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  1. In honor of International Women’s Day, PocketFives is shining the light on some of the women in poker who have made poker their lives and their careers and are an integral part of moving the game to new heights. If you are a poker fan in Latin America, then there’s a very good chance you are already very aware of Pamela 'Pamsi' Balzano, the 25-year old poker player and influencer from Buenos Aires, Argentina who dedicates almost all of her time and creativity to promote the game of poker. Balzano, a part-time player and full-time content creator, has been heavily involved in the poker community for the better part of the past eight years. From back in 2014 when she used to take pictures of live events for poker news outlet Codigo Poker to hosting the final table of the 2021 partypoker MILLIONS Online Main Event, her passion for the game of poker, and the people who enjoy it, shines through in everything she does. “My first time in a casino was for work, to take pictures. Then, three years later I started my YouTube channel with the idea of creating a new way to communicate poker. I really liked to explain to people who don’t know about the game how it works, but in a funny way, a colorful way. A different way, because poker in the movies, everything is dark and that’s not the truth about the game.” For Balzano, the game of poker isn’t some moody mix of smoky backrooms or shady characters. It’s always been entertaining, analytical, and even professional. A trait she picked up early from her brother. “My brother is seven years older than me and he started playing when he was 18. He became a professional poker player very soon thereafter and then in my home, it was always hand analysis and hand reviews. And I was always there with him and his friends. That’s where I became very interested in the game, because of him. Also, I really liked that he was always traveling around the world playing cards." "So my idea was to follow his path, but doing something different because I really like art and to create things and, well, taking pictures.” After a few years of being involved in poker media, she wanted to reach more people. She started working on her own YouTube channel where she would speak with poker players, give tips to new players, create tournament vlogs, and produce popular “Draw My Life” videos for players like Stu Ungar, Adrian Mateos, Damian Salas, and Doyle Brunson - a video that has been seen well over 100,000 times. In the midst of working on her videos, she also began to work on her own game. “I started with my YouTube channel and then I started to study the game more professionally, but I’m not a professional poker player. I like to play poker, I like to study poker and I really want to improve my game. So for the last two years, I’ve been studying a lot and playing more, but not full-time because I create content and communicate poker, that’s my job.” Since that time, her job and profile in poker have been expanding. She’s an active Twitch streamer, showcasing the results of her poker studies to her more than 9,000 followers and she’s also been recruited by partypoker to anchor a number of online broadcasts for their Latin American viewers on the partypokerLATAM channel. It’s clear though that, for Balzano, the time and dedication she puts into her myriad of poker content is truly a labor of love and the feedback she receives from her community motivates her to keep pushing forward. “I love my community because I’ve found a lot of nice people who are always enjoying the game like me, they are always sending good vibes. I really like to share my work with people, and that’s why I really like this job because I can share everything with a lot of nice people.” Next up for Balzano is a trip to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic to cover and play in the upcoming Caribbean Latin Series of Poker Main Event. As both a player and a content creator for the event, she intends on bringing her “A” game both on and off the felt. It’s one of the challenges she had faced in the world of poker, splitting her time between playing and presenting, “It’s difficult for me to decide if I prefer to play or if I prefer to create content because I love creating content and being in touch with people. But of course, I really like the game…I like to play,” she said but also acknowledges that in order to keep things fresh she has to bring the total experience to her audience. “I think the main challenge is to be creative every day. To do things differently. The market is growing, every part of the market, and nowadays Twitch is growing a lot. I really like that, because I am a little bit competitive so I’m always trying to do things differently.” [caption id="attachment_634054" align="aligncenter" width="750"] Pamela Balzano and Santiago Gonzalez anchor the recent coverage of the partypoker MILLIONS Online Main Event final table.[/caption] But those challenges are good ones to have. As the international poker market continues to grow, including in Argentina where Balzano says the game is “popular…but not very much” yet, her years of experience in all facets of the game are being allowed to shine. And as her community continues to grow so does her appreciation of the task at hand - bringing the game of poker into the spotlight. “I’m doing the job of my dreams, achieving a lot of things. One of them is being the host of big-time tournaments, for example, the partypoker MILLIONS Online. Of course, it would be nice if I could do it live, but it’s understandably difficult right now. But my main, main, main dream is to do commentary for the World Series of Poker Main Event or something like that. That would be nice.”
  2. For weeks now, the worldwide Online Poker Rankings have been a tight-knit crew. Brunno ‘bbotteon’ Botteon has held down the top spot for the past eight weeks and well-known names like Ivan ‘zufo16’ Zufic, Mike ‘SirWatts’ Watson, and Bert ‘girafganger7’ Stevens have occupied their own positions inside the Top 5. But this week, a new player broke through into the upper echelons of the rankings for the first time in his career. Portugal’s #1-ranked pro Rui ‘RuiNF’ Ferreira soared past Brazil’s Bruno ‘brunovolks’ Volkmann and Yuri ‘Yuri Martins’ Dzivieleski to capture the #5 spot, building on what has been, for him, an incredible start to 2021. Ferreira has long been considered a top-tier tournament player but his recent rise in the rankings can be traced back to the beginning of this year when he collected large amounts of PLB points on a daily basis. Many of Ferreira's spotlight scores have come on GGPoker, where he dedicates most of his volume. His first notable score of the year came back on January 4 when he made a deep run in the WSOP Circuit Event #15 ($800 FIFTY STACK), finishing in fifth place for $56,646 and 451.33 PLB points. That was just the start of an onslaught of impressive results that week. In a three-day span, he collected five PLB-qualifying scores including a fifth-place finish in the prestigious $10K Super MILLION$ tournament where he collected $158,690 and 567.28 PLB points. In total, he brought in 1,396.28 points during that span which set him up for a run to the worldwide Top 10. Less than a week later, Ferreira finished as the runner-up in the Winamax W Series High Roller KO for $131,199, his second six-figure score of the week. The 921.92 PLB points that came with it remains his largest PLB score of the year so far. He wasn’t finished with the W Series as a victory in Event 185 added another $11,194 to his bankroll and helped pad the bed of PLB points he’d need to push into the upper echelons of the rankings. On January 26, he made another deep run in the GGPoker Super MILLION$, finishing in 11th place for $33,604. Ferriera has proved to be one of the most consistent players in the weekly Super MILLION$ having cashed in 15 of his 31 appearances and earning $1,000,053 along the way. After that result, Ferriera had climbed into the #8 spot in the rankings and needed an extra jolt to hit a new career-high rank this week. He got that lift this week after outlasting the 111 runners, and besting Chris Koldnicki heads-up, in the $525 buy-in GGPoker Sunday High Rollers for $12,886 and 235.58 PLB points. On the same day, at a final table that included Ryan Riess, Bryan Paris, and Jack Salter, Ferreira took fifth place in the High Roller MILLION$ for $66,038 and the 473.78 PLB points he needed to break into the Top 5. While he still has a way to go to make a run at #1, as he’s over 3,400 points behind Botteon as of this week, another solid performance over the next week could put him in striking distance of Stevens who sits at #4, just 194 points away. Online Poker Rankings Notes This Week • Russia’s Andrey 'kot_spartac' Kotelnikov reached a career-high ranking of #13 in the world, up 12 spots from #25 last week, thanks in part to finishing in fourth place out of a massive 28,404-entry field in the PokerStars 50/50 Series $50 Main Event. He earned $47,045 and 494.56 PLB points to push him past former #1-ranked Conor ‘1_conor_b_1’ Beresford who fell back to #14. • Popular Twitch poker streamer Patrick ‘Egption’ Tardif hit #34 in the world, a new career-high for him, after finishing as the runner-up in the Natural8 $1,050 High Rollers Main Event for $75,480 and 466.52 PLB points. The score helped propel Tardif to up over $3 million in career online earnings. • Brazil’s Gabriel ‘gtavares10’ Tavares made one of the biggest moves of the week, jumping up 27 spots to #58 after his victory in the February 7 PokerStars $530 High Roller Club Bounty Builder for $40,301 and 541.76 PLB points. Brazil has taken over the worldwide top 100, currently holding down 29 of the top 100 spots. Worldwide Online Poker Rankings [table id=171 /]
  3. Vivian Saliba is learning a new game. It’s unlike her beloved Pot Limit Omaha, No Limit Hold’em, or any other that she’s played. It’s the Twitch game and she’s already finding it as challenging and rewarding as any card game in her arsenal. Saliba has recently decided to convert the time she would have spent playing in live events around the world into bringing the world to her with a budding new poker Twitch stream. Although she’s at the beginning of her streaming journey, Saliba is already finding the ups and downs of interacting with the poker community while trying to play solid poker in front of an international audience. “Streaming while playing poker has turned out to be far more challenging than what I expected,” Saliba said. “It is very difficult to manage the stream, interact with the chat, keep an eye on new followers, edit and change the scenes, highlight the tables, and of course play poker and talk…sometimes in different languages.” “It is important to find the right balance and figure out how to do all of those things and still deliver a good level of poker to my viewer and be entertaining at the same time.” Saliba has been an 888poker ambassador since 2017 and has made a name for herself as an accomplished PLO cash game and tournament player. But she’s made no secret that one of her favorite parts of being an ambassador is meeting and playing with fans and members of the community from all over the planet. With the pandemic putting those live events on hold, she’s decided to channel that energy into reconnecting in a new way. “The nicest thing about being a poker streamer, in my opinion, is to engage with the poker world. I’m certain that before the pandemic this was already a big plus but especially now, with reduced live poker around the world, this has become even more relevant. This was the way I found to connect with the community.” Thanks to those live events, Saliba has a broad fan base. Hailing from Brazil, many of her fans are from her home country. But as an ambassador, she’s been involved in events from just about everywhere which gives her chat an eclectic charm, one that as a multi-linguist, Saliba is well-equipped to handle. “It is amazing to be able to interact and connect with people from all over the world and this is definitely one of my favorite things about the streams. The streams are in English, but I tend to translate things to Portuguese in case someone didn’t understand a certain point and even though my German and Spanish aren’t too good, sometimes I’ll also risk a few sentences in these languages in order to make myself clear to everyone. The best part of having a variety of fans is to build a bigger and more dynamic poker community.” While her Twitch channel is new and expanding every day, so are the challenges that face all streamers. Outside of the tech, there is a certain learning curve that comes with spending hours on end in front of a camera with an audience that may be scrutinizing your every hand. Also, there are trolls. “Anyone who decides to expose themselves on the internet must be aware of the possibility of negativity and judgment that comes with it. That being said, of course, it’s not nice to face hate or just negativity in general,” Saliba said. “Luckily most of the feedback I receive is nice and my viewers are very supportive. In case of inappropriate behavior…the person will be banned and life goes on as normal. “Another difficulty is to expose yourself for unlimited hours without really having a break. One of my latest streams lasted 12:30. I had to perform simple and in some ways, private activities in front of the camera such as eating, which is still very odd to me and in some ways makes me uncomfortable.” Saliba doesn’t plan on being a fly-by-night stream either. In just over a week she gained nearly 1000 followers and her streams have routinely broken the eight-hour mark. She’s been able to keep it fresh by mixing up what she plays but also has some ideas on how to make sure it doesn’t get old for her in the future. “I love to play PLO and it’s probably my favorite game. But on the other hand, I also understand that many people love [No Limit Hold’em] tournaments and that a deep run can be very exciting for viewers. I intend to mix the types of games I’ll be streaming, possibly I’ll even stream some non-poker related games - for example, chess or pinball - as a way to keep the channel dynamic, entertaining, and to bring new people outside the poker world to it.” Ultimately though, for Saliba, it comes back to staying connected and celebrating the game of poker with her community. “On one occasion I had two final tables during the same stream which I finished sixth and eighth place. It is a very nice feeling to celebrate and cheer those on stream. It is almost like a huge virtual rail and you can really feel all the support and love people are sending to you.” Saliba can be found on Twitch under her screen name: ViviSaliba.
  4. The obsession with competition, dedication to improvement, and doing what it takes to be the best. These are just some of the themes on display in Netflix’s new binge-worthy hit The Queen’s Gambit, the mini-series that depicts a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of the chess world - a world, it turns out, that is not so far from that of poker. Adapted from Walter Tevis’s novel of the same name, the new TV show tells the fictional story of chess prodigy Beth Harmon, portrayed by Anya Taylor-Joy, as she battles through her childhood struggles and breaks through into the upper echelons of the chess world. Jennifer Shahade knows a thing or two about the correlation between chess and poker. Shahade is a two-time United States Women’s Champion, Women’s Program Director at U.S. Chess, and, perhaps better known to poker players, an ambassador for PokerStars. “I loved it, because it showed a different side of chess,” Shahade said about the series. “The glamorous side, the grown-up side. So many of the movies and series about chess are about scholastic chess and the triumph. And I love those movies, but I really liked that this was a different side of it. Yes, it's not suitable for children. And in a way, I feel like, sets it apart from all of those other chess content pieces, and makes it into something that could potentially build a bridge between people who play chess as children and people who play chess later in their life. “It’s kind of like the poker side of chess. It's the travel, the glamour, the relationships between the people that you meet on the tour. The individualistic side of it.” Depiction of poker in movies and TV has a tendency to be unrealistic with famous scenes setting up improbable hands for impossible stakes. While still entertaining, for poker players movies like Rounders endures due to how true it speaks to the culture of the game. For Shahade, The Queen’s Gambit does just that for the world of chess. A realistic portrayal of the study, the friendships, and the game itself. Part of that, she credits to production consultants like Russian chess Grandmaster Gary Kasparov and renowned chess author and instructor Bruce Pandolfini. “If you are a chess person, or even if you're just interested in learning more about it, you can kind of watch The Queen's Gambit twice. Once for the story, and second to look at all the games, and see what happened in the games. So it's amazing that you get to have this dual viewing. “I think the main thing is that they nailed the emotion and the intensity of the intellectual struggle. The ability to just completely focus on the chess, and try to find the correct moves, and how that almost gives you this brief period of ecstasy where you're just absorbed in your own thoughts. And that also has some correlation with poker as well, especially heads up poker.” In 2010, the International Mind Sports Association officially recognized poker as a mind sport, putting it, categorically, on the same level as chess. For those that enjoy both games, it makes sense as there’s plenty of similarities when it comes to succeeding. A Venn diagram of the qualities that top players in both games possess would have plenty of overlap and for Shahade, one doesn’t have to look too deep to see how the games compare. “I think the approach to the game, to getting better, is very similar. No matter what amount of time you have to put into poker or chess, there's a different strategy to improving, and it's similar for both games. You look at what types of situations are going to come up most frequently, like in the Sicilian Defense, or the Queen's Gambit opening. You study those, and you also study this stuff that might happen at the end of the game, which we also saw, the rook and pawn endgame. “Well in poker, there're corollaries to that," she said. “You study your opening ranges, you study your late tournament ICM, and shoving ranges. Cause you know that it's going to come up, and so if you study it, you're definitely going to get better. That's the kind of things you're also looking for in chess.” Poker and chess have also shared a recent resurgence in interest in the midst of the global pandemic. With nearly a million followers on Twitch, the chess category brings top-tier players and fans together to watch games and discuss strategy in the same way poker fans tune in to players like Lex Veldhuis or to watch matches like the Polk-Negreanu challenge. “There's been a huge chess boom over the last 10 years even. But it's obviously accelerated in the last six months, and the last year,” Shahade said. “There are so many factors to it. I mean, part of it is its depiction and movies and TV, and obviously now The Queen's Gambit. A lot of it is streaming on Twitch, chess is really well-suited for streaming, much like poker.” “Fellow PokerStars pro Fintan Hand had a great thread on why poker and Twitch are such a natural marriage, because of the fact that you can actually watch people play for real money, and that adds that layer of excitement on top of the other inherent interesting things about getting to see people's hole cards,” she said. “Chess is a really good fit for Twitch too because the games are so fast. So you can really chunk it up, you can play a game, then interview someone, play a series of 10 games against your top subs. There are so many things you can do in a game that is so fast, where you literally can finish a game in one minute. And then visually it's rather simple, right? There's just a square, and so I think that also allows for some really beautiful layouts. That really contributed to its growth.” Aside from gameplay, poker and chess also share the quality and challenges of being a male-dominated industry. The Queen’s Gambit showcases this time and time again as Beth Harmon often times finds herself alone in her chess journey. Shahade, who has excelled in both chess and poker, understands what it means to succeed in these fields. “I think both of them are somewhat similar in that there's a lot of great enthusiasm for top women players. There can be some extra opportunities, but then there can also be a lot of resentment and sometimes harassment,” she said. “It really privileges a personality type that's strong and likes positive attention and is able to withstand negative attention. And that's great because the women you meet from chess and poker are usually really tough and strong people. “That said, I think that there's also a lot of space in our worlds for more sensitive people. It's not like it's the only positive personality type is to be super strong, and like positive attention, and not care about negative attention. No, people who are a little bit shyer and more sensitive, we want them too. You want that diversity of personality. And so that's what I struggled with in both games, that the women who end up succeeding are often extremely successful, and really inspirational. “But if we just look at them we don't really get the answer, because we have survivorship bias. What you really need to do is look at the people who aren't there, because they stopped playing, because they're more sensitive to harassment, which is totally legitimate. They might've had a bad experience, they might not have the same support system, who knows? It's not my job to psychoanalyze it, but the point is they're not there, and these games could give them a lot of amazing things in their life, so we want to keep them. That, I guess, is something that in both fields, I think we have to do better of. Not falling prey to the survivorship bias when we analyze how to get better.” As both industries strive to be more inclusive for women, Shahade has found a position that has allowed her to be an example and proactive in reaching out to women in chess including starting The Madwoman’s Book Club which was inspired by the chess queen. “When chess was first born, the queen was the weakest piece on the board,” she said. “She could only move one square in each direction. Then, as the game evolved, they realized this game was kind of boring, it took too long, so they made the queen the most powerful piece on the board. There was some resistance to it at first, they called it the ‘crazy woman’ or ‘mad woman’s’ chess game at first, and then it became the game that we play now.” “So I always think that it’s funny that people have this resistance to powerful women that actually end up making the game better.”
  5. WSOP bracelet winner Jason JCarverSomerville is on the forefront of poker players using the video streaming site Twitchto broadcast online sessions to fans in near-real-time. The 27-year-old Hold'em specialist believes the site offers an engaging experience that most mainstream poker shows can't match. Check out Somerville's Twitch stream. "It's hard to make poker content fit in hour-long blocks that are meant for an older audience that doesn't quite get it," Somerville told PokerListingsin an interview. "It's not a good fit for television. Twitch and live-streaming on the internet is the platform that poker needs to live." Twitch gives users the ability to create their own channels and stream their game play to a wide audience. During the action, streamers can interact with followers directly through a chat box while viewers talk amongst themselves. According to Somerville, the experience creates a sense of community, while at the same time, users become emotionally invested in the streamer. "You are engaged as a viewer on Twitch," he said. "You're not as engaged as a viewer on ESPN." Recently, while in the Bahamas for the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, Somerville continued to broadcast to his nearly 51,000 followers on the site. "I've been in the Bahamas for, I don't know, six days now, and I've streamed every single day," he continued. "My fans know what I've been up to every single day this trip because they talk to me every single day, you know. So they're invested and asking, 'Are you playing the $25K tomorrow? You doing this? You doing that?'" Twitch users are clearly interested in watching poker. Somerville has only been streaming since October and has racked up over three million views to his channel. Fans can watch for free or subscribe for $4.99 a month for an ad-free experience. The most popular streamers have built up such a large viewer base that they can make millions of dollars per year through such subscriptions. At the moment, Somerville isn't making much from the site and is focused on developing a loyal following. He is well on his way to achieving that goal; his channel receives around 300,000 views per week, with fans watching for an average of 45 minutes. "It's very hard to get someone to watch a video for even four minutes," said Somerville. "But because of the engagement on Twitch, where you can literally type and talk to me and we can engage and chat with you, people get invested." As one of the first online poker streamers, Somerville has had to work out the kinks of broadcasting real money play to an audience. One obvious issue was the fact that his opponents could simply watch his channel during a session and see his hole cards. Initially, he decided to cover his cards and reveal them at the conclusion of the hand. "It creates kind of a fun, I know what I have, the viewers don't know what I have dynamic," he said. "And the players at the table are often watching, so it's almost like I'm playing live poker with my cards face down." Eventually he found that uncovering his cards and running his stream on a four-minute delay was enough to thwart opponents from gaining an unfair advantage. Somerville believes many casual poker players are turned off by the way poker events are covered on television. "I've heard WSOP executives say, 'What's the point of a live stream, it only works for the hardcores; only hardcores care about live-streams.'" In Somerville's opinion, the exact opposite is true: "That's what happens when you run it like a CardRunners video," he said. "You can't put in the ingredients for a recipe and then get mad when you make the recipe." Through streaming, the 27-year-old connects with a market of casual poker players who simply want to "hang out" and have fun. "I wouldn't be surprised to see the majority of poker content be streamed through Twitch or living on Twitch to some degree by the end of the year." Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  6. Late last week, professional poker player and insanely popular online streamer Jason JCarverSomerville (pictured) was announced as the newest member of Team PokerStarsPro. It was not the most shocking of news, but it was still a welcome decision, especially after Somerville was unceremoniously dumped by Ultimate Poker. He kept streaming his online poker sessions, though, and this weekend began his first broadcasts on Twitch under the PokerStars banner. View his channel. To a poker outsider, it might not seem like much. After all, Somerville has streamed for quite some time and is just streaming some more. But airing his Run it Up show on the new PokerStars Twitch channel is a leap forward. Somerville will still be viewed by a niche audience, but it has a chance to be a much larger niche audience with the marketing power of the world's largest online poker room. This past Sunday, Somerville began his streaming on the PokerStars Twitch channel, promising 70 straight days of broadcasts. He won't be streaming live 24/7, but has said he will devote at least four hours per day to grinding. The news of both his sponsorship and the new PokerStars Twitch channel have been universally applauded in the poker community. Somerville is as well-respected of a poker player as they come, but what he adds to his streams much more than the vast majority of those who try to do the same thing is entertainment. Many poker streamers gear their broadcasts towards more seasoned players, but Somerville has understood from the get-go that poker is not mainstream. It's not that he does not use poker terms in his streams, but he has been more than happy to try to appeal to a wide audience. In a recent interview with Flushdraw, Somerville explained his success: "It's not about starting with good poker content and then trying to squeak it out to be tolerably watchable… I want to make it mainstream, you know? It's not the majority of my viewership, but there is a section of my audience that didn't know prior to watching me what a button was or what an ante is. To draw those types of people in, you have to be entertaining and have broad content." He added that he still needs to strike a balance, though, as he can't drive away more knowledgeable players by making his shows "too simplified or too silly." Somerville's impact on the poker community has certainly been felt in the past year. He was nominated for a GPI American Poker Award for Poker Media Content of the Year for his Run it Up show and, though he did not win, his contributions were duly noted. He was also a nominee for the Best Ambassador Award, which ultimately went to Daniel Negreanu. During his acceptance speech, Negreanu acknowledged Somerville, saying, "I always thought he had the engaging kind of personality that embodies what a poker ambassador is. What he's done… is taken playing online poker and made it fun and exciting... He's engaged a totally new spectrum of poker players more so than anyone in the world today, as far as I'm concerned. The poker world is in good hands with Jason Somerville." Somerville's streaming platform also got some much deserved credit at the American Poker Awards, as Twitch won Poker Innovation or Initiative of the Year for "opening its doors to live streaming poker." In his acceptance speech, Scott Ball, Twitch's Poker Partnerships Lead, thanked the poker community, saying without it, Twitch Poker "would really be nothing." He also said that it was "humbling" to win the award, as the initiative was only started as recently as this past year. Somerville is off to a great start on the PokerStars' Twitch channel. At 2:00pm ET, there were nearly 5,000 people watching him live; his broadcasts have received 3.3 million total views. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook.
  7. "This just in: I Twitched while checking out porn without realizing it." Those were the words of Casey bigdogpckt5sJarzabek (pictured), who was promptly banned from Twitch for violating its Terms of Service. The incident came a few months after a poker player was robbed during a live streamand serves as a warning for those of you using Twitch. Read the thread. Editor's Note: After this article was published, Jarzabek's Twitch ban was lifted. PocketFives: Thank you for joining us. Where are you with Twitch? Casey Jarzabek: Not a word. I have sent in my appeal explaining it was clearly an accident, but I have not heard from them at all. PocketFives: Can you explain what happened and how porn ended up being streamed? Casey Jarzabek: Sure. I started playing slightly before 7:00am. I woke up early and figured I would put in a morning session and play for about five hours. I then hosted a show. I preceded to go upstairs to have lunch and watched a little TV. I came back to my computer and I still had my Twitch chat popped out, so I un-hosted and closed the window. My OBS, which is the operating system, was minimized and I had never failed to shut it off before. So now I'm just looking at my computer screen and it's blank. I decided I wanted to check out some porn. It was a thumbs website where it gives you some images and you click on them and a movie pops up in a different browser. So, like 99% of men, I was watching some porn. After a while, I started getting messages that my Twitch was live. I obviously did not know and immediately stopped it and then deleted the broadcast. That's pretty much what happened. I know some people on the forums said =I was watching chloroform sex or whatever. It was one of the thumbs definitely, but I don't apologize for that. I thought I was in the privacy of my own home. I do, however, apologize to anyone who saw the content and was offended; for that I am truly sorry. PocketFives: What did Twitch say specifically? Casey Jarzabek: I received an email saying I was banned for violating their TOS, which I fully admit I did. It was 100% unintentional, but I definitely violated their TOS. PocketFives: Talk about people in the poker community commenting on what happened. Casey Jarzabek: The reaction has been 99% positive. There are people who are piling on calling me every name in the book, but I question the character of people who judge me for watching porn. It's a violation of Twitch's TOS, yes, but it's not a secret that I watch porn. So does just about everyone. Like I said, most people have been awesome and even publicly supporting me via social media. Like Jamie mmmWawa Kerstetter Tweeted something along the lines of, "At least someone I know and admire has the same fetish as me." Those people I appreciate the most, putting themselves out there to come to my defense. PocketFives: Do you think this serves as a warning of sorts for people using Twitch? Casey Jarzabek: It should be a warning for others. The absolute bottom line, however, is I'm a complete idiot. Like it's a pretty moronic mistake. I also think at the end of the day it happened to the right person because no part of me is upset and/or embarrassed about this. I committed no crime except stupidity. The one thing I'm losing sleep over is possibly being permanently banned from Twitch. I'm a sincere person and it really bothers me that I have done this to the people who subscribe to my channel. I love those people literally, so I'm hoping Twitch realizes this was a mistake that I won't make again and gives me a second chance. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook.
  8. Earlier this year, Jason JCarverSomerville (pictured), now a PokerStarspro, began 70 straight days of live-streaming online poker on Twitch. We caught up with him on Day #60 of his campaign. You can catch him on Twitchseven hours a day live from Canada. However, now that he's just a week away from Day #70, what will happen next? And what does he see as the future of the game on Twitch? Read how Somerville has pioneered poker on Twitch. PocketFives: Thank you for joining us. How have you been enjoying playing poker on Twitch? Jason Somerville: It has been going great. I'm happy with how it has gone. Things have taken a different feel than I thought, but it's my first time doing a dedicated season. I haven't played this much poker against good players in years. I've basically been playing poker in Nevada until now, so this is a whole new world. I'm up $30,000 over the last 60 days. We've had two million unique viewers come through the show in the last 60 days. My goal is to break a quarter of a billion minutes consumed by the end of May. I'm at 160 million right now, so to do that would be insane. PocketFives: You mentioned the show has a different feel than you anticipated. What do you mean by that? Jason Somerville: When I was in Nevada, I was streaming four or five days a week. I was by myself. I was alone streaming on WSOP.com and testing things to see what would work. I didn't have a lot of time to plan or plot before the PokerStars deal came together. There had already been guys like PokerStaples streaming while I was negotiating, so I was eager to jump in. I thought I'd have more time to pivot and see what was going on, but I've had to get used to riding the flow every day and focusing on making each show the best it can be. I didn't think it would be exactly like this, but I'm proud of what I've done. PocketFives: You streaming regularly has seemed to cause other players like Daniel Negreanu(pictured) and Griffin Flush_EntityBenger to do the same. What do you think of those guys starting to stream? Jason Somerville: There are a lot of people who will watch Twitch and I think it's nothing but awesome to see my poker brethren embrace the platform. Twitch is a great base to interact with users. It's amazing for poker as both an entertainment and educational engine. It's awesome to see other people acknowledge that. It can only be good for me to have Daniel Tweet about his Twitch stream 15 times a day. Hopefully some of his fans can find me. PocketFives: What is the future of poker on Twitch? Jason Somerville: Poker is a much better fit for the internet than TV. Poker tournaments breathe in a longer space. It's hard to fit in a tournament into an hour TV broadcast, which is even shorter after commercials. Poker is a lot better fit on the internet. There is a recipe for successful gaming on Twitch and poker resonates well with a big segment of the Twitch audience. If you're a professional gamer, you're playing your heart out, grinding, and improving your skill. You'll maybe get a sponsorship deal. In poker, if you out-think your opponent, you're getting paid cash. Cash is how we keep score in poker and I think that has resonated well with the Twitch crowd. Poker has a vast appeal to people that has almost been forgotten. PocketFives: We have heard you talk several times about eventually ending up in New Jersey. Are you confident that will happen? Jason Somerville: I think I'm intentional and hopeful when I say I want to end up in New Jersey, but I don't know anything more than you guys do. Uncle Baazov doesn't give me the info, but there's no reason Stars can't be deployed in New Jersey. I have a lot of experience working with regulated online poker sites since I was with Ultimate Poker. I know the New Jersey market well too. I lived in New York all my life and New Jersey is one state over. I would love to be deployed to New Jersey. I'm a willing soldier. If Stars has a place there, I can bring the newfound enthusiasm and excitement to New Jersey. I think we'll drive thousands of players on Twitch to PokerStars. However, I still don't know anything more than you about when Stars will enter the state. PocketFives: Do you think you'll lose much momentum moving away from your daily scheduleon Twitch given you're headed to Las Vegas and elsewhere? Jason Somerville: I had to have a conversation with myself where I realize that if I left streaming to go the WSOP, I might lose momentum and let other people with streams close the gap. At heart, I am a poker player who streams, not a streamer who plays poker. I love the WSOP; I love the summer. My results have always come during the summer. There's a chance I might lose some of the momentum I've built, but I'm excited to go to the WSOP, to bring back stories and hand histories and hopefully another bracelet. I'm as interesting as I am because I've been immersed in the poker world for the last 10 years. I don't think I'd be a happy person if I streamed six days a week for the next year. I wanted to do this in seasons so people would know when I'm on and where to find me. I've sold something like 500 Run it Up hoodies. The Run it Up legion lives and I want to fight the battles with them in person. It's more than just an online thing. I want to make sure I'm doing the best I can to keep me happy and passionate and that, to me, is playing in the WSOP this year. Visit Jason Somerville's Twitch channel. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook.
  9. On Tuesday, Daniel Negreanu (pictured) took the world of Twitchby storm. Negreanu, camped out in Toronto, attracted a whopping 150,000 views in his first Twitch session. He Tweeted beforehand, "Thanks again to @jaimestaples for helping me set up @twitch and @JasonSomerville for making this platform cool. That was fun! More to come." Check out Negreanu's Twitch channel. Negreanu, predictably, only streamed his play on PokerStars and said on Twitter that setting up his channel required a little assistance: "This kid @jaimestaples is a freaking genius lol. I have no clue how these kids figure out how to do this tech stuff. Twitching." Staples was announced as a Friend of PokerStars a week ago, while Somerville joined Team PokerStars earlier in the year. Negreanu's Tweet about his play money session, which you can view below, generated a bevy of responses. Christian charder Harder was the first to respond, saying, "Good work, Daniel. I was entertained." Staples added, "It was pretty sick good. 4,400 peeps watching play money." Negreanu saluted Somerville, who like "Kid Poker" is very energetic and seems to resonate well with the masses, by saying, "It was fun and I can see why @JasonSomerville seems to enjoy it so much." Negreanu's dog (pictured) made an appearance at one point in the stream. He's up to almost 5,800 followers on Twitch and could easily get many more, as PokerNews explained, "He confirmed his intention to head back to the site for new streaming sessions in the near future." He told Bluff, "My plan [on Twitch]is to do some high-stakes Eight-Game and possibly the Sunday Million." Somerville helped pioneer poker on Twitch, a live streaming platform traditionally used for video games. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook.
  10. According to his Twitter account, the boisterous ChicagoJoey(pictured) will be live-streaming PLO on Twitch for 750 straight days. Yes, that's more than two years. A week ago, he Tweeted, "Will be streaming some form of PLO on @Twitch for the next 750 days straight (no joke)." No joke indeed. He added that most of what he'd be playing was "as Level 1 as it gets." On March 27, last Friday, ChicagoJoey Tweeted, "Day 4 of 750 straight day challenge is in the books. Thanks to the hardcores for making it fun! Back tomorrow." Monday is Day #7. He did an interview with NutBlocker and said of the current state of PLO streaming, "I do not see many players who play 1/2 and up streaming and giving out high-quality strategy while doing it." He added, "I want to help get the wonderful game of PLO out there to as many people as I can. I think it is such a fun game and many others will feel the same about it." As for why he'd want to tackle 750 straight days of streaming as opposed to a more rational number, ChicagoJoey told NutBlocker, "I was motivated to do it because I saw guys like JCarver and Jamie Staples putting in some really sick work ethic when it came to streaming, and I pride myself on being one of the sickest grinders in poker when it comes to work ethic." JCarver, aka Jason Somerville (pictured), recently signed with PokerStarsand started 70 straight days of streaming poker on Twitchfrom his base in Canada. He helped in part to pioneer poker on Twitch, which had been traditionally used for video games. If you're not familiar with ChicagoJoey, he has released a series of highly entertaining and informative poker-related podcasts with guests like Brian Hastings, Dan Cates, Daniel Negreanu, and Todd Anderson. He often sits, sometimes for hours, and shoots the breeze with his guests in a very relaxed fashion. This author met him at the American Poker Awards in Los Angeles and he was quite a character. Visit Joey's Twitch channel. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook.
  11. In an ongoing AMA on Reddit, three-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Vanessa Selbst (pictured) fielded a variety of questions, including how she stacks up against online poker players. Her response may have been surprising to some: "I'd probably suck at online pokersince I basically don't ever play, don't really know how to use programs very well, and don't have a database of stats to reference." --- Tournament Poker Edgeis the only poker training site dedicated exclusively to MTTs and features over 1,000 training videos, blogs, articles, podcasts and a dedicated strategy forum for members. Check Tournament Poker Edge out on Twitter. --- The predominantly live pro added, "Whenever I do play online these days, even tournaments, I feel like I'm at such a disadvantage because everyone knows who I am and at least has some idea about how I play and I know basically no one. Like, even people I've played with a bunch IRL, I usually have no clue what their screen names are. I still believe I'm very good at online poker tournaments, but I wouldn't even rank myself among the best because of that big disadvantage." Several questions at the beginning of the AMA focused on Selbst's demeanor, including one person who asked why the poker pro has been labeled by some as "a miserably rude person." Selbst said that she has changed in her adult years and asserted, "The only thing I really care about is what people who've actually met me say. They overwhelmingly say that playing with me is a really positive experience or that I'm generally likable and kind to everyone including strangers, so that's good enough for me." Selbst revealed that her software use is pretty much limited to Poker Cruncher on her phone, explaining, "My lack of study for that stuff probably hurts me in some cases, but I actually think that my intuition, live reads, and pattern recognition are really strong, so it isn't as important for me. In poker parlance, I'm more of a 'feel' player than a 'math' player." Her poker prowess has vaulted her to $11.6 million in live winnings, according to the Hendon Mob, good enough for #14 on the all-time money list for the US and #22 worldwide. She has three seven-figure scores to her name, including a mammoth $1.8 million haul for winning the Partouche Poker Tour's Main Event in Cannes five years ago (pictured). A series of questions about Twitchalso were posed. Selbst called the streaming platform "highly entertaining and a fantastic way to learn the game of poker." When asked if she'd be streaming anytime soon, Selbst responded, "I've actually been meaning to do it myself for a while, but seeing as how I don't play much online, my Twitch would have to be more creative in terms of what I did. I have some ideas, but I'm waiting for a time when I have no other major life events happening... I'm thinking in November or December is when I'll be able to start." Finally, we'll recap the origins of Selbst's career. She got started during the "Rounders" boom and played after school at friends' houses. She won big at NAPT Mohegan Sun in 2011 and PokerStars offered her a sponsorship. "I didn't really think of it as a viable career because I don't like the stress of the swings and would rather have a steady income and just play as a fun side hobby," she relayed. "But, when PokerStars said they would be paying for some of my buy-ins and expenses, well at that point I couldn't really turn that down." Check out the entire AMA. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook.
  12. According to Legal Sports Report, run by the same guys as Online Poker Report, Jason JCarverSomerville (pictured) has signed a "partnership deal" with DraftKings. He'll continue to be affiliated with the world's largest online poker room, PokerStars, as well. --- Tournament Poker Edgeis the only poker training site dedicated exclusively to MTTs and features over 1,000 training videos, blogs, articles, podcasts and a dedicated strategy forum for members. Check Tournament Poker Edge out on Twitter. --- Legal Sports Report outlined the deal, which will see Somerville promote all of the brands he's associated with seemingly in harmony: "The deal will see Somerville promote DraftKings across Run It Up (RIU), the overarching brand for Somerville's universe of programming, live events, and community of fans, including Somerville's vertical-leading Twitch channel." The site added, "DraftKings will be hosting several online satellite events for American and Canadian players to a RIU live poker event scheduled for this October at the Peppermill Casino in Reno. PokerStars will be hosting similar satellites for the international market." Earlier this month, PocketFives reported that Somerville had inked a two-year agreement with the online streaming site Twitch, where he has nearly singlehandedly pioneered the growth of online poker on the platform. RIU streams returned to Twitch on August 16, just over a week after Somerville's announcement, and he has repeatedly streamed in the days since. Legal Sports Report explained that Somerville is a relative newcomer to daily fantasy sports, which can also be played on sites like FanDueland Victiv: "Somerville noted that he didn't even have a DraftKings account until a few months ago. Many of his viewers are likely in a similar position." Interestingly, the parent company of PokerStars, Amaya Gaming, recently acquired Victiv and will re-brand the site StarsDraft. As we said, Somerville is affiliated with PokerStars, but will be representing DraftKings, a StarsDraft competitor, instead. In March, Somerville kicked off a 70-day Twitch campaign for PokerStars, streaming day after day to his legion of fans. He was one of the first people to stream online poker on Twitch and has helped grow poker and Twitch alike with his charisma and accessibility. He apparently expects 500 fans to show up at Peppermill in two months, a testament to just how popular he has become. US players have been flocking in droves to daily fantasy sports after the industry received a carve-out from the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. Visit DraftKings today. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook.
  13. According to a post on Twitter, Jason JCarverSomerville (pictured) has signed a new two-year partnership with Twitch. Somerville wrote to his throng of followers, "Very excited to have signed a new 2-year partnership with @Twitch! Daily #runitup streams set to return August 16th!" Now we sit just eight days away from the return of Run it Up. --- Tournament Poker Edgeis the only poker training site dedicated exclusively to MTTs and features over 1,000 training videos, blogs, articles, podcasts and a dedicated strategy forum for members. Check Tournament Poker Edge out on Twitter. --- Somerville's Tweet received 121 re-Tweets and had been Favorited 556 times when we checked it out. He even took time to respond to several comments in the feed, including one asking whether his schedule would be as rigid as it was before. To that, Somerville replied, "I'm still gonna try to be consistent, but maybe with less 'rules.'" Run it Up will take place, as Somerville alluded to, every day. When asked whether he'll be doing it every day for 730 days, or two years straight, however, Somerville responded, "Might be a LITTLE under 730 days. That would be ultra-tenacity tho for sure." Somerville has been largely silent on Twitch in the last couple of months with the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. He plays on his home site, PokerStars, which is not regulated in the US and so is not available to US players. His last Twitch broadcast came on July 1 when he was interviewed in the halls of the Rio in Las Vegas. In March, Somerville began 70 straight days of streaming on Twitch. He has served as a pioneer of poker on the media platform and was nominated for an American Poker Award for Poker Media Content of the Year in February. Somerville's Twitch stream has received an incredible 7.4 million views and has over 105,000 followers. In an interview in May, the PokerStars pro told us, "Twitch is a great base to interact with users. It's amazing for poker as both an entertainment and educational engine." Somerville's presence on Twitch has caused, either directly or indirectly, other staples of poker to stream, including Daniel Negreanuand Phil Hellmuth. Check out Somerville's Twitch stream. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook.
  14. [caption width="640"] Jason Somerville is bringing the Aussie Millions to Twitch[/caption] There's an entire generation that grew up playing or watching Where In The World is Carmen Sandiego? It was a game show and series of video games developed to teach kids geography as they took the clues provided and attempted to capture the criminal mastermind Carmen Sandiego. There's an entire generation of poker players and fans that are learning geography, but it's not a fedora-wearing, redheaded villain, but rather a 28-year-old poker-playing, live-streaming New Yorker who is showing his ever-growing fan base the world, one Twitch broadcast at a time. Just a week after taking his show to the Bahamas for the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, Jason Somerville finds himself Down Under as the sole broadcaster for the 2016 Aussie Millions, one of the premier events on the poker calendar. "I started talking to the Aussie Millions guys at the end of September," said Somerville. "They reached out to me saying they wanted to do something really special this year and that they had tried live streaming, I guess, in the past and it hadn't gone really great and they had seen what I had done on Twitch." While Somerville's existing audience was certainly a big part of the reason Crown contacted him in the first place, the enthusiasm he showed in pitching them his concept was what sold them on him. They knew they had the right medium, and after talking to Somerville they knew they had the right partner. "In 2016, Crown Melbourne made the decision to extend the global reach of the Aussie Millions and make the tournament accessible to poker enthusiasts where they consume poker the most," said Xavier Walsh, Crown's COO. "We are committed to providing the most dynamic, compelling, and relevant coverage possible, and it was crucial to extend the digital footprint to a new phase whilst including new channels in the social media space, namely Twitch.tv, allowing the world to enjoy the action as it happens." What Somerville had "done on Twitch" is now well known in most poker circles. Crown Casino still wasn't sure what Somerville would want to do. "At first, I think they didn't quite know what they wanted and then once I heard they were interested I pitched them on the full thing," said Somerville. "I told them, 'I want to come out there, we'll do the full broadcast, commentary on the $100K, $250K, Main Event, as much coverage as we can get every single day and let's showcase this event.'" Somerville debuted as an official partner on Twitch in October 2014 and quickly became the single most popular poker player on the live streaming service. The success of his Run It Up broadcasts have paved the way and set a template for the likes of Jaime Staples, Randy Lew, and Celina Lin to follow. But Somerville's Twitch broadcasts were originally built around his own play. People were tuning in to watch Somerville live stream his own play in PokerStars tournaments and cash games. While that proved extremely popular, Somerville had his eyes on bigger things, including live streaming from live poker tournaments and events around the world. In December, while Somerville was busy finalizing his plans for the Aussie Millions, the brain trust at PokerStars, where Somerville is a Team Pro, wanted to know what his PCA plans were. Sure, it was relatively short notice, but Somerville jumped at the chance to offer his legions of fans the chance to check out PokerStars' marquee event. Somerville didn't exactly take it easy – he jumped in with both feet. Over the course of the PCA, Somerville was on air for nearly 5,000 minutes – 81 hours. During that time, there was an average of 6,000 concurrent viewers tuned in, peaking at just over 13,500 for the Main Event final table. His efforts set a record for live tournament poker on Twitch. He's hoping to smash that record this week. "The shows are going to be absolutely awesome, with hole cards the entire time. That's one thing we heard consistently (during PCA) was people saying, 'I don't know what they have,'" said Somerville. During the PCA broadcasts, hole cards were kept hidden. "It's going to be the same kind of interactive broadcast as we had (at PCA). I'm going to be talking in the Twitch chat the whole time through and people can ask questions. I think it will be the most high-quality (poker) broadcast ever done." The PCA broke all the records, but it also gave Somerville a lot of notes on how to improve the product heading into the Aussie Millions. Being able to see hole cards is important, but that wasn't the only feedback he's using to take the product to the next level. "We've learned a lot of lessons about trying to minimize recycled break content, trying to always have something fresh and interesting and engaging to keep the viewers all night long, and I think they're going to be really compelling and interesting shows," said Somerville. While many poker fans might think of Twitch as a place to watch poker, the Twitch audience is much larger and consists largely of eSports and video game streams. Finding a way to get that audience is one of the challenges that Somerville most embraces, largely because he feels like he's a part of both worlds. "Twitch is used to a certain level of production quality for the massive eSports events that they have. We see Riot games run their League of Legends finals; they're getting hundreds of thousands of concurrent views watching a pristine, top-of-the-line, beautiful broadcast and many of the top games on Twitch present their games in that way," said Somerville. "Poker really hasn't done that too much yet. The live streams from poker have always been like, 'Oh, and let's live stream on Twitch,' instead of having a guy like me who can bridge the gap between the video game world and the poker world." [caption width="640"] The complete Twitch stream schedule for the 2016 Aussie Millions[/caption] The schedule calls for Somerville to be on air for eight straight days, not only talking poker, but also engaging with the Twitch audience. He'll have plenty of help, though, as some of poker's biggest stars will undoubtedly make their way into the broadcast booth to provide commentary and insight. Still, Somerville is going to find himself talking for over 80 hours. "Honestly, I don't drink coffee. I don't really drink soda or anything, I'm just a very... to me, it comes naturally. I'm just passionate about what I'm doing here and I find that it's easy to be energetic because we truly are showcasing one of the most premiere events in the poker universe and we're bringing it to an audience that has never heard of Aussie Millions before," said Somerville. "I feel like we're going to be delivering a broadcast that caters to Twitch. The production is oriented around what I'm saying and what I want to do." Somerville starts streaming on Sunday, January 24 at 8pm local time (4am US Eastern Time) with the opening day of the $100K Challenge, an event that will draw the biggest names in poker. Phil Ivey, Erik Seidel, Sam Trickett and Antonio Esfandiari are all expected to be in the field.
  15. It would appear that Jason Somerville’s quest for poker world domination is taking him - and his ever popular Twitch stream - Down Under. Somerville, the most popular poker player on Twitch, has partnered with Crown Melbourne to stream the 2016 Aussie Millions Main Event on RunItUp.tv from January 24 – February 1. “‘I’m extremely excited to be teaming up with Crown Melbourne and PokerStars to bring the 2016 Aussie Millions to poker fans around the globe,” said Somerville. “The Aussie Millions is a marquee event on the international poker calendar and this year. I am honored to play a part in showcasing the action as the Aussie Millions transitions exclusively into a live-streamed online broadcast.” The 2016 Aussie Millions schedule has 24 events including the AU$10,600 Main Event. As part of the Asia Pacific Poker Tour, players can qualify for the Main Event on PokerStars.com. In an effort to put the Aussie Millions brand in front of as many poker players as possible, Crown Melbourne sought an established partner for an online broadcast. “We are committed to providing the most dynamic, compelling and relevant coverage possible, and it was crucial to extend the digital footprint to a new phase whilst including new channels in the social media space, namely Twitch.tv, allowing the world to enjoy the action as it happens,” said Xavier Walsh, Crown Melbourne’s Chief Operating Officer. While the Main Event draws one of the biggest $10,000 buy-in fields of the year, the highlight of the schedule each year are the high roller events, the AU$100,000 AU Challenge and the LK Boutique AU$250,000 Challenge. Phil Ivey has won the $250,000 Challenge three of the last four years and he is expected to be in attendance this year along with John Juanda, Sam Trickett and Erik Seidel. Even though big buy-in events are the marquee events, there is still a number of Championship events for players with a smaller-than-Phil-Ivey bankroll. Eleven of the 24 events on the schedule have a buy-in of AU$1,150. Along with a full slate of No Limit Hold’em events, the schedule also includes Pot Limit Omaha, HORSE and 8-Game Mixed events.
  16. It's a hot, humid April Sunday afternoon in Augusta, Georgia. Millions of people from around the world are tuned in to their televisions to watch the final round of the Masters. As the final pairing head to the 18th green, thousands of fans in attendance are in an all-out sprint to get to a spot where they can see the final, championship-winning putt. A three-foot tap-in putt should be the final stroke of the tournament. Up by two strokes, the leader just needs to tap the ball just right to earn the green jacket that comes with one of golf's majors. The ball is struck and rolls gently, eventually dropping out of sight and into the hole. Jim Nantz, the voice of the Masters known for his over-the-top witticisms as the tournament ends and a new champion stands tall, is prepared for the moment. "A New Staple of golf's elite. Jaime Staples, Masters Champion.” That's the world a 14-year-old Jaime Staples imagined for himself growing up in a family that loved the game of golf. * * * It's a rainy Friday night in November in a random major metropolitan city. Thousands of people are sitting in a concert hall waiting for the evening's entertainment to take the stage. As the lights go down and the velvet curtains begin to open they see a Steinway grand piano sitting alone in the center of the stage. The silence is broken as the audience applauds politely as the Canadian pianist they've paid to see walks from stage left toward the piano before a soft-spoken voice over the loudspeaker introduces the man. "Ladies and gentlemen, Jaime Staples”. Staples takes his seat and smiles at the crowd as he begins to play the opening notes to Beethoven's "Für Elise”. The crowd falls silent again. That's the world Susie Staples imagined for her teenage son who was growing up as the offspring of two people who had dedicated their professional lives to teaching music to the world. * * * Today, Jaime Staples is not in contention for the Masters – or any other pro golf event for that matter – and while he can still play a bit of piano, he's not filling concert halls with fans of his ivory tickling. But he's does have fans around the world - tens of thousands of them in fact. The 24-year-old has had what can only be described as a meteoric rise from relative obscurity in the online poker world to one of its most beloved stars. Today, Staples is one of the most popular and successful poker players on Twitch, the live streaming service that puts poker players onto the monitors, tablets and phones of poker enthusiasts around the world as they play. "I think it's just the most connected community I've ever been a part of. It really feels like you all share this common interest, which is poker or gaming or streaming or whatever it is, and you get to hang around and interact with like-minded people,” said Staples. "You get to do that from the comfort of your home. It's a great feeling to have that many people gathered in one place, and with live chat it's like something completely different than we've seen before.” The Twitch community has readily accepted Staples and helped him become a star. He recently crossed the 3 million views milestone. * * * Susie Staples is proud of her son and what he's managed to accomplish so far but when he was a little kid running around the house, he was doing so only after having put in the practice hours on the piano. "He was a really nice pianist. Both his Dad and I are musicians. I teach music at a high school and my husband is a retired university professor that taught music,” said Susie. "So he was certainly raised in a musical environment and he played in the school band and he took piano lessons and he did some writing as well.” While music was important to the Staples family, they also played golf. Not just Jaime and his parents and siblings though. The passion for the links came from the top. Grandma loved the game. Mention that the Staples grew up in a Southern Alberta city and most will picture a snow-covered tundra and not an ideal place to play a game best suited for warmer climates. The truth is though that Lethbridge, Alberta has some of the best golf courses in Western Canada. The entire family played the game, but it was his cousin Mike Mezei who introduced Staples to the game and the possibilities it presented. Staples was young and Mezei was making a real run at becoming a professional golfer. The impressionable Staples was fascinated and after getting out for just a couple of rounds with cousin Mike, Staples decided knew where he wanted his life to go. "My cousin was a professional golfer for around 10 years, with moderate success. He took me out to the course when I was a kid, really loved it, and decided yeah, that's about it,” said Staples. "I'd say maybe nine, ten years old is when I sort of said, ‘Okay, let's do this'." His interest wasn't just some pre-teen phase though; Staples got into golf in a big way. While his parents made sure school was still the priority, he was golfing nearly every day, working with private coaches and doing everything he could to get better at the game. "I think (Mike) was a really large influence on him. Also, most of the people in our family golf, and his grandmother was an avid lover of golf. So he was raised in an atmosphere where that was something we did. He really liked it actually. That was what he did before poker,” said Susie. Even as hard as we was pursuing the pro golf career, there eventually came a time where Staples recognized that it probably wasn't going to be where he ended up. He was working a part-time job and taking some university courses when he found poker and made a life-changing decision to drop golf and turn all of his dedication to poker. "Golf was pretty stagnant, and it was becoming a reality that I wasn't going to make it. I was sort of losing some of that naivety and was like ‘Okay, this isn't going to happen',” said Staples. "I watched some poker TV shows and thought it was really cool. I thought being a poker pro would be amazing. Compete with your mind and live this glamorous lifestyle as a card player.” The highly edited TV poker shows he was watching made the game look easy and flying around the world to play for millions of dollars looked exciting. Like nearly every other player his age, Staples jumped online in search of poker. First he found play money sites and then started entering freerolls and eventually started playing for real money. "Well, when I first saw the game, I was like, ‘Wow, I can do this', just because I was really arrogant,” said Staples. "I guess the first thing that made it a little bit real was I got fifth place in the $3 rebuy on PokerStars.” That finish was worth $2,700 and at the time that was more money that Staples was making in a month at his part-time job. Which, unsurprisingly, was at one of the local golf courses where Staples had made enough connections to get a job. But Staples wasn't fitting guys for new spikes in the pro shop or driving the cart picking up the balls duffers had launched on the driving range. "At the time, I was working as a cart girl at a golf course. Typically a female job, for whatever reason, in the golf industry, and I somehow got the job,” said Staples. "(The golfers) weren't expecting me, but I'd play into it. I'd drop a button (on my shirt) and then play it up and do my best.” Despite his ability to make the duffers laugh, the wages and tips didn't add up to a lot of money and even though he was living at home with his parents and siblings, he still had bills to pay. "I was living paycheck to paycheck. I was in debt a little bit to my brother for golf training that he paid for,” said Staples. "So yeah, I quit my job when I won that $2,700.” The golf cart gig wasn't the only thing Staples stopped doing. Whatever energy he had been directing towards his pursuit of a pro golf career, he turned towards online poker, but it meant he'd have to drop out of school, something not exactly music to his parents' ears. "I remember a few years ago when he said ‘mom, this university thing is not me' and, of course, my reaction is what you'd expect any high school teacher to have,” remembered Susie. "Our whole life has been based on education and setting our kids up for their future, so I said ‘I never want you to come back and tell me that you shouldn't have let me do that or whatever'.” Momma Staples wasn't going to stand in the way of one of her adult kids making a decision to pursue something they were so passionate about. She knew she'd have come across as a bit of a hypocrite had she put up any real resistance. "The thing is we've always told our kids to be passionate, so I have to follow through with what I've said. I say it in my classroom every day ‘you find that thing you love',” said Susie. "I still remember Jaime saying ‘I want to work, I want to do this, mom. School might be there later in my life but right now this is what I want to do'.” Parents have a way of giving approval while also being cautious and concerned as they watch their offspring venture out into the real world and take risks. Staples knew his parents were okay with the transition, but also understood there was still some concern as he ventured off into a world completely foreign to them. "They didn't know anything about poker, so there was no difference between poker and blackjack originally to them. They were quite concerned in the beginning,” said Staples. "I think as I started to not have a job and eventually not need a job, to be able to buy whatever I want and pay whatever measly bills I ended up having, living at home, they were like, ‘Okay, we'll live with this,' and as I continued to make a little bit more every year, they were okay with it.” Staples was resolute in the path he was taking and now had a bankroll big enough to make some things happen. "I knew what I wanted to do, and that I wanted to chase the dream and it didn't really matter if I failed,” said Staples. "I just had to do it, school was just a placeholder, and I finally took the plunge." Around the same time that Staples was "going pro” another newcomer appeared on the poker scene, one that again altered the path that Staples was on. "Twitch just appeared, and it was just like a perfect fit," said Staples. Staples saw Jason Somerville stream a couple of times and read through a few posts on TwoPlusTwo about other players who were streaming on Twitch. "I knew I wanted to participate in the industry around poker and give back to the game if I was going to dedicate my life to it for at least the time being. I was like, ‘all right, I'm going to give this a go',” said Staples. "I didn't really expect anything, maybe I'll make an extra $10,000 a year or something, and it'll be a lot of fun, and I'll play better, and it grew to be a lot more than that.” Even an extra $10,000 a year seems like a lot considering that Staples didn't really have any idea how to make Twitch work. Rather than sit down and plan out how to build a following and ramp up his audience, Staples basically just turned the camera on and went to work playing, while letting the few that tuned in early get a glimpse of his personality. "Going back to the dreamer part of my personality, I had stars in my eyes very quickly, but from day one, day two, day three, I had no plans,” said Staples. "I really didn't think of it as a business or as something that needed to be managed when I got into it. I saw it as just people sitting down and playing their games and talking. I didn't really realize that there was more to it than that as the channel grows.” Staples, really an unknown commodity in the online poker world with limited big scores to his name at this point, started modestly. But things escalated quickly and he broke through the 100-viewer benchmark within the first week. "I sort of realized it was going to extrapolate into something bigger. I was taking it seriously then, but it wasn't the production that we have going now,” said Staples. "It's been a slow progression, but like I said, I like to project those things early and dream about them. This one was, I guess, attainable.” To the outsider, a Twitch stream looks easy enough. Fire up some tables, turn on the webcam and off you go. That's how Staples started, but as his audience and his chances to make money off of it grew, he knew he needed help. Staples now employs a handful of people to manage his stream and all of the ancillary products that go with it. "I have four people working for me full time doing various stuff, and that takes a lot of managing, but they're doing jobs that I, at one point, was doing all myself, and that time I now have back to produce more content,” said Staples. "There's a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes to try and grow the stream, to connect with the community and continue to grow the community.” That level of dedication to the product is a big reason why Staples was able to grow his audience so quickly. With so many eyeballs tuning in to watch him play, it was only a matter of time before sponsors came calling. In early 2015 that's exactly what happened – and it wasn't some small time company offering free gear or energy drinks – it was the biggest online poker company in the world. "It was the day after I won the Big $109 in March, which was my biggest score ever for $19,700,” said Staples. "(PokerStars) called me. I was in bed getting ready to stream and actually knew who it was on the phone. It was a guy that goes on the TwoPlusTwo Pokercast a lot, Steve Day.” Day was the manager of Team PokerStars Online at the time and it was part of his responsibility to recruit new members. Staples had a pretty good idea as to why Day was calling. Even though it came quickly, the call was the culmination of a lot of hard work and started the ball rolling on Staples completing what he thought would be a lifelong goal. "At the end of 2014, I was like, ‘Okay. This is going to happen one day. I'm going to be sponsored by PokerStars.' That's the dream. That's what I had wanted forever. That was the end goal for me when I got into poker,” said Staples. "I thought it would be a year later, not three months. I was totally unprepared and nervous. I hadn't really had very much sponsorship opportunity before that. I wasn't ready.” Staples had very little live experience so a spot on Team PokerStars Pro wasn't likely and Day wasn't ready to offer full Team Online status to Staples right away. He was made a ‘Friend of PokerStars' and told that if he could make Supernova Elite status – a requirement for Team Online members - he'd most likely be asked to join Team Online full time. "It was clear they wanted to work with me and they recognized me as a poker professional, but I sort of needed to prove myself to one of those teams to make that happen,” said Staples. "I set out with goal to make supernova status and made it on the last day that I set for myself, and then they accepted me to Team Online.” Even though he didn't have much live experience, his exposure on Twitch and as a member of Team PokerStars Online, opened up some opportunities for him that weren't there before. Last summer, Poker Night in America came calling and invited him to be part of a cast that included some of the biggest names in poker including Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth and Randy ‘nanonoko' Lew. The opportunity was something he cherished. "I wasn't nervous to play poker at all. I was a little bit nervous to meet some of those guys in that they're the ones, a couple years ago, that I really looked up to,” said Staples. "I remember going to the 2013 World Series of Poker, I believe, and seeing ‘nanonoko' in the halls and being afraid to shake his hand, like being afraid to approach him, and now I was playing in a game with him.” Opportunities to play live are a perk of the job, but Staples understands a bulk of his energy needs to go to his core product, the live stream and the supporting content. While many young players simply bury themselves in poker; playing, hand review, session study and Skype chat, Staples devotes a lot of his free time to making sure he's improving his product. "I only think about poker when I'm actively studying or playing. Other than that, it's 100% the stream, because it's new - it's like 2003 of Twitch poker right now,” said Staples. "It isn't a very efficient game yet, and it's just the Wild West. It's a rush to grow, to be better. So that's where almost all of my thinking goes throughout the day.” Being good at poker, winning tournaments and having deep runs is an integral part of the formula for success, but it's certainly not the most important piece. While Staples' early foray into golf prepared him for the competitive side of poker, his music lessons and performances taught him about the value of connecting with his audience, something Staples knows will be the foundation his career is built on. "It has to come down to caring about the people that are investing their time in you. Interacting with them on a real basis, trying to connect with them on social media and keep up with what's going on in their lives and answering their questions in chat and answering their emails and doing everything you can to be a good person, be a valuable person to them,” said Staples. Growing as a poker player and as a streamer are the two focuses of Staples' life right now, but he knows that if he continues to have success in those two areas, other doors will open for him. He's just not sure what those opportunities might be. "Streamer does not define it anymore. I would like to do a lot. I'd like to keep climbing the mountain, basically, keep improving in my life, and that's really sort of all I know right now,” said Staples. "Right now I'm focused on poker, hardcore streaming, YouTube, community. Where will that be in three years? I don't know, but somewhere where hopefully I'm continuing to improve and work towards my goals.” While his audience continues to grow by leaps and bounds as more and more poker players discover Twitch and more of the core Twitch audience finds poker, Staples has one viewer who's always going to be tuning in, no matter what. "I probably go in every day and listen to him talk just a little bit because he's in Calgary and we're (in Lethbridge) so we don't see Jaime that often,” said Susie. "So I have watched him, but I have to be truthful - I don't know how to play poker.” She doesn't play the game, but checks out the stream as a show of support and to watch her son put his passion for the game for the world to see. When something happens on the stream that she doesn't quite understand she relies on friends and colleagues to explain it to her. "Somebody who understands poker will tell me, ‘no, he didn't have a choice there, that wasn't bad play, those are the cards, he didn't do anything wrong',” said Susie. "Oh okay. As long as he didn't do anything stupid, that's all I want to know.” Even if he had made a bad play, she knows that Staples is making his own decisions now. The golf thing turned out to be a bit of a phase and the musician's life just wasn't meant to be for Staples, but Susie has known since her son was born that his destiny was really up to him. "The day he was born I remember his dad saying, he owns himself we just get to raise him,” said Susie. "And I still remember that day, the day he was born, and it really is true.”
  17. [caption width="640"] Randy 'Nanonoko' Lew's Twitch stream is quickly approaching a million views.[/caption] Some Twitch streams are drier than the Mojave Desert. Some are full of high-level cash game content. Some are full of high-level tournament content. Some are merely gibberish. Twitch is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you're gonna get. Enter Team PokerStars Pro Randy 'Nanonoko' Lew, whose Twitch stream is quickly approaching a million views. He's also at over 31,000 followers. And he's not stopping there. "I always thought the fans were what made me someone in the poker community," Lew said. "We don't really ever get to be able to speak to our favorite players. When Twitch came about, I didn't jump on the platform for at least a year, but I knew it was something I was interested in doing. It's just that getting high volume in as well means you can't say, 'Oh, I'm going to start tomorrow.'" This is the same 'Nanonoko' who made Guinness World Record history in 2012 by playing 23,493 hands in eight hours while turning a profit. The same 'Nanonoko' who once multi-tabled live in the Bahamas during the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. He's an action junkie. However, he can't mass-multi-table and manage a stream that's also informative and engaging. It's simply not possible. "Generally when I play online, I like to play 20 games at once, but I can't do that while I'm streaming," Lew said. "It's either that the stream gets worse quality because I can't answer people or my play gets really bad." "I saw the success that Jason Somerville had, andJaime Staples, and thought the platform looked pretty cool and could work," said Lew. "After trying it the first time, I realized that not only was it fun to interact with fans, but it was also a little surprising at times. You might stream five hours and think it's a long time to play a few tables at a time answering questions. But, it's surprisingly fun when the community actually gets built and I actually know people's user names." Lew travels to live poker events around the world in places like Las Vegas, Monaco, and the UK. After all, he's a PokerStars pro and needs to give the brand as much face time as possible. As such, developing a recurring stream has been a difficult task. "I know a schedule is important for streaming and I've been traveling a decent amount," Lew said. "I'm trying to get a good base to do it, and I want to stream five times a week. Traveling can be a little tough. I'm hoping I can stream more than poker. Sometimes you stream, then you go away for a month and people forget you exist and you have to start over. That's why I want to have other sources to keep myself present. Maybe I'll find another game that's fun to stream while I'm in the United States like Hearthstone." [caption width="640"] Lew has branched into streaming games like Hearthstone in addition to poker.[/caption] Somerville pioneered poker on Twitch and worked closely with the team at the streaming service to ensure any kinks related to playing poker on Twitch could be ironed out. Players like Staples, Daniel Negreanu, and even Phil Hellmuth followed suit, each putting a different spin. Poker tournaments, awards shows, and conferences have all made their way to Twitch as a result. "Everyone's stream is a bit different," Lew said. "I think Jason Somerville is one of the most entertaining guys out there for sure. I find that my stream is pretty good in that I educate pretty well strategy-wise. My stream is always the most relaxed and troll-y. People always like to make fun of me and I make fun of them. It's one of the most relaxed streams to be in because of all of the high-level content. I am not hiding behind a camera pretending to be someone. I just do what I do, try to make some money, and talk to fans." Anyone with an internet connect can tune into Lew and company on Twitch. You could be in the middle of the desert, miles from the nearest breath of civilization, with a satellite connection and watch him out-muscle the competition. "A lot of Europeans watch my stream," he said. "My audience is really all over the world. I always say, 'Hey, tell me where you're from' and I get all these fake answers like 'Antarctica.' I'll shout out every city or country that comes up, and there's a lot of them. UK comes up a lot." In March, Somerville became the first poker streamer to hit 10 million views, and he has since passed 11 million. Can Lew, Somerville, Staples, and the rest of the Twitch crew expect the platform to be around in five years? Ten years? Twenty years? Will it go the way of MySpace and AOL? Or will it weather the ever-turbulent technology storm? "Twitch does really well for all of the other games out there like Hearthstone and League of Legends," he said. "I think poker is here to stay on Twitch. It's going to make the YouTube videos and training websites obsolete. It's free content. More and more streamers are coming in. When poker first started on there, it was Jason Somerville by himself. Now, there are a lot of different choices. Streams cater to MTT players and cash game players. Personally, I prefer not putting my credit card on a training site and forget to use it or forget I did it. Twitch is free. Who beats free content that's actually good?" You can check out Lew's stream at twitch.tv/nanonoko.
  18. Boasting over 13 million views and nearly 200,000 follows to his Run It UP poker stream on Twitch, Jason Sommerville is by far the most popular poker broadcaster on the site. While his average shows attract several thousand fans apiece, that number can skyrocket when the Team PokerStars Pro finds himself at a final table, playing for thousands of dollars. With that in mind, Sommerville is hosting a special World Championship of Online Poker broadcast, during which 2016 WSOP Player of the Year Jason Mercier will stream his play live in the $102,000 buy-in Super High Roller event on Sunday. And yes, hole cards will be shown. Lee Jones, PokerStars Cardroom Manager, revealed that the idea came about after Mercier and Sommerville realized that they would both be in Toronto for the WCOOP. The two Jasons have been friends and business partners for years, and when Mercier mentioned he would be playing the High Roller event, Somerville asked if he’d like to stream it all on Twitch. “One thing led to another, and here we are,” said Jones. The $102,000 buy-in Super High Roller event will be the highest buy-in poker tournament ever played online. That fact makes it all the more astounding that Mercier would agree to stream his play with his hole cards exposed (on a fifteen-minute delay). At that elite level of competition, it’s rare to find a pro who would risk revealing his thought process behind hands during what will be an ultra-competitive tournament. Somerville will be in the booth alongside Mercier during the tournament, and will even discuss hands with the pro after the fact. He won’t be giving advice or discussing strategy when Mercier is actively in a hand, however. “Jason Mercier streaming the event and showing his hole cards gives poker fans an amazing opportunity to jump on board the action and excitement,” said Eric Hollreiser, PokerStars’ director of corporate communications. “On top of that, Jason Somerville has made Twitch the premiere channel for poker fans and knows how to put on a truly great show. All this combined is going to make for some intense Sunday poker watching.” Mercier is coming off the heels of a fantastic summer performance at the WSOP. His outstanding run started when he won a bracelet in the 2-7 Draw Lowball Championship for $273,335. He went on to take second place in his next tournament, the Razz Championship, then win another bracelet and $422,874 in the HORSE Championship. Those three events, plus an eighth place finish in the Omaha Hi-Lo Championship were enough to earn him the accolade of series Player of the Year. The Super High Roller action is streaming on the PokerStars Twitch channel, twitch.tv/pokerstars. The event kicks off on Sunday, September 11 at 1:30 PM US (ET). The tournament is a two-day affair, and if Mercier advances, Sommerville will be broadcasting the entire time. "As a serious poker player myself, I look forward to seeing Jason’s strategy unfold hand by hand and learning from him," said Scott Ball, Twitch Community Development and Poker Manager. “And of course, Jason Sommerville was the founder of poker streaming and a Twitch legend. With him in the booth, there won’t be a dull moment; it should be a great day for Twitch and poker fans everywhere.”
  19. [caption width="640"] Scott Blumstein is ready to enter a new stage in his poker career with a little help from Jimmy V.[/caption] “If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day.” Those words were spoken by famed college basketball coach Jim Valvano during the 1993 ESPY awards and his speech has lived long past his death to inspire many. A fan of Valvano’s, Scott ‘Sblum2711’ Blumstein is hoping to use those words to embolden him and his soon to be captive audience. If everyone is fighting a struggle, Blumstein would be the first to say that his is weight, which stems from a compulsive eating habit. As a tournament player, Blumstein has for years fought to overcome the allure of “comfort food” when busting out of an event or just eating what is most convenient. Inspired by fellow pro Jesse Cohen’s no-carb weight loss success, Blumstein is starting his own venture for the whole world to see. Scheduled to start on May 1, Blumstein is initiating the “$30k, 30 pounds” challenge, which he plans to stream on Twitch. The crux of the challenge is Blumstein attempting to win $30,000 by playing tournaments on New Jersey sites while also trying to lose 30 pounds at the same time. If Blumstein is to succeed in winning the $30,000 before shedding the corresponding weight, he will donate a percentage of those earnings to the Jimmy V Foundation. “My weight has always been an issue and struggling to deal with being able to have a healthy lifestyle. It's tough dealing with my vice, which tends to be food. The main part of the challenge is to give me an incentive to fix my own issues in life while hopefully giving other people the ability to improve their lives as well.” As part of the challenge, Blumstein says he will effectively be giving up live poker until he loses the weight he needs to in order to be healthy. “Playing poker and twitching might be a huge distraction to avoid the addiction in the outside world. There are bad food choices everywhere you go. It’s tough to be a poker player and go out. A part of the reason I eat so much is because it makes me feel better. That combined with poker, a game where you lose constantly, doesn’t help.” Blumstein notes that by playing exclusively online, he will be able to have more control over his diet by only eating what he voluntarily puts inside his home. The timing of the challenge comes at peak busy season on the poker calendar as the World Series of Poker and all coinciding events are hitting full swing in Las Vegas parallel to when Blumstein will be in the middle of his challenge. Blumstein acknowledges that missing a full summer of live poker is not an easy decision, but it’s the one he has to make in order to get his life firmly back on track. “I plan to play less live and take the summer off. If it means not going to Vegas, that’s fine. My health is more important than any tournament series. The plan is to play exclusively online and get a routine going for staying home.” At only 25 years old, Blumstein realizes this challenge is a great opportunity for him to get into the shape he needs in order to create a long-term healthy lifestyle. The many hours spent inside a casino can blind players from the personal issues they need to face and Blumstein knows he is a case for that happening. Since he’s made his issue public, it’s now or never. “My focus is in the wrong place a lot of times and it’s easy to fall into a trap where that is the case. Poker and making money are necessities to being a professional but I have this challenge and burden to overcome. It needs to be the focal point in my life. This is a way to combine my love for poker and my need to fix one of the huge negatives in my life. It’s probably my best chance to do it.” The full schedule of the stream is yet to be determined but Blumstein hopes to Twitch on most weekdays and every Sunday, once he gets his routine organized. Blumstein is tremendously self-aware of his personal demons and knows that there are people watching the stream who might be facing a battle of their own. Overall, Blumstein is trying not to just lose weight or win money, but also to inspire someone else. “The stream in general is going to be a multitude of things. Could be a good to place to come and feel special. If people have similar issues, it will be like an AA meeting. You’re going to learn, like Jimmy V says, ‘think, cry, laugh.’ Those three things are the goal of the stream.”
  20. [caption width="640"] Parker 'tonkaaaap' Talbot represents a new breed of poker superstar for 888poker.[/caption] Nine months ago 888poker added another player to their impressive group of ambassadors that might have left casual poker observers asking themselves, 'Uhh, who the hell is Parker Talbot?' 888poker's team of ambassadors already included the likes of online poker's all-time tournament earnings leader Chris Moorman, Sweden's Sofia Lovgren, German prodigy Dominik Nitsche and one of the hardest working people in the industry, Kara Scott. Adding Talbot might have seemed like an odd choice to some - but not to the 65,000 or so Twitch subscribers that follow every move the Canadian poker pro makes. They don't know him as Parker Talbot though. To them, he's 'tonkaaaaP'. Now 25, Talbot - rather 'TonkaaaaP' - has been playing poker full time for a little over seven years, but he actually found the game a lot earlier than that. He still a middle-schooler when he first started playing. "I was like 14 or 15 years old. Me, my mom and my dad all played (online)," said Talbot. The pair were playing 5p-10p Limit Hold'em before they came across some old World Poker Tour episodes that introduced them an entirely new world. "We discovered No Limit and we were like, 'Holy shit, you can win a £20 pot on this? We are never playing Limit again!'" This is where Talbot's story shifts a little bit from the narrative of so many other players of his generation. Just around his 17th birthday his family noticed he was a little TOO into poker and began dialing it back and getting him refocused on school. He eventually made his way to university. "When I went to university when I was 17, 18 years old, I didn't play online at all," said Talbot. "You would assume that most people as soon as they leave the house are like, 'Fuck it, I'll just play online now'. But I didn't do that for some reason. I have no idea why." On his 18th birthday, Talbot took $100 and headed to a local casino to play $1/$2. He lost it all. Undeterred by that, Talbot took another $100, that his dad had given him for his birthday, and went back. "Never really looked back after that," said Talbot. "I used to show up on Friday night and leave on Sunday morning, playing 36-hour sessions of $1/$2 and built up a $5,000-$6,000 bankroll." After returning home for the summer, Talbot decided to take that bankroll and use it to play online cash games. He was four-tabling $0.25/$0.50 and unlike his live play, he was getting killed. One of his friends convinced him that maybe he should give tournaments a try. "The second or third day, I got second place in the Daily $40,000 ... for $10,000 or something," said Talbot. From that point on, Talbot began working on his tournament game. He's since amassed over $3.1 million in lifetime online tournament earnings and recently joined Upswing Poker as a coach. Like everybody who has ever signed up to play at an online poker site, Talbot paused briefly when he came to picking his screenname. He eventually settled on 'TonkaaaaP' and his reasoning is a pretty strong reflection of his Canadian roots. "I used to play hockey, of course. My coach started to call me 'Tonka', like a Tonka truck, because I was a smaller, stockier kid, but we always played contact hockey and I would always be able to rock the big guys," said Talbot. Over the next few years, Talbot focused mainly on turbo sit-n-gos while dabbling in MTTs. Along the way he found himself in an online chat group that included Jamie Staples. During one of their normal chats, Staples gave Talbot a push to start streaming on Twitch. "I was just like, 'Nah, that doesn't sound very fun'," said Talbot, who was in fact, having less fun playing on a daily basis after PokerStars decided to kill the Supernova Elite program. Talbot had been a SNE for three straight years and was on the verge of quitting poker after the program went away. "I wasn't really enjoying it anymore. Then I was just like, 'Fuck it, I'll just stream tomorrow; play a tournament session and just stream it'. I bought a microphone, I had a camera and I just clicked the stream button and did it," said Talbot. Now Talbot finds himself as one of the most popular poker streamers on Twitch. It's caused Talbot to rethink what his role is exactly and in some cases, moving away from being JUST a poker player. "I think there's a balance. I definitely feel myself transitioning into more of an entertaining role, an ambassador streamer type of role for sure," said Talbot. With a growing following in the poker Twitch community, it made perfect sense that 888 reached out to him and started talking about ways to work together. "A few months into the stream I got contacted by them, wanting to do some work with me. I wasn't super interested in doing a small thing," said Talbot. "Then we didn't talk for a little and then had some more talks. We just ended up making it work." He officially joined 888poker as an ambassador in January 2017. Along with playing exclusively on 888poker on his Twitch channel, Talbot also began doing commentary work alongside David Tuchman at 888Live events. "I think we're a pretty good combo, to be honest. We have a decent amount of banter and we have a lot of fun carrying each other and making fun of each other while talking about cards," said Talbot. "I feel like I'm a little bit more experienced poker-wise than Tuchman, and he's way more used to the commentary role. We sort of bounce off of each other." Even with all of his success in poker, Talbot's biggest fans are the same two people that introduced him to the game over ten years ago - his parents. His mom regularly tunes into the Twitch stream and actually serves as a mod on his channel. "She's in there, banning people. There's an emote of her. She plays in pretty much all of our home games," said Talbot, who says his parents always supported his decision to pursue poker. "We're just like friends, you know? They're obviously parental figures, but at this point, I'm an adult, they're adults. We're more like friends."
  21. [caption width="640"] Jeff Gross is the newest addition to Team PokerStars.[/caption] For the last couple of years Jeff Gross has been working hard to build a social media following and Twitch audience. On Monday that hard work paid off when he showed up to play Day 1C of the 2017 World Series of Poker Main Event as the newest member of Team PokerStars Pro. Gross, who has nearly 35,000 Twitter followers, 29,000 Twitch followers and almost 500,000 views on his YouTube channel, first started talking to PokerStars earlier this year about finding a way to work together. “It was a goal to get a deal with one of the major sites and pokerStars being the industry leaders it was definitely what I wanted. When they reached out I was like ‘Absolutely, let’s go let’s make it happen, I want to be a part of Team PokerStars’, and it happened,” Gross said. PokerStars is just as happy to have Gross on board. “We are delighted that Jeff has signed up to the team, joining Igor Kurganov as another top quality poker pro entering the ranks of Team PokerStars Pro this year,” said Eric Hollreiser, Director of Corporate Communications at PokerStars. “Jeff’s passion, enthusiasm and poker credibility makes this is a great partnership.” Gross’ Twitch stream, the Poker Flow Show, has grown in popularity over the last year thanks largely to Gross’ ability to engage his viewers and make them feel like their an active part of the show, not just a viewer. It’s that mentality that he’s hoping to bring to PokerStars. “I want someone to come to a PokerStars Championship event, be able to come and play, not feel intimidated, have fun, sit down and whether it’s for a hobby or they maybe want to do it more professionally, and that it’s fun,” said Gross. “That’s sort of the same direction that Stars is going with Kevin Hart, Usain Bolt and just their overall demeanor as a company it seems to moving the right way.” Gross, who will be part of the Streamboat along with good friend Bill Perkins later this fall, sees some of the things happening in the world of poker right now that have him excited. “I have some big goals and visions with poker in general, and I just see the excitement, the bigger numbers in a lot of tournaments, other venues to which are pressing and it’s making the industry a lot of fun again,” said Gross. “And I see a lot of new stops and countries like Brazil, India, China now, just expanding and I feel like the US is going to get legalized in a couple of states which never know but it seems like they’re close.” The 30-year-old knows he’s going to have critics based on some of the things PokerStars has done over the past 18 months, but part of the reason he agreed to join Team PokerStars was their willingness to take feedback from Gross. “I know they had a little bit of a year or two where there was some uncertainty, there was some complaints about some things, but everything I’ve heard internally and they’ve made some really big changes and moving the right direction,” said Gross. “I’m really pumped that they’re willing to listen to me, and that was part of what I said, i wanted to be able to talk and tell them what I think and be honest about feedback from myself and other players and they seemed really receptive.”
  22. [caption width="640"] Jason Somerville returns to Australia this February to stream the Aussie Millions Main Event.[/caption] The Aussie Millions is always one of the premier events on the poker schedule each and every year. The prestige of the Aussie Millions Main Event was supplemented in recent years by the addition of Jason Somerville and his Twitch channel to the broadcast. Somerville and RunItUp.tv are back and better in ever for 2018 with Aussie Millions marking their first major stream of the year. Starting Thursday, February 1 and running through Sunday, February 4, Aussie Millions and Somerville are partnering to stream the main event on Twitch. Last year was a banner one for the pair as Somerville and Crown Casino set worldwide records with the main event stream. The main event became the #1 Most watched live Twitch poker tournament of all time and had the most concurrent viewers of a live final poker table on Twitch. The final table was one for the ages as Australian amateur and satellite winner Shurane Vijayaramdefeated British pro Ben Heathheads up to win over $1.2 million. February 1 marks Day 3 of the tournament and Day 4 will run on February 2. The final table itself starts on February 4. All three stream broadcasts start at 12:30 pm EST. Somerville looks forward to taking his commentary live in Australia once again and plans to make this year even better than the last. “I'm honored to once again partner with Crown Melbourne to showcase the 2018 Aussie Millions live on Twitch. The Aussie Millions is one of the most prestigious poker tournaments on the calendar and I'm excited to present the action once again to fans around the globe. We broke the Twitch Poker record for last year's broadcasts and we've got an even better show planned for the fans in 2018.” Representing Crown Melbourne Casino is tournament director Joel Williams, who said “We are very excited to partner once again with Jason Somerville to live stream key moments from the 2018 Aussie Millions. Last year’s partnership was incredibly successful and took our championship to new global audiences. As one of the world’s great poker tournaments, we are looking to build on this in 2018.” When Aussie Millions gets underway in a few weeks, the whole poker world will stop and take notice. The Aussie Millions Main Event is one of the most prestigious events of the year and having Somerville back in the booth only further adds to the elite tournament.
  23. partypoker continues to make waves in the poker world and this week announced the official formation of partypoker Team Online. Consisting of three Brazilians and one Austrian, the four players will promote worldwide partypokerLIVE events and online side of the business. The Austrian of the group of is Josip ‘Jozinho16’ Simunic, who owns $1.3 million in live tournament earnings. The 34-year-old Simunic is an accomplished pro with live high roller wins in Europe. When not on the felt, Simunic joins the commentary booth for the partypokerLIVE MILLIONS Grand Final in Barcelona in April. "I’m delighted to be joining partypoker, especially just after the 2018 series announcement,” Simunic said. “On the live circuit, it’s been great to see how the partypoker MILLIONS events have really captured everyone’s imagination; I know the atmosphere at this year’s tournaments is going to be incredible.” The three Brazilians to join team partypoker are Renato ‘renaton’ Nomura, Lui Martins and Day Kotoviezy. The trio makes six from Brazil team partypoker. Joao Simao, Luiza Simao, and Bruno Gagliasso. Nomura and Martins claim success from the online and live side of the game. Martins made the move to poker from an eSports background and ran up his first $120 deposit into over $500,000 in earnings. Nomura’s primary claim to fame comes from winning the Brazilian Series of Poker Main Event in 2013. Kotoviezy is a poker pro and coach with a BSOP title to her name. “Joining partypoker Team Online alongside Renato and Lui really is a dream come true for me. Poker has become my life so this really is a fantastic honor,” said Kotoviezy. Managing Director of partypoker Tom Waters commented on the additions by saying, “The recruitment of Renato, Josip, Lui and Day has got Team Online off to a really great start. These are players who have a true passion for the game and I know they will be amazing ambassadors for partypoker wherever they play.” The first event on the partypokerLIVE MILLIONS schedule stands a few weeks away in Rozvadov, Czech Republic at King’s Casino. Day 1A start on Wednesday, February 14 to kickoff the €5 million guaranteed main event.
  24. 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.
  25. The opening day butterflies are officially behind us as the 2018 World Series of Poker picks up steam headed into week #2. There is plenty to look forward to, including a long list of upcoming bracelet events as well as plenty of opportunities for fans to tune in to Twitch or PokerGo to rail the action. Welcome Weekend Warriors, Value Hunters This week is rife with tournaments for those looking to play some of the lower buy-in events with hopes to bink a bracelet. The week starts off with the final two flights of the mammoth Colossus event. Monday is the final day for players to find a bag and win a spot in the Day 2 field. The end of the week is just as plentiful for those looking to spend under $1K. Friday brings both flights of the $565 Pot Limit Omaha Event. The $565 PLO Giant will field its second flight on Sunday. Add to those, another flight of the $365 NL Giant and there will be no shortage of players spinning up the prize pools all weekend long. For the recreational player, perhaps one of the most anticipated events on the calendar is Event #21 - The $1,500 Millionaire Maker. The cornerstone event gets underway on Saturday, June 9 and offers two flights, with a single re-entry per flight. The winner is guaranteed a minimum payday of $1,000,000. Last year, Canada’s Pable Mariz, outlasted the 7,761 entries for a $1,221,407 payday. 2018 WSOP Week 2 Schedule Day Event # Event Defending Champion Monday 7E $565 Colossus Thomas Pomponio Monday 12 $1,500 Dealers Choice 6-Handed David Bach Monday 7F $565 Colossus - Tuesday 13 $1,500 NL Big Blind Ante NONE Tuesday 14 $1,500 NL 2-7 Lowball Draw Frank Kassela Wednesday 15 $1,500 H.O.R.S.E. David Singer Wednesday 16 $10,000 Heads Up NL Championship Adrian Mateos Thursday 17 $1,500 No Limit Hold'em 6-Handed Anthony Marquez Thursday 18 $10,000 Dealers Choice 6-Handed John Racener Friday 19 $565 PLO Tyler Smith Friday 20 $5,000 NL Big Blind Ante NONE Friday 19B $565 PLO -- Friday 6B $365 NL Giant Dieter Dechant Saturday 21 $1,500 NL Millionaire Maker Pablo Mariz Saturday 22 $1,500 8-Game Mix Ronald Ware Sunday 21B $1,500 NL Millionaire Maker -- Sunday 23 $10,000 NL 2-7 Lowball Draw Championship John Monnette Sunday 11B $565 PLO Giant --   Big Money Broadcasts There are no days off this week when it comes to the streaming schedule. Big money is on the line right off the bat as PokerGo streams the final table of the $100,000 NL High Roller on June 4. Some of the game’s biggest names, including Bryn Kenney, Stephen Chidwick, and final table chip leader Nick Petrangelo will be vying for the first million-dollar payouts of the summer. There’s so much streaming action this week that on June 4, 7, and 8 there are multiple streams, giving players the non-stop action they crave. Date Time Event Outlet June 4 6:00 PM $100,000 High Roller FT PokerGO June 4 6:00 PM $10,000 Omaha Hi-Lo Day 2 Twitch June 5 6:00 PM $10,000 Omaha Hi-Lo FT PokerGO June 6 3:00 PM $1,500 NL Day 2 Twitch June 7 4:00 PM $1,500 NL Final Table PokerGO June 7 6:00 PM $10,000 NL Heads-Up Day 2 Twitch June 8 4:00 PM $10,000 NL Heads-Up FT PokerGO June 8 6:00 PM $565 Colossus FT Twitch June 9 4:00 PM $1,500 NL 6-Max FT PokerGO June 10 6:00 PM $565 PLO FT Twitch News & Notes Elio Fox, another one of the big names sitting at the final table of the $100,000 NL High Roller, will have the opportunity to become the first double bracelet winner of the young summer. Headed into the final table, he's currently third in chips. The first of the four online bracelet events to be held on WSOP.com, which includes players from New Jersey for the first time, closed registration with 2,972 runners. The $365 tournament saw a 16% increase in players from the $333 online bracelet event held in 2017 which attracted 2,509 players. Will the Colossus live up to its name in 2018? Keep an eye on Monday's numbers for players registering for the final two flights of the $565 Colossus. In 2017, the field exceeded 18,000, generating a prize pool of over $9 million. Through four flights, the total number of runners ended up right around 7K, leaving only two flights (on a Monday) to make up a massive difference to even get close to those 2017 numbers.

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