Andrew Neeme has never won a World Series of Poker bracelet, a World Poker Tour title, a European Poker Tour title and he’s most likely not going to be playing in the Super High Roller Bowl anytime soon. Yet he walks into poker room these days he inevitably runs into a fan.
“When you go into a poker room, that you’ve never been into before, in a city you’ve never been in before, and someone comes up to and says that they watch the vlog and they really dig it, that’s pretty cool,” said Neeme.
Over the last 17 months, Neeme has become the Godfather of Poker Vloggers, building a YouTube channel with over 80,000 subscribers and inspiring others to take the leap and start vlogs of their own. It wasn’t his goal when he first turned the camera on himself, but knowing others have followed his lead is a great byproduct of his work.
“One of the coolest results would be if you could inspire somebody else to give something a shot, try something new, especially something creative. So, I tried to encourage people to try do something that is on their mind, whether that’s in poker, vlogging, or any sort of project that might be on their minds in life,” said Neeme, who won the American Poker Award last month for Video Blogger of the Year.
Neeme has been living in Las Vegas for almost 10 years after leaving his career in the music industry to play poker professionally. All of that time at the tables ended up providing the inspiration for Neeme to start the vlog.
“It was a combination of some external and internal factors. Internally, I think I was just a little bit burnt out from just grinding cards day in and day out. I felt like I could do something a little bit more creative,” said Neeme. He actually started on Instagram, challenging himself to post one thing a day for a year. That got his creative juices flowing and he eventually discovered video.
“I felt like I could capture the low to mid stakes, the essence of the low to mid stakes poker grind. And share that with an audience and present it in a way that I thought they would get a kick out of,” said Neeme, who also includes some of the Las Vegas lifestyle stuff in his videos.
When Neeme does meet a fan of his vlog, they usually find him to be very much like the person they see in the videos, with maybe one exception.
“I think when people either meet me or they play poker with me when, and I’m obviously not talking into a camera, they’re surprised I’m a little bit quieter than they suspected because when I’m on video, I’m obviously talking nonstop when the camera’s on me, it’d be a little weird if I wasn’t,” said Neeme. “When I’m thinking through poker hands or just chilling at the poker table, they get surprised that I’m not a chatterbox or something. So, I think I’m probably more introverted than having a vlog would suggest.”
While the vlog originally gave Neeme a way to get his creative juices flowing, it’s also meant less hours actually playing poker. When he first started the vlog, he needed two full days edit each roughly 20-minute video. Now that he’s over 100 videos into it, he’s learned to refine the process and cut down the time each one takes, but still admits that the labor part of vlogging can be a bit much sometimes.
“The editing is tedious at times. When I’m inserting all these hand histories, some videos have five or six hands, and you spend a couple minutes at least, with the video time, talking about each hand. That means inserting all the cards, community cards, all the different actions, and pot sizes, and all these things. So, there’s not a whole lot of creativity that goes into that and that’s just another grind,” said Neeme.
Dedicating himself to that grind and the desire to regularly put out a high-quality product, means Neeme isn’t playing the Las Vegas No Limit cash games as much as he used to be. It’s a sacrifice he’s okay with though.
“I think that when you start a vlog and you want it to be of a certain quality, you want it capture as much of your life or career, whatever as possible. Then that almost becomes either part-time job or your career in some fashion.So, I’m now part-time poker, part-time vlogger,” said Neeme, who appreciates what that means for some of the up and coming vloggers who aren’t playing the stakes that Neeme does.
“I think it’s especially difficult if you are trying to capture these things as a $1/$2 player because when you’re a $1/$2 player if you have to put in so many hours to meet your income level, to be able to pay your bills, and to hopefully, eventually get out of $1/$2,” said Neeme. “I don’t think people realize that when they are a little bit critical of some low stakes vloggers when they don’t realize how much work goes into producing vlogs and creating a YouTube channel.”
As Neeme’s audience has grown, it’s not just fans that are saying hello. Some online poker sites and some land-based poker rooms have also reached out, looking to leverage that audience in some way. It’s turned into a few overseas trips for Neeme that gave him the opportunity to produce content in places around the world, something that his audience gets to benefit from too.
“There seems to be more opportunities to visit some of these poker destinations, these poker tours. As partypoker keeps their foot on the gas, ramping up their tour and 888 is doing their thing,” said Neeme. “It seems like there’s some opportunities to work together that’s mutually beneficial to everybody. And everybody including my audience because I think they get a kick out of checking out some of these different destinations.”
Even as those opportunities continue to find Neeme, he’s not going to change much about who he is or how he lives his life. When he first decided to play for a living, one of the appealing factors was that he’d be his own boss and that continues now with the vlog.
“The cool thing is, I don’t have to answer to a boss or someone else. It’s all on me. That’s pretty much the way I would want it,” said Neeme. “I think that’s ideal for my situation and my personality, just answering to myself and then having all the stress on my shoulders.”