The salt and pepper hair belies Lex Veldhuis‘ status as one of the best streamers on Twitch, poker or otherwise. On a platform often dominated by the latest and greatest whiz kids, Veldhuis stands out thanks to his authenticity and his success.
This isn’t Veldhuis’ first time rising to the top of something though. In his storied poker career, the 34-year-old Dutchman has gone from grinding online poker to traveling the world to play big buy-in tournaments and now finds himself combining those two things while the world watches.
“I started online and I really liked that, then I started learning about all these live events, the EPTs and everything, so then I wanted to play live and I played a lot of live tournaments, said Veldhuis. “Then I was kind of done with the live scene and went to PLO and now streaming. I have to say that I think streaming is the most fun because I feel like I’m grinding in a living room with friends all the time.”
Maybe not HIS living room, though. Veldhuis and his girlfriend Myrthe have decided to take the opportunity to travel to new locations and set up shop for months at a time while continuing to stream.
“We wanted to figure out a way that we could explore stuff together, make memories from traveling and just find out about cultures,” said Veldhuis. “We’re just kind of scoping out places where we can stay for 2-3 months where the internet is good enough to stream and then we settle down there.”
After calling Costa Rica “home” for a three-month stint, the couple is now in Panama City and have circled Victoria, Canada as the next location. For Veldhuis, the opportunity to live in different places rather than just visiting them for some big live tournament gives him the chance to really enjoy traveling.
“I’m still travelling a lot, but the fact that I’m doing it with my girlfriend to see places, that makes it nice and before I just traveled to a tournament, I’d play for 13 hours, and I’d be really exhausted and then if I busted the tournament I’d be like ‘oh, better to go home’ and my friends would ask, ‘What did you see in Barcelona?’. ‘Didn’t see much’,” said Veldhuis. “But now we’re going on jungle tours, we saw all kinds of stuff, some of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica. There was a sloth in our backyard, that’s the kind of stuff we talk about. I feel like this is more like ‘let’s experience stuff when I happen to work there again’.”
Seeing how he’s on the road year-round now, some might think he misses home, but Veldhuis has adapted quite well to the vagabond lifestyle – including the mindset necessary. Every new apartment they rent becomes home for Myrthe and Lex.
“All of our stuff is in storage there, so it’s not like we refer back to that living room because it’s really your past house and this is the new one. It does feel like home,” said Veldhuis. “I think that’s important as well that you can adapt to a new situation pretty quickly and see what’s here, what’s cool.”
No matter where they are, the couple has a morning routine that gives them time to focus on each other and the locale they’re in before Veldhuis turns the camera on each day.
“We go out exploring a lot. We really like to go have breakfast in the morning before I stream because it’s good quality time at the start of the day, it’s relaxing,” said Veldhuis. “We like to explore all these places together and get a good feel for what the city offers food-wise and stuff.”
Once the camera is on and the cards are in the air, Veldhuis turns his attention to that group of fans and followers that he’s developed over the years. He’s had a couple of notable scores, including a win in the PokerStars Thursday Thrill in November, that have helped him grow his audience.
“Normally everybody is super-hyped when you get that deep, and people just go crazy. There are people who are skipping nights of sleep. There are people who get home from work, watch, then go back to work and then come back on a break to see how it’s going,” said Veldhuis. “You feed off the hype. I’m much more emotionally involved when I am streaming then when I’m alone behind the computer.”
Grinding tournaments wasn’t what Veldhuis originally had planned for his Twitch channel. He’d fallen in love with PLO cash games and wanted to share that with the world. While some viewers were tuning in, some were doing just to ask him if he’d do something else.
“At first I was playing Omaha and I would have a $1,500 stack in a cash game and that’s pretty exciting to watch, I think, and people were like, ‘Could you just play the $22 tournament, please?’,” said Veldhuis. “I realized it’s about going on a journey, living through somebody on the way to victory and sweating that victory. There needs to be a beginning and an endpoint, so people get really crazy, really hyped up.”
Along the way, he’s learned how to handle the criticism that comes his way. Sometimes the Team PokerStars Online member is able to use it as a chance to educate and give his followers a better understanding of his approach to a particular hand.
“If people talk about it in a constructive, critical way, like ‘Lex, I don’t understand why you go all in there. Don’t you think it’s a waste of your position?’. That’s a good way to ask a question, and I’ll answer it,” said Veldhuis. “But if people are like, ‘Ugh, so terrible to just go all in there, I would never do that’. Those are the ones you need to learn to ignore.”
He’s also taken a very proactive approach to handling some of the issues that can rear their ugly head on Twitch. Building the biggest audience possible isn’t necessarily Veldhuis’ ultimate goal. One of his former roommates is the founder of eSports powerhouse Team Liquid and their philosophy in building their community was to permanently remove anybody that had a toxic influence.
“That’s the model I’m holding myself too. I don’t care if I lose a lot of viewers because of it,” said Veldhuis. “If I could choose between having a clean chat where everybody is nice and respectful, with the odd joke and people can have different moods and stuff, and it being only 3,000 viewers or a semi-toxic one that’s not really enjoyable and would be 10,000 viewers, I would 100% go for the 3,000 viewers.”
Thanks to that approach, Veldhuis finds that the people tuning in to watch him are more supportive and he feels he has a real responsibility to be reliable and authentic – even on days where his own energy level is a little low.
“When I wake up really tired, I’m still excited to talk to all of the people and I also think, even if it’s a struggle for some people, you have to do that because it’s about a commitment. You say you’re going to commit time to a platform, people can subscribe to you, people invest time in you, people want to get to know you to ask you questions so you can’t just dip in and out or just disappear after a while,” said Veldhuis.
Even though he’s had big scores while streaming and seen the number of viewers hit record-setting numbers, the highlight of his time on Twitch so far has nothing to do with any big pot or win.
“My father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. He’s had that for five, six years now and it’s pretty severe. For my birthday, (my community) raised money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation and presented it with a video, with a picture of me and my dad at a Rolling Stones concert with this music and stuff,” said Veldhuis. “That’s just incredible, it really touched me. I sent it on to my dad and he was just absolutely emotional.”
The community isn’t just cheering for Veldhuis though. When one of them puts together a deep run in any tournament, the community starts railing that player and sweating the action with him. With 300 Platinum Passes up for grabs from PokerStars in 2018, Veldhuis hopes that one of his followers is able to get in position to win one.
“The cool thing is they always ask me about the stories. What is it like playing with this or that person? And now they have a chance to do that themselves and it’s very approachable for them,” said Veldhuis. “They can do the challenges while they’re watching, they can play and win tickets to certain online tournaments and qualifiers and they can go down different routes. If somebody says ‘I have a serious sweat for this ticket’ then the whole community will follow them.”
All of that will give Veldhuis the chance to return the favor and be the one on the rail and in the chatbox cheering on a follower for once.
“I think it’s going to be a huge sweat, and we have to sweat a few thousand people that can get one. I’m going to be pretty invested in that,” said Veldhuis.