Back in the days when 7 Card Stud ruled the poker world, an exceptional poker player named Johnny Chan made a name for himself in a hand where he bested 1988 WSOP Main Event runner-up Erik Seidel. That moment was captured by upstart sports cable network ESPN and was subsequently used in the movie Rounders.
The commentary of that one hand began a whirlwind of interest in the game of poker, which was later televised to a wider audience by WSOP announcers Lon McEachern and Norman Chad. During that time, the World Poker Tour (WPT) had begun its own 6-handed final table format with Mike Sexton and Vince van Patten. Before we knew it, poker broadcasting had taken off and was reaching millions of viewers worldwide.
Since then, many programs have thrown their hat into the poker broadcasting ring — from Poker After Dark to High Stakes Poker, from PokerStars EPT to Nolan Dalla’s Poker Night in America. Even mainstream network NBC got in on the action at one point with its National Poker Championship. And now Poker Central will be launching two new original poker television shows on October 1.
All those shows have played a significant role in expanding poker’s popularity around the globe, but they were also missing an important platform: online poker. But that has all changed rapidly with the rise of Twitch Poker live streaming.
Online Poker Broadcasting
Many of us who have been around the online poker world for more than a decade assumed that online poker could make for great television, but it required a top-notch talent like Jason Somerville to lead the way. Somerville launched his RIU program in September 2013 with little fanfare, but was quickly able to pick up a key sponsorship that would pave the way to must-watch TV.
Earlier this year, the 28-year old native New Yorker was able to expand his audience by signing with PokerStars. His unprecedented 90 days of streaming saw thousands of new viewers flock to the Twitch live streaming platform to watch his programming for hours on end. Then, less than two months ago, he signed a separate contract with Twitch Poker which will keep RIU fans happy through mid-2017.
Jason Somerville’s success has inspired other online poker players to take to the live streaming platform, such as Friend of PokerStars Jaime Staples, who has earned thousands of paid subscribers to his Twitch channel in less than 12 months of casting.
Twitch Poker is now one of the most popular gaming categories on the entire Twitch website — often reaching the Top 10 among all games. Dozens of online poker personalities routinely stream at once, meaning poker fans have more options than ever before to assuage their poker fix.
The minimal-investment nature of live streaming compared to traditional television production makes it all but certain that poker broadcasting will continue to thrive in upcoming years. Live streaming appears to be the wave of the future, which is good news for all fans of poker broadcasting.