There’s a new kind of poker show in town and it’s streaming seven days a week, just for you. Join Dave Woods as he meets the man who’s taking his game to the masses to prove that the next poker revolution will be televised
It’s 2.30am in London and I’m sweating one of the world’s best poker players online. He’s just made the final table of the PokerStars $1k Super Tuesday and I’m not going anywhere till he’s won it. I’m not on my own. Over 20,000 other players are virtually railing too.
Jason Somerville is the man at the controls. He’s just embarked on a marathon season of streaming – 70 days straight. This is only his 10th day and his deepest run in a major tourney. There’s $106,210 up top and you can tell that winning it, live on Twitch, would be kind of a big deal.
But that’s not the real reason that Somerville’s the number one live poker streamer on Twitch. Sure, he’s good at the pokers (over $6m in live winnings and a bag-full more online) but Somerville is also a very accomplished live broadcaster.
He started making video content for a poker forum that he grew up with, and this led to a stint as an instructor on Daniel Negreanu’s PokerVT site. Somerville broke from PokerVT to do his own stuff on YouTube where he released hundreds of videos and perfected the art of producing and hosting his own show.
But, let’s get back to the action. Somerville is sixth out of nine players left and he picks up pocket Kings on his first hand at the final table.
‘Alright bitches, the final table, the Super Tuesday… If this doesn’t get you to follow me on Twitch, maybe the pocket Kings will. Oh my God, don’t make me go broke on the very first hand of the final table with pocket Kings. Alright, I’m raising it up here with Kings and obviously I’m looking to get it in preflop with basically anybody. And when I say basically, I mean everybody.’
He picks up one caller to the Q♣-6♦-9♠ flop after a big tank.
‘That is a pretty good flop for us here. So, we could bet and not fold, but I think on the very first hand of this final table, I think I’d rather start with a check here.’
Fast forward to the river and the board reads Q♣-6♦-9♠-5♣-8♥.
‘I think I’m going to check to him man, give him a chance to bluff if he has King-Jack, King-Ten, any kind of club hand, protect our loss a little bit here if he does have 10-J, or 9-8 or 6-8 suited.’
The commentary is literally a stream of consciousness from one of the best poker players in the world and it’s both fascinating and highly educational.
His opponent bets 32k into a pot of 72,960 and Somerville calls, after citing the villain’s possible range, to reveal a river bluff with A-J. Strike one for the Run It UP team.
The word has got around and Somerville is now peaking at an all-time high of 24,000 viewers. It’s an incredible number of people, all consuming content from the business end of one of PokerStars’ weekly tourneys. It marks out Somerville as one of a new breed of sponsored players – who give back real value to the site that sponsors them. Somerville announced that he’d signed with Stars on a video at the end of February.
Unfortunately he can’t convert the final table into his first live Twitch win. He finishes fifth for $30,745 when he loses A-K to Tens and then K-Q to A-Q. Two days later and I’m waiting for Somerville to finish another broadcast to start our interview. And, as I find out, he loves to talk – even after eight hours of non-stop live streaming…
PokerPlayer: Congrats on the Super Tuesday finish Jason, and your highest Twitch figures to date, right?
Thanks man! Yeah, Sunday we hit 19.5, then Tuesday we broke 20k for like three hours, peaking at 24. That’s obviously awesome. It’s way cooler than making the final table.
That’s a lot of people…
Yeah, for sure. I don’t know exactly, but the WSOP on ESPN doesn’t do better than 100k viewers per episode. We’re peaking at a quarter of that and our production isn’t ESPN over here, it’s just me and a webcam. I think people are just really fascinated by the Twitch poker experience.
It’s a great way to learn how to play a specific tourney. Like the Sunday Million – that’s a tough tourney to play.
Sure. For me, as a tournament poker player, I’m excited to play the Sunday Million, the Super Tuesday and the Thursday Thriller as I call it, three days a week. Those tournaments are awesome.
It works so well for the viewers as well. It’s a very interactive and engaging experience. We’ve had something like 180,000 chat messages sent to me in the last week. They’re engaged, they’re asking questions, they’re sending me Boom Player hands all the time. It’s awesome man, it really is a great fit for poker on so many levels.
And it’s really early days for Twitch as well. It’s only going to get bigger as more people find out about it isn’t it?
Absolutely. I definitely think that. I’m looking at this 70-day season as if it’s my first season. I mean, it’s my third season, but this is my first season on twitch and I feel like we’re just getting started.
You make it look easy but it’s a pretty tough gig, right? You’ve got to play poker, watch the chat, keep an eye on tweets and go through viewers’ hands… And be entertaining! Does it feel tough?
Well I could never do all this stuff if I hadn’t spent the last eight years making content. I started out making poker training videos for a very small poker forum I was on, then for Poker VT, then YouTube. Making those hundreds, maybe thousands of hours of content really helped me in broadcasting.
I never went to college for broadcasting. I was never taught or trained. It’s tough but I enjoy it – I wouldn’t be doing it if I wasn’t enjoying it. It’s a pretty sick, fun experience.
I look back at my YouTube videos and it’s so bad, but that’s what got me my Twitch opportunity. The person they hired to run Twitch Poker called me up and asked if I wanted to be the flagship poker streamer. That deal started around October, so it worked out perfectly that I was able to go from Ultimate Poker to Twitch to PokerStars.
Congrats on the Stars deal too. Although I should be saying congrats to PokerStars as well – I think they’ll be getting as much from the deal as you will, maybe more.
Five years ago I remember feeling a little, not angsty, but you know… ‘I’m a good player, I’m a high-stakes player, I’ve won Full Tilt’s Sunday twice. I’ve got all these different accolades, why isn’t Full Tilt signing me?’
For a very long time when a site was sponsoring a poker pro they’d put a patch on them and say, ‘Go get them, good luck at the poker tables!’ But that doesn’t really have a return for the site. I’m driving value to PokerStars and they’re driving value to me.
In the fist ten days of the stream people consumed 30 million minutes of content and that’s all playing on PokerStars. That’s crazy. I’m playing every SCOOP event and SCOOP is particularly good for Twitch. I’m playing SCOOP high every single day, and people can play the SCOOP low.
You’re almost two weeks into your 70 days. How’s it going?
I feel great right now. I promised people four hours a day minimum and so far the shortest show is 5.5 hours, the longest was 12.5 hours and the average is 8.
In Season 2 of Run It UP I did 50 YouTube episodes and they were 30 minutes long. So, over the course over Season 2 I made about 1,500 minutes of content. Since I’ve started on Twitch, even averaging at seven hours a show, I’ve already done triple that in 12 days!
I’m producing a lot of content. I don’t expect anyone to watch every single minute – that’s okay, that’s not how Twitch is supposed to work, you’re just supposed to come and hang out for a bit and then leave and come back when you want to.
People say that poker isn’t a spectator sport, but EPT Live and your streams show it is if it’s done well.
I couldn’t agree with you more. Poker is a spectator sport, it just has to be packaged and presented that way.
I always think back to a man who I respect a lot but who I think is wrong on a couple of things and that’s Ty Stewart [WSOP Executive Director]. I remember him saying that only the hardcore audience watches live streams. Those words echo in my brain and they will for eternity. It drives me crazy because when you put in a hardcore poker commentator like David Tuchman, who’s great by the way, and get poker guests on who have only made poker training videos… it makes it really hard for people to watch. My dad loves poker and he’s never watched a WSOP stream.
Read part 2 of our interview HERE…
You can follow Jason Somerville’s brilliant Twitch stream here.
You can read more great interviews with poker’s big names by helping yourself to a free PokerPlayer subscription here