Can we settle down with the Twitch is going to be huge for poker stuff?
Forgive me if I don’t get too excited, but I’ve seen this movie before.
First it was this poker show or that poker show. What happened? Most were short-lived and cancelled.
Next came new exciting new poker games and structures. What happened? No discernible interest from potential poker players, and winning players simply moved from one structure to the other.
Then it was social type reward programs and “missions” to accomplish. What happened? Nothing.
These efforts were followed by more ubiquitous circumstances such as regulation in the U.S., bitcoin, and now it’s Twitch, the outlet even received an American Poker Award for the best new innovation in the game.
What is Twitch?
For those that don’t know, Twitch is a cross between YouTube and a Skype. Basically, it can be a live-stream of a program like the Global Poker Masters, or a single person live-streaming themselves from their PC (complete with commentary and the ability to interact in real-time with the viewers), doing something as simple as playing a video game or, of course, playing a session of online poker.
Twitch could very well be the next Billion-Dollar-Idea, as it’s a really cool amalgamation of many other online communication methods. Twitch is having a tremendous impact in the gamer community, and because of poker’s use of similar methods of communication for training videos, poker has already carved out a smaller niche among all of the video game Twitch channels.
This shouldn’t’ be too surprising considering poker players are often early adopters – Twitter and bitcoin come to mind immediately – but this doesn’t necessarily equate to Twitch becoming a boon for the game of poker itself.
Twitch is awesome, poker on Twitch is quaint.
First impression of Twitch
Granted, I’m not a huge Twitch user, and will likely never be (I’m not really in their key demographic as I’m fast approaching 40), but during my time watching poker on Twitch I’ve found it to be little more than a real-time, fast-paced, Internet comment section.
If your idea of improving poker is taking what we currently have (an abundance of 20-something males with poor social skills) than I suppose Twitch is the answer you’re looking for. However, if your idea of improving poker is expanding the game to new demographics than Twitch is not the answer. In fact, if we try to push it as a representation of poker it’s probably a detriment.
For me, Twitch is nothing more than a live stream, as I have no interests in interacting with other viewers or the hosts of poker programming. I just came here for the poker.
The people I want to bring into the game, the people that are going to potentially cause another period of BOOM aren’t on Twitch. I’m talking about middle-aged men and women with disposable income, and they are simply never going to find themselves bookmarking Twitch or favoriting Twitch channels.
I think Twitch is perfectly fine for what it does and what it was meant to be, (it’s a nice delivery vehicle) but it’s not the next big thing in poker for a number of reasons, most notably, poker and first-person video games don’t allow for the same type of commentary since poker is static graphics of playing cards whereas video games have advanced to the point they are virtually real.
Another key difference is poker is always the same, whereas video games have multiple genres, from first-person shooter to Madden.
So let’s not make Twitch out to be more than it is or try to hijack it from gamers; what it is is perfectly fine.
That being said, there are poker players who are carving out places for themselves in the Twitch hierarchy. Specifically Jason Somerville.
Somerville has made Twitch work for poker. He plays online poker and uses Twitch as something of a live training session that allows his tens of thousands of followers to interact with one of poker’s top minds.
Somerville also understands the value of availability, as he is one of the most active and consistent Twitch users, so his channel has far less downtime than other poker players. For those outside of the poker community who may not think much of this, consistency and keeping appointments is not really a prime characteristic of poker players.
What Somerville has accomplished is incredible and should be applauded. But I’m afraid there aren’t enough Jason Somerville’s in poker. And even if there were, they would simply be redundant on a platform like Twitch.
However, there is also a much lower ceiling to Somerville on Twitch than some of the more popular gamers.
Does poker need more “gamer” mentality?
The real problem I see is this; poker has already carved out its place in the gamer demographic. We’ve tapped that market.
A lot of the early online poker wizards came from this subculture, be it Magic the Gathering or Starcraft. This is the low hanging fruit.
If you want me to believe Twitch is going to big part of poker’s future growth than prove it. Show me how Twitch is going to increase participation at online poker tables and/or live tournaments. Show me how Somerville’s audience is expanding poker’s horizons.
What new demographics is poker on Twitch appealing to? Somerville’s podcast aside, the Global Poker Masters on Twitch was no different than a live stream of an EPT tournament. The sidebar commentary wasn’t enough to keep me interested, and in fact, I would rather go without it.
Because Twitch’s chat feature (or the poker community in general) could best be described as Frattish. The comments are for the most part one or more of the following: Trollish in nature, sophomoric, sexist, and occasionally racist. The Twitch chat box is probably off-putting to anyone my age and older, women, and minority groups.
It’s not a good reflection on poker.
To be fair, there were plenty of people in the chat answering questions from non-poker players and doing their best to be friendly and helpful to these new viewers. Unfortunately, there were also plenty of trolls and people just looking to make shock-value comments.
Unfiltered live commenting isn’t the way to legitimize the game and expand poker’s base. And this real time interaction is all I see Twitch adding to the conversation. It’s great for Somerville while he is trying to educate players; it’s not so great for a live stream of something like the Global Poker Masters or a major tournament.
Twitch has a definite role to play in poker, but when we call it the next big thing we place expectations on it that it simply can never live up to.
I want Twitch in poker.
I don’t want Twitch to be sold as an integral part of the industry.