By Jason Lake
People have been lamenting the decline of televised poker for some time, but who watches television anymore? The Internet has replaced TV time, and on the Internet poker is on 24/7. You can even watch live on Twitch as some of the best poker players in the world hit the virtual felt. On September 7, over 37,000 people watched Jason Somerville play, breaking his own record for the most popular broadcast on Twitch – more popular than any video game stream.
None of this was at our disposal five years ago. Twitch was spun off from Justin.tv in 2011, after the general-interest video platform found that more people were drawn to its “Gaming” section than the rest of the site combined. By 2015, Justin.tv was no more, and Twitch was pulling in 100 million visitors a month. Amazon ended up buying the company for $970 million. Who said you wouldn't get anywhere playing video games?
Poker is definitely an outlier when it comes to Twitch. While it's not the single most popular game on the platform, at press time that would be Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, it is in the Top 20, and has built up its audience considerably over the past six months. Somerville is the biggest reason for that build-up; half the people watching poker on Twitch are watching his channel. Daniel Negreanu's on Twitch, streaming from the comfort of his bed. Phil Hellmuth and Liv Boeree are there too. It's a poker safari, featuring the game's biggest personalities in their natural habitat.
Twitch gives poker another opportunity to experience a major growth spurt. Many of the top players in the world have been playing mixed games for a while now, and by following along on Twitch, thousands of viewers are developing an appreciation for poker that stretches beyond no-limit hold 'em. This is an avenue for growth that poker has desperately needed since Black Friday.
Will Stream for Food
Could Twitch be the new Facebook? At this rate, it could become normal for online poker players to stream while they're at the tables. The technology is simple and cheap enough. Viewers might even pay to subscribe to your channel. It's like busking, but without the sunburn.
You can't beat the value from an educational standpoint, either. Twitch doesn't quite replace what's available at the top training sites, at least not yet, but if you don't have a few hundred dollars to spare, you can still learn a thing or two about poker just by watching. And you can learn it from the best. Video conferencing turned out to be pretty cool after all.