type of delay.

How much this will affect ESPN’s coverage is unknown, although my guess would be not significantly since Periscope is still in its infancy with the vast majority of casual poker fans opting for a professionally-produced telecast — even if there is a delay. Look for this to shift in upcoming months as Periscope (and similar smart phone apps like Meerkat) enable high quality streaming.

And don’t forget about actual poker disputes between players and casino staff that are going to be broadcast in real time from now on. If casino personnel were uncomfortable with some of the YouTube videos out there, just wait until these clips go live on a larger scale and are viewed by thousands instead of a few dozen people — as they happen.

The only method for preventing such misuse of Periscope is to ban entry of all smart phones into a casino. This was already attempted a few years ago and turned out to be an epic failure. Many casino gamblers would more quickly allow their “good luck trinkets” to be confiscated over their mobile devices.

Periscope is a Nightmare for Anti-Piracy Advocates

The most widely viewed casts on Periscope.tv are without a doubt copyright-protected live spectacles. Among them are professional sports and concerts. Fans are much more frequently foregoing Pay Per View (PPV) events in lieu of Periscope casts.

Floyd Mayweather vs. Andre BertoUFC 191, and even the recent WWE Night of Champions all experienced a larger than anticipated dip in PPV buys as fans tuned-in to amateur casts via Periscope. Twitter’s official policy is that they promptly investigate any takedown requests, but that process can take up to 24 hours even for established copyrighted material. By the time the Twitter/Periscope account is flagged, the damage has already been done.

The crux of the issue is that — just like YouTube in its infancy — Periscope relies on amateur casts of copyright-protected content to swell the ranks of its user base. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about that fact. Your pet Sparkles may do a great rendition of Earth Wind & Fire’s Reasons, but the reality of the matter is that viewer demand is much higher when it comes original artists and their original content.

Once Periscope devises a Twitch-esque revenue generation plan for casters (that’s coming, by the way — many Periscope streamers are already establishing a viewer base in anticipation of this), we’ll see a renewed push for laws to stop such practices. After all, Internet 2.0, which would automatically restrict wireless live transmissions within certain physical perimeters, isn’t coming in the next 24 months.

For all the outrageously overreaching aspects of proposed legislation such as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) — and yes, there are many — one positive outcome would be a crackdown on casters who record or stream full-length copyrighted material with no intention of abiding by Fair Use laws.

The Toothpaste is Out of the Tube

Like it or not, mobile phone applications such as Periscope have already made it clear that there’s no turning back on either end of the argument. Poker industry representatives will undoubtedly selectively embrace or shun this new technology at times, which in turn will draw plenty of push back from app users.

What are your thoughts on the Twitter Periscope smart phone live streaming app for iOS and Android users? Vote in our poll and feel free to leave comments below.

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David Huber

David Huber has been involved in the poker industry for more than a decade: initially as a professional online poker player and later as an editor, consultant, writer, and forum manager. Known as "dhubermex" online, David's poker-related work has been heavily published across numerous websites since 2004.

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