For nearly two decades, online poker operators have been looking for new angles to drive in more traffic. Advertisements, promotions, marketing gimmicks, they’ve all been done, if not overdone, with very little in the way of unique creatives on the table. Now it seems another avenue may have fallen in their laps as popular online poker players find thousands of followers watching live video streams.
Watching live video streams has become an extremely popular pastime for gamers of all genres, originating with celebrated PC and console-based online multi-player video gaming titles like World of Warcraft and the multifarious releases under the Call of Duty prefix. That popularity is now transitioning over to the online poker realm, where players like WSOP bracelet winner Jason Somerville, Kai “stickyrice1” McMinn and Byron “Reckful” Bernstein are drawing high volume viewers to their live streams.
Somerville should probably get the most credit for starting this new trend. The 27-year old poker player began live streaming via a special Run It Up promotion during his tenure as an Ultimate Poker Pro. When UP shut down its online poker room in Nevada last month, Jason continued his Run It Up broadcast via Twitch.tv. Somerville has built his Twitch fan base to over 38,000 followers by engaging with his viewers in a way that is both entertaining and educational for players of all skill ranges, as well as non-players.
“I stay involved in the game by streaming four or five times a week, creating enjoyable, diverse content, and working hard,” Somerville said. “I don’t believe you have to frequently attend live tournaments or wade into heated debates in forum arenas in order to make a positive impact on the game.”
Kai “stickyrice1” McMinn is also a very popular online poker player followed on Twitch.tv, garnering over 15,000 followers. His live stream was at its peak when he successfully took a $2,000 bankroll on Bovada and spiked it up to $40,000 in a single night’s play. He’s had many high-viewership runs since, with both good and bad results in terms of his chip counts.
Byron “Reckful” Bernstein is another online poker player who’s taken his gameplay into the realm of live streaming. Bernstein first started live streaming World of Warcraft, earning him an immense fan base of over 274,000 followers on Twitch. Although he’s not an avid grinder, when ‘Reckful’ does hit the virtual felt, countless viewers tag along for the show.
Before you get too excited, it should be noted that online poker streams are not exactly “live”. There is always a few minute delay invoked for obvious reasons. Nevertheless, commentary around the community suggests that traffic numbers are receiving a boost when players such as these live stream their online poker play.
If that’s truly the case, one would have to surmise that more people are logging into poker sites like Bovada to compete against ‘stickyrice1’, or WSOP.com to play Jason Somerville. It could be that these online poker players are hoping to increase their own number of followers by running their own Twitch feeds, and getting broadcast on a more popular channel certainly could raise their recognition. Maybe they are just looking for a moment in the spotlight. Or, much to the delight of online poker operators, they could be new players inspired to follow in the footsteps of their exalted live streaming heroes.