Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Poker Talk: Playing the Twitch Card

On Monday a new item appeared in The New Yorker highlighting the growing popularity of Twitch streams by online poker players, in particular focusing on Jason Somerville’s remarkably rapid ascent to become the one of the site’s top stars.

The article -- “Can Live Streaming Save the Poker Industry?” by Cameron Tung -- does a good job contextualizing Somerville’s Twitch tale within the larger narrative of online poker’s quick rise in popularity during the mid-2000s and even more sudden drop-off post-Black Friday (especially here in the United States). Somerville’s own poker career of course directly reflects that surrounding story.

Like a lot of us, Somerville first got into poker in a big way post-Moneymaker, and like a decent percentage of that group made a career out of playing online that also came to include frequent excursions to play live events. And like a relatively small percentage of that group, he enjoyed significant success both online and live, earning him some renown within the community surrounding the game.

Black Friday then forced Somerville and all other U.S.-based online poker players to reevaluate their relationship to the game, and as we know Somerville eventually found a very creative -- and ultimately profitable -- option to pursue with his YouTube vids and eventual move onto Twitch.

It’s a short, easy read and as I say presents both Somerville’s story and the overall situation vis-à-vis poker in the United States ca. 2003 to the present fairly well. The only thing I really wonder about it is the question posed by the headline (which as we know sometimes isn’t the writer’s responsibility).

Tung points out -- drawing on PokerScout as a source -- that as far as online poker is concerned, “the global market has fallen off by more than half” since Black Friday. He thereby sets up a conclusion speculating about the “market” of online poker going forward and what impact Twitch (and, importantly, legislation) might have upon future growth.

I guess the headline makes it sound like online poker (or even poker in general) has reached a kind of crisis point and is in need of “saving,” which doesn’t quite seem to describe the current situation accurately. While hardly thriving as it did before (when the number of players was doubling every year, as the article points out), the “poker industry” doesn’t seem in danger of failing altogether just yet. Nor does that seem something likely to happen anytime soon, either. (I speak largely from the sidelines, from a country not presently part of the “market” upon which we’re focusing.)

Anyhow, the article -- the second poker-related piece within a couple of months in The New Yorker (with a poem about poker appearing within that stretch, too) -- is worth a look and as I say presents poker in a knowledgeable and even favorable way via Somerville’s story.

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Blogger Memphis MOJO said...

I don't know if you've ever watched Somerville's twitch channel, but he does a nice job with the presentation. Besides playing poker and commenting, viewers can leave comments and questions in the chat box and he responds to that.

11/18/2015 9:02 PM  

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