VLOG / TURN / RIVER: Growing a Vlog Audience Requires Commitment

For most poker vloggers, the work required to produce each episode can be a challenge.

For many who do it, working on a vlog is a labor of love. Potentially, once a vlogger reaches a certain plateau they will able to monetize their work by signing up with YouTube and applying to the YouTube Partnership Program. And maybe that’s the end goal. But for many of today’s top poker vloggers, the time they end up spending on their vlogs not only drastically cuts into their time at the poker tables, decreasing their earn, but can be the equivalent of a second part-time job without the monetary benefits.

“Filming takes about a full day since I’m usually recording a live poker session and the analysis of some hands that took place, followed by a visit to a local favorite watering hole/restaurant/interesting location. Editing takes about another full day,” says Andrew Neeme, perhaps currently the most well-known poker vlogger with over 80,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel.

“This will vary depending on how detailed your production is (i.e. how many poker hand details you’re inserting; how many poker hands you’re reviewing; how synced you want the music to be…) as well as how much experience you have in editing. It would probably take a professional editor less time, and I might be getting slightly faster with each video, but the poker hands will always take a lot of time to include all of the pertinent information.”

Jaman Burton, the man behind The Drawing Dead vlog, confirms that the time spent on a single episode of a vlog is considerable. From the choosing of which hands are “vlogworthy”, to syncing the sound, inserting the graphics for just about every street of any given hand.

“Because I do so much work post-production, each hand you see in a vlog (describes a very basic hand) probably takes me somewhere between 15-20 minutes. If it’s a hand that goes all five streets and there’s a lot of players involved and I have to do a lot of these little boxes and arrows that could easily take 30-40 minutes to do all that stuff,” Burton says. That’s per hand and he usually includes 4-5 hands per session. “I’d say that on a normal vlog, from how I’m doing it now, from beginning to end it’s somewhere between 8-15 hours.”

The workload of producing a vlog may decrease the more comfortable one is with the tools. Experience and reusable graphics may save time but also take into consideration, according to Andrew Pieper, the deeper you get into vlogging, the more you want to do.

“Time commitment goes up with each video.,” says Pieper. “As soon as you finish, you feel proud. When you watch it, you feel like you could’ve done more. Editing work has gone up significantly more. I’ve spent 25 hours to edit the most recent.”

With so much time being put into the post-production of each video, allocating the time to get the work done to satisfy an awaiting audience can be tricky.

“It’s fluid and it’s something that I’m trying to nail down better. From a general standpoint, when there’s weeks or sessions when I’m playing a lot, I try not to film every session. If there’s a backlog of content, it’s harder to do the videos,” says East Coast grinder Matt Vaughan. “I have the camera and I try to film during the day. I’ll put the footage on my computer. I don’t do the hand analysis until a few days later. 1-2 videos per week.”

The fact is, many of the poker vloggers are using the medium to expose others to the game as well as be a vehicle for improving their own games. But once the creative process kicks in and the desire to make the vlog something special takes over, the very subject that the vlog covers may take a hit.

“Ideally if you’re playing for a living you want to be playing at least 1500 hours. A full-time job is 2000 and I’m playing 800 and there’s really just no way I can play more than 1000 with all the videos that I’m doing. So 1000 would be kinda the goal but I really do enjoy doing the videos and I enjoy the balance. When doing the videos gets old I play a lot more poker and as soon as playing poker gets old I can go back and forth,” says Las Vegas professional player Brad Owen.

While Owen finds that he’s splitting his time, trying to find a balance. Burton finds that the time he’s spending fits right into his life.

“I find that I’m doing it at a time I typically wouldn’t be playing anyway. I think it’s the time that most people use to watch The Bachelor, watch the Olympics…I don’t watch much TV”

Even for Neeme, someone who at face value is seemingly playing all the time, his vlog has become a more serious pursuit.

“If you’re taking as much time with these videos as someone like The Trooper [Tim Watts], Brad Owen, or myself, for example, then you could say you’re no longer a professional poker player, strictly speaking. This is basically a second job, which definitely means less time for poker. So you have to decide what’s most important to you and what you enjoy the most. For me, the reason I started in the first place was because the happiness level of straight grinding wasn’t where I thought it could be for my profession,” Neeme says while considering if he’s allocated “too much” time to his videos. “So if I’m happier doing the combination of playing poker and making videos, then it definitely doesn’t take “too much” time away from playing because your happiness is what’s most important, and in the end, where real success is found.”

In the end, the workload of producing a high-quality vlog is no doubt more than meets the eye. And for different people, there’s a different end goal in mind.

Burton understands that, for many, there’s a disconnect between what happens when thousands of people start to watch a vlog versus his reality.

“For some reason, people think we are making a ton of money doing this, like we’re ballin’ out of control…it’s really not what you think it is. To me, this is more hobby-ish. It’s fun. Would I want to vlog for a living? Probably not. I enjoy doing it, I enjoy being creative, I have an outlet for my creative side and tell a funny story.”

For Vaughan, he’s open to the possibilities.

“I struggle with the end goal. It’s definitely something that’s occurred to me. Is there something I can leverage this into? For right now, I’m letting it be more fluid. I’m enjoying the process that goes into it. If I get to Brad Owen’s subscribers, I wouldn’t quit my job and just vlog. Wouldn’t say there’s this grand scheme. I’ve seen opportunities. Letting it be organic for now.”