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  1. [caption width="640"] Kevin Martin went from reality TV to Team PokerStars Online in under a year. (PokerStars photo/Joe Giron)[/caption] If you want to make Kevin Martin roll his eyes, just call him a Reality TV star. “I don't identify with that word at all. Especially, there's something with the American shows, they get a little bit of fame, but a Canadian reality TV star is even more of an asterisk,” said Martin, who was a contestant on Big Brother Canada in 2015. “It feels like a long time ago, yeah. Time goes fast though. As soon as you invest in your projects, time goes very fast.” Evicted after seven weeks, Martin, now a member of Team PokerStars Online, turned his energy back to poker as soon as he was back home. Before being cast on Big Brother he had met Jaime Staples at a small cash game in Lethbridge, Alberta and the two hit it off right away – even if it only happened because Staples was owning Martin in nearly every pot. “I bought in for $200 and there was this kid whose name was Jaime, and he just beat me in every pot. He called me when I had a bluff and he folded when I had the nuts,” recalled Martin. “He just read me like a book every time, I was like, 'How are you doing this?' He was like, 'Well ...' and he coached me. He helped me out in my poker progression pretty quickly.” That was three and half years ago now and Martin calls Staples his best friend. When Staples jumped on Twitch and started streaming, Martin took notice and saw it as an opportunity to follow suit and, just like poker, learn from Staples. “To have someone where I can not only talk hands with, and talk details with, but to say, 'Hey Jaime, I'm going to do this on my stream, what do you think about this?' It's very, very valuable,” said Martin, who now lives with Staples in Montreal along with Matthew Staples and a new addition to the house. “Jeff Gross just moved in too, so there's four of us full time streamers. The saying is you don't want to be the smartest person in the room and I've definitely had that early in my content creation and poker career,” said Martin while in Atlantic City for the PokerStars Live Festival New Jersey. “I've just had some really good relationships with some very successful people that have given me advice, helped me out and really, really sped up my progress.” Before Martin was a poker pro or a reality TV star, worked as a radio host and has an education in broadcasting, so he took to streaming pretty quickly and built up his audience. PokerStars took notice and despite his relative inexperience, began talking to him about coming on board as a sponsored pro. “PokerStars approached me last spring and they said, 'Hey Kevin, we like your channel, we like how you represent Poker’, I was blown away by the phone call because in the history of Poker Stars, they've sponsored players in the top one percent, in the top point five percent, they've sponsored players who have made a six figure living from Poker,” said Martin. “Don't get me wrong, I'm a good poker player, I definitely represent the game well, I work my ass of to study and get better, but I'm not a world class Poker player.” Martin’s sharp enough to know he’s not Jason Mercier or Vanessa Selbst or Daniel Negreanu but has developed a following and has a responsibility of sorts to be the player that can serve as a model of success for players not regularly playing $10K buy-in events around the world. “I would love to represent that person that plays medium and small stakes and is working on their game. That would be a huge blessing. I was a little bit nervous actually,” said Martin. “And I got a little bit of a negative outreach from the regular community because there's a lot of better poker players out there that didn't market themselves as well, that didn't gain an audience as well and PokerStars asked me and it was a tremendous blessing,” One of the strengths of Martin’s stream is his ability to make himself relatable to almost anybody tuning in and not take himself too seriously. There may not have been a better display of that than last May when Martin got a knock on the door while streaming. “It was last spring, I got a knock on the door and I'd just fired up a bunch of tournaments, and this very flamboyant Chinese man was asking for charity money, he was a charity worker. He was like, 'Do you have time?' I was like, 'I don't have time, but do you want to come in?',” said Martin. “We invited him in and we ended up having drinks and this this flamboyant Chinese man drank at my house for four hours and we just got pretty loaded on stream, it was amazing.” Rather than not answer the door at all or hurriedly send the charity worker on his way, Martin embraced the opportunity. After introdcing "Billy" on the stream, Martin played through his regular tournament schedule teaching Billy poker along the way. The more Martin and Billy talked over the course of the four hours, the more viewers Martin attracted. Last month Martin, along with the Staples brothers and Gross, used their stream to give something back and ended up raising over $21,000 for charity. “Gross was roommates with Michael Phelps, so he wanted to do something for his charity and we all got behind the idea. It was just instantly yes, yes, yes, yes. We actually thought of the idea on aFriday and we started it Sunday morning,” said Martin. The four players agreed to stream 24 hours a day for 7 days straight to raise money for the Michael Phelps Foundation. “One of us was always live, Matt had the night shift, I had the evening shift, Jaime had the morning shift, Jeff had the afternoon shifts so he could play the high stakes, and yeah, we streamed for what, a hundred and eighty hours straight, the four of us,” said Martin. “People donated, a hundred percent of the donations went toward the foundation, we gave pieces of our tournaments when we ran deep.” The streamathon was so well received and so successful that they’re already planning to do it again. “It was amazing. It's something I think we're going to revisit, I mean we had a really big success there, I think we're just going to chill, do our own streams, and possibly put something together this spring,” said Martin.
  2. PokerStars’ Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP) is hitting its stride. Millions of guaranteed dollars are up for grabs and the competition is as heated as it has ever been. The second half of the SCOOP schedule is getting underway this week with at least $1,000,000 worth of guaranteed cash in play every single day. For members of Team PokerStars Online who grind a heavy SCOOP schedule, there can also be the added pressure of entertaining thousands of fans. Viewers flock to Twitch.tv to watch pros like Lex Veldhuis, Felix Schneiders and Kevin Martin play their best poker, blast their favorite music and, of course, engage with the chat. Every call, raise and fold is under the watchful eye of the public and these pros wouldn't have it any other way. The members of Team PokerStars Online are looking forward to mixing it up on the tables and with the fans. “My favorite thing about SCOOP is the diversity in both games and buy-in level,” said Lex Veldhuis. Veldhuis, who you can find on Twitch under his own name ‘LexVeldhuis’, is one of the current kings of Twitch poker thanks to his extremely honest and engaging personality. Veldhuis’ show continues to gain momentum and he currently is closing in on 100,000 Twitch followers. “There isn’t any other series where I can play mixed games as much as SCOOP. I can just gauge how much I know about a game or how much I like to challenge myself and pick a buy-in accordingly.” German pro Felix ‘xflixx’ Schneiders echoes Veldhuis’ love that SCOOP has something to offer for just about every player looking to get involved with the series. “I love that SCOOP provides an opportunity for every bankroll to compete,” Schnediers said. “[SCOOP] gives people a unique and prestigious championship experience which will be shared within our Twitch community.” The Twitch poker community is what is part of the allure for both the streamers and the fans. The shared experience that something important is on the line and there becomes a bit of a bond between the streamer and those who lend their support. For Kevin Martin, the Canadian Big Brother champion, there’s nothing better than the competition on the biggest of stages. “Good structures with huge guarantees. Word gets around Twitch poker about who’s going deep in a SCOOP and everyone piles in their stream to support.” Martin says about what he truly loves about streaming. For some, an integral part of grinding the SCOOP schedule is setting the mood. Nothing can be more empowering quite like an essential playlist. For Martin, he admits if it were up to him he’d be check-raising to some top 40 pop. “Top five artists that make me play the best poker: Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez, Fifth Harmony and One Direction," Martin said. “My stream hates my music choices, so I usually have to stay away from my favorites.” Martin’s stream can be found on Twitch under his user name ‘kevinmartin987’. While on the same PokerStars Team, Schneiders’ stream couldn’t be more opposite in terms of musical taste. The poker coach says that it’s rap, house, and hardcore that keep him pumped up when going deep in a tournament. For Veldhuis, his “mixed” playlist provides varied tunes, but they all provide the hype. Despite their musical differences, Veldhuis, Schneiders, and Martin all have one thing in common: they will all be in action during the final week of SCOOP, pumping up the jams while jamming all their chips in the middle. Catch some of the biggest online poker action on their respective streams as PokerStars SCOOP continues through May 21. Upcoming Scheduled Streams Lex Veldhuis Date Event Time 5/13 32-L: $109 PLO [6-Max, High Roller] $200K GTD 15:00 ET Felix 'xflixx' Schneiders Date Event Time 5/13 29-M: $109 NLHE [8-Max, ProKO, Sun Kickoff SE] $250K GTD 8:00 ET 5/17 44-L: $5.50 NLHE [6-Max] $50K GTD 10:00 ET 5/20 56-M: $55 NLHE [Sun Kickoff SE] $175K GTD 8:00 ET Kevin 'kevinmartin987' Martin Date Event Time 5/20 58-L: $109 NLHE [Main Event] $1.5 Million GTD 14:00 ET 5/20 58-M: $1,050 NLHE [Main Event] $4 Million GTD 14:00 ET
  3. "I'd love to be a poker player forever. I would love to do what Doyle Brunson did, obviously who wouldn't?" You may not recognize him now that he chopped off all of his hair, trimmed his bushy beard, and has a swollen black eye from a bike-riding adventure gone wrong, but Arlie Shaban is showing up everywhere in poker right now. The Big Brother Canada contestant turned Enterprise Rent-A-Car 9-5er has a new role as a Herculean. His rise has been fast and it doesn't look like he's slowing down anytime soon, especially now that Shaban has the likes of Jason Somerville, the Twitch Poker community, and PokerStars adding fuel to the fire. "My biggest thing was, after Big Brother Canada I had gone and traveled and partied for a few years," Shaban said. "I had got myself into a bit of debt and then I had to go work at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, a job I hated. I just wanted to not do a job I hated. I didn't care if I was making amazing money. At the beginning, it was strictly just that I hated waking up every day, wearing a shirt and tie, going in rain, shine, winter, sun, doesn't matter — you go in, you work. I was outside a lot. I hated it. I just wanted to not do that. That was pretty much what it came down to." Shaban’s run on Big Brother Canada 2 ended in eighth place. Kevin Martin, fellow poker player, and also a Big Brother Canada contestant, had a similar result when he took ninth place on Big Brother Canada 3. Martin eventually went on to conquer Big Brother Canada 5 and he's someone Shaban credits for showing him how to conquer poker. "I'm a very highly motivated person, and I realized that the vast majority of people that play poker are losing players and you can learn how to be a winning player if you want to put in more work than your opponents," Shaban said. "I was willing to do that. I was willing to study. I just figured out the blueprint to success, by talking to Kevin. If you just put in hard work, you study, you game select, and you do things the right way — you have to have proper bankroll management — and I was doing all of those things incorrectly, which most people are. I just fixed those things, and once those were completely fixed, I realized I was making money and that started making me more confident. Once I got the confidence, I was like, 'OK, I'm going to give it a shot.' I started making a pretty consistent amount [of money] and I just realized if I combine this start of income that I'm getting from poker with Twitch — and hopefully, I can build a channel as well — I can create a little bit of supplemental income and it will take the stress off it. I did go for both of them at the same time, which I think is hard but helped because my channel did start growing and I did get a little bit of supplemental income and confidence from people watching. That's what did it for me. I knew I had the ability if I really just tried and I thought it was worth giving it a shot." In back-to-back months of August and September, Shaban was announced as an addition to Team RIU as a streaming ambassador and given a mega challenge deemed the "12 Labors of Arlie." With the 12 Labors, Shaban must complete various tasks given to him by PokerStars, with each task more difficult than the last. If he completes all 12 by the end of 2018, Shaban will earn a Platinum Pass to compete in the PokerStars Players No-Limit Hold’em Championship in the Bahamas. The Platinum Pass is worth $25,000 and entry into one of the most highly anticipated tournaments in poker. "The 12 Labors have been absolutely incredible," Shaban said. "I got challenged by PokerStars a few months back and I just accepted it, not knowing at all what this was going to be about. They choose me because I did my 125-day streaming streak. I had streamed 1,000 hours for my very first time streaming, so for over four months straight. Then, I also streamed for 43 hours in a row. So they reached out to me and they were like, 'Oh, you think you’re good at challenges? We challenge you to these 12 labors.' I was like, 'OK, let's do it.' I didn’t know what the prize was going to be for, I just had my pride on the line. When PokerStars challenges you, you don’t really say no. At least I’m not going to." One of the challenges Shaban was to complete involved "capturing poker's most mythological creature," according to PokerStars, and it was to be done while attending Run It Up Reno. Alongside fellow reality TV contestant Tyson Apostol, Shaban was to capture Chris Moneymaker while racing down a mountain on a bike in Northern Nevada. https://youtu.be/vcHO2mEAodc With his capture of Moneymaker complete, Shaban had completed seven of the 12 Labors of Arlie and was that much closer to winning a Platinum Pass. "It would just be unbelievable if I did go to the Bahamas and play in the PSPC, so if that happened I would just keep trying to go on the trajectory that I'm on," Shaban said. "Everything has been going very well with my poker, with my Twitch channel, and so I wouldn't want to take any momentum away from that. This is feeding all of the momentum into it. It’s a really cool challenge, the viewers are really enjoying it. I just want to carry the momentum, continue doing this as a full-time career, make sure the Twitch channel very consistently getting content out on there, and make sure I'm studying off stream and growing as a poker player." Part of growing as a poker player means playing more live poker events, hopefully in preparation for his trip to the big dance that is the PSPC. During the recent Run It Up Reno event, Shaban earned three cashes on the live felt, including a 15th-place result in the Main Event. In such a short period of time in poker's spotlight, Shaban has done a lot. He broke into the streaming world with a bang, landed a place on one of poker's most popular squads, and it appears nothing more than a formality for him to earn an exclusive Platinum Pass. Where does he go from here and what's Shaban's ultimate career goal? "I would just love to be a part of the poker community my whole life," Shaban said. "I'd love to be a poker player forever. I would love to do what Doyle Brunson did, obviously who wouldn't? Play a game you love until you’re old and you’re still playing at the highest stakes against the best players. That's so cool. For me, I just want to make a living off of poker my whole life. If that involves putting out content with Twitch, or if that involves just playing, I just want to be a part of the community. I love poker so much. I love the community. I’ve made a bunch of amazing friends here [in Reno]. Run It Up Reno is just amazing. Jason Somerville and the team, everyone is so cool, and I just got to be a part of the team. I just want to keep representing amazing companies that I love and watch the community grow for the rest of my life." *Photo courtesy of Run It Up.
  4. Andrew Neeme has, once again, taken his show on the road. The king of the poker vlogs has teamed up with 888poker to provide fans a weekend's worth of live streams from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. From March 28-31, Neeme will be hosting a series of live streams of both cash games and tournaments, while showing off 888poker’s brand new Poker 8 client. Neeme is no stranger to being in front of the camera. He’s made his mark in the game of poker through the production of poker vlogs and posting them to his YouTube channel, where he boasts over 112,000 subscribers. But this weekend, he's not on a vlogging expedition - he's planning on hours and hours of streaming. While some content consumers may lump vlogging and streaming into the same category, Neeme explains that there’s a considerable difference in the production. “The biggest difference between the two platforms, for me, is that vlogging takes at least two full days and sometimes much longer to share an experience with the audience,” Neeme said. “Whereas streaming happens instantaneously, and then it's done. “When I’m making a vlog, it usually entails covering a full poker session, plus some combination of lifestyle content and b-roll. Maybe the session in questions takes place in another state. Then you have to consider travel, too. Then, you have twelve hours of editing to do. So, you could be looking at a four or five-day affair required to put one vlog together." "These streamers don’t know how easy they have it. Joking…kind of.” It makes sense for Neeme to help 888poker expose their brand to a new audience, his appeal is worldwide and his travels have taken him all over the planet. But to put in the poker grind in front of thousands of viewers of over the weekend, he picked Calgary for a very specific reason. “Calgary AirBnB’s are quite reasonably priced and it’s only a one hour difference from Vegas and a two-hour flight. More important than that: Kevin Martin is here,” Neeme said. Kevin Martin, a former PokerStars sponsored streamer, is a fellow member of Team Run It Up and one of the most experienced poker streamers in the game. “Spending time with Kevin is always recommended, and when you are trying a poker streaming experiment in his country, it’s best if he’s a short holler away.” Neeme may want to make sure he’s able to spend time with Martin, but for fans all over the United States and abroad, spending time with Neeme and his fellow poker vlogger Brad Owen is what they are after. That has led to a movement in live poker in the form of Meet Up Games (MUGs). Neeme and Owen have been traveling all over the U.S. to host live cash games and the player reactions have been overwhelmingly positive. “One of the best parts about hosting the MUGs is just getting face-to-face with the people who make up such a passionate part of your audience. They’re just stoked that you brought the vlog to their spot, where they always play,” Neeme said.”They’re excited to play some hands together, to ask questions about the vlogging process and to play in what, basically, feels like a home game inside the casino.” As the Meet Up Games increase and their popularity grows, Neeme finds that in addition to the highs of interacting with fans, there are some challenges that come with going on the road. “We've been doing a ton of traveling this year so far thanks to the MUGs, where it's really toeing the burnout line,” Neeme said. “The pressure comes from trying to get everywhere and do everything. It's exhausting traveling somewhere, hosting an event, trying to play reasonably good poker, having a couple beers with people while also remembering to film it all, flying back, editing everything for 12 hours, then getting right back on the road to do it again. But it's such a unique spot that we're in right now with this experience, that you don't want to take it for granted. You want to keep the momentum going and get to all the spots where people want to be a part of a Meet Up Game.” Travel was again on the agenda for Neeme with the opportunity to play some online poker on 888poker in Canada. However, as he mentioned, Neeme's real grind has been on the live scene and with online poker in its current state in the U.S, Neeme knows he may be a little behind when it comes to an online grind. “Even though I started my poker career by grinding online, it's definitely not my specialty. There are many poker streamers that play better than I do in that arena,” he said. “So, even though my YouTube videos were never about, ‘Do what I do if you want to make a lot of money!’, it's still awkward in some spots. I don't want to play for too significant of stakes because I'll probably just get mopped up by the real online grinders of the world.” That said, he’ll be firing in plenty of tournaments over his weekend in Calgary. His intent is to put in long sessions, connect with his fans and see if he can’t take down a tournament or two. “My tournament game is great! That is, compared to someone who's never played a tournament before,” Neeme joked. “Compared to Kevin Martin's, my game sucks. But I can probably do OK in a lot of low stakes fields, and maybe very occasionally book a win if I put in the volume. But most importantly, my chat-with-the-audience game is fucking strong. I can simulcast on both YouTube and Twitch, and monitor both chat boxes, and do it like I've been doing it for years. And I can rock a solid playlist on Spotify, that's big too.” He may be kidding about the strength of his tournament game, but there’s no doubt his ability to generate excitement among his supporters is one of the strongest in poker. Last year, he took home two American Poker Awards, one for Video Blogger of the Year and also the People’s Choice Award for Poker Personality of the Year. He’s nominated once again in the first ever Global Poker Awards for Vlogger of the Year. When it comes to being nominated for a second year in a row, Neeme is both low-key and humble about his own nomination. He echos the sentiment that there’s room for both the category and the platform of vlogging to grow. “I guess it’s more important what other people, who have votes, think of my nomination and this content creation and the community building that’s been going on in poker over the past couple of years,” Neeme said. “I think there are some people with votes who will look at it all and think it’s pretty dope. And there will be others with votes who have no clue about it whatsoever. “A lot of the people probably remember my name from last year’s awards so they clicked it along with some other names they recognize. But not as a result of really paying attention to, what I think, is one of the dopest trends in poker. They don’t know that Brad Owen and Johnnie Vibes and Jaman Burton are out there doing the same thing and creating longform vlogs that are watched by hundreds of thousands of people.” “I think it would be great to see poker rooms, as well as some of the mid-major live tours, at least have a chat with some of these guys. Let’s get everyone on the same page about what’s happening, who is passionate about what and how their stories can amplify one another.” Neeme’s own story only continues to grow with opportunity from within the poker industry and the appreciation of those who follow his journey. His vlogging will continue and perhaps, after Calgary, he’ll be incorporating some more streaming into his routine “in the year 2055 when half the states have passed poker bills.” “Seriously, though, there will be some fun streaming projects in the very near future that I’m looking forward to experimenting with,” he said. “But when it comes to poker it’s tough when you have to rely on outside forces to get it together.” Follow Andrew Neeme on Twitter and watch his vlogs and streams via YouTube.
  5. On Wednesday, partypoker announced the addition of well-known Twitch Poker streamer Kevin Martin to their expansive stable of Team Online pros. Martin, who gained notoriety as a two-time contestant and winner of the Canadian version of the TV show Big Brother, is considered a veteran of the Twitch Poker scene. He picked up streaming back in 2015, only one year after taking up poker full time and brought his ever-growing audience along for the ride as he evolved in the game of poker. His dedication to the platform earned him an ambassadorship with PokerStars, a roster spot on Jason Somerville’s Team Run It Up and a dedicated following of over 83,000 on his Twitch channel. Back in February, at the onset of partypoker’s Team Online, Martin publicly announced that he and PokerStars had agreed to part ways. Martin is one of a number of Team PokerStars Online pros who made the jump to partypoker in recent months. Former PokerStars ambassadors Jeff Gross and Jaime Staples both made videos in February announcing that they were leaving the online giant and both have subsequently joined the partypoker ranks, with Staples making his official debut to the team on May 4. partypoker picks up a massive online presence with the addition of Martin. In addition to his 83,000 Twitch followers, Martin adds another 40,000 subscribers on YouTube and 35,000 followers on Twitter. While Martin is best-known of his online poker exploits, he has also had surging results in his own live poker game, rapidly approaching $300,000 in lifetime earnings. In 2018, Martin, who plays mostly low/mid-stakes live tournaments booked six five-figures scores among his four outright victories in the tournaments he played. With Martin on board and Staples officially joining the team later in the week, partypoker’s Team Online will consist of 12 total online personalities. The rapid growth started with the announcements of Matt Staples and Hristiivoje ‘ALLinPav’ Pavlovic as the first players named to the team. Then partypoker released a string of near-daily announcements that included Travis ‘dramaticdegen’ Darroch, Patrick ‘XxXMLGPROXxX’ Tardif, esports standout Alan ‘hotted89’ Widmann, Ryan ‘RSchoonbaert’ Schoonbaert, Courtney ‘courtiebee’ Gee, Steven ‘DWstevie’ Kok, Monika ‘HeyMonia’ Zukowicz and Jeff Gross. parrtypoker’s online strategy also includes sponsorship of poker personality Bill Perkins’ own ensemble of online players which grind online on his ‘Thirst Lounge’ channel. To catch Kevin Martin in action, check him out on his Twitch channel.

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