Why Twitch is changing the poker industry

Why Twitch is changing the poker industry

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We have been saying the game is dead for a number of years now, but I cannot recall ever being as excited as I am right now about poker. Genuinely excited. As in, I haven’t slept well for a few days excited.

I’ve worked in poker for a decade, am closing in on 40 years of age and the last video game I played was Championship Manager 98/99. I am not exactly the target audience for Twitch.tv and it has taken me a few months to really start to understand it. I think the penny has finally dropped for me, just as it is starting to for many of my peers in the poker industry.

The short version is that Twitch is a live streaming video site that allows millions of video gamers to watch other gamers play games. In recent months poker has been included in that list of games. I could go on, but I implore you to have a little browse around the site. It is hard to grasp at first why people would choose to watch a game rather than play one themselves, it really is one of those things you have to see for yourself to understand it.

Millions of potential poker players

B3-GAMERS_MO_C_^_MONDAYThe single biggest reason why everyone should be foaming at the mouth about Twitch is that it brings with it an enormous, new and primed audience to poker. Gamers and poker go together like peas and carrots, and Twitch has active members in their millions.

To give you an idea of the scale, I write this midday in the UK which is probably not the peak time for Twitch. There are 100,000 people right now watching people play a game called League of Legends and 40,000 watching gamers play Counter Strike. At a glance it looks like there are half a million people online watching in total. Only a few thousand are watching poker, but it’s a new game to Twitch and their audience is there to be converted.

The site gets 100 million views a month, with 1.5 million gamers broadcasting their online play. Of those 1.5 million, 10,000 are ‘Twitch Partners’ , meaning they are entertaining enough to be invited to monetise their channels.

I watched Jason Somerville stream last night and 7,000 poker fans were watching him. I always keep an eye on the traffic of major poker sites, news sites and training sites and that number eclipses much of what I have seen in poker for an equivalent ‘webinar’ type experience, and that was just a random Tuesday night with Jason.

This audience is massively engaged too. The chatboxes are non-stop. I have watched ‘PokerStaples’ stream a few times now and while his audience tends to be under 1,000, each and every time I have watched him, somebody has donated money to him live on air.

The second boom?

6eESlb5To give you an idea of the potential impact of Twitch Poker. One of its current poker celebrities is an excitable young man who goes by the nickname of StickyRice1. He is thoroughly entertaining to watch, seems to have no clue what he is doing, is a complete degenerate and regularly slowrolls his opponents. By all reports, he also seemingly doubled the traffic at the Bovada online poker room when he went on a spin-up there.

I interviewed the PR team behind Twitch and in upcoming blog posts I’ll be exploring why it is going to be so powerful in the entire poker industry. Twitch PR director Chase confirmed as much to me, saying that everyone has a chance to get involved:

“Something I think the poker industry can learn from the gaming industry is we [Twitch] represent the whole ecosystem of video games from the publishers and developers to the all the events and all the tournaments and leagues and so forth. There’s definitely opportunities for media. Every top video game media site has a Twitch channel. I think you’ll see a lot of poker events on the platform, a lot of tournaments.”

Not only are poker players and sites getting involved, we are already see just how wide it can go. Unibet streamed their recent live event on Twitch and in that time they saw their account go from 0 to 30,000 views and 2,500 followers in four days. This month the Global Poker Masters is also going to be streamed on the site.

One of the biggest problems this industry has had, and we are all guilty of it, is going after the low hanging fruit. We have previously marketed to the already converted player base. High rakeback deals, fish shaming, the sponsorship of well known but unmarketable ‘TV Pros’ etc. These are all tactics to coax existing poker players from one poker hangout to another.

We did this for years instead of the much tougher task of entering other marketplaces and trying to convert new people to poker. Twitch represents the clearest and most sizeable opportunity we have as an industry to create that second poker boom that we have mythologised for so long.

For more Twitch insight check out my Twitch Poker Guide and sign up to my mailing list below: