Live the stream: Jason Somerville on Twitch and the new poker revolution (part 2)

This is the second part of our exclusive interview with the new PokerStars pro and Twitch legend Jason Somerville. Catch up with the first part here

Did you know much about Twitch before?

I’d maybe streamed poker six or eight times before I was approached and I’d watched people for years on Twitch, which is one of my big advantages. I don’t think there are too many high stakes poker players who are as video game oriented as I am.

Would you say the bulk of people that are watching you are young?

Yeah, I get a lot of people asking me about what video games I play. I don’t know whether it’s going to lead to a wave that changes poker and brings a boom of new players in, or whether it’s going to be a cool, modern alternative that gets an extra five or ten per cent of new players.

But you are finding that you’re getting people watching that don’t know how to play the game?

Lots of people who watch my show don’t play poker – they’ll ask me what’s an ante, what’s a button, you know? Last Micro Stakes Monday we had 9,000 people playing low stakes and talking very basic poker. 

There’s this whole generation of people who might not have thought about playing poker but they’re putting an incredible amount of time into video games, that have no financial reward. If you’re going to put 10k hours into a video game and you’re smart you can make way more money from poker. It’s kind of my job to convince people of that.

And these players are playing in your home games too. How are they going?

We had 1,030 players play with me for a $3 buy-in this week. It’s great to see. I’m also streaming the action and if I bust I’ll come back and cast the final table so it gives these players a chance to play in front of thousands of players and become mini celebs.

Do you get much trolling?

I don’t get very much, man. I get my share. When you’ve got 10k people in chat you’re going to get some people that are just straight out shitters. That being said I have a great team of moderators who are on the ball. The worst thing, because I’m on a delay, is people spoiling the game. It sucks but it is what it is. If that’s the worst thing that’s happening in my day it’s not such a bad day.

I have a very loyal fan base. 99% of people that watch are normal human beings. The 1% that isn’t is meaningless to me and I don’t waste any time thinking about it. It’s one of the things I credit Daniel Negreanu for mentoring me in.

Has Negreanu shown any Twitch interest?

He came on the stream at a bad time and ended up not having the greatest experience. He’s definitely interested in coming on and hanging out though.

He’s got a great personality for Twitch. If he was 15 years younger we’d probably be in compo. I’m glad he’s got his $80m and that he doesn’t need to come and bother me over here as I’d be out of a job. [Daniel Negreanu has just started streaming on Twitch – Ed]

Do you see yourself as an ambassador like Daniel?

I’ve been humbled that people have said I’m the next Kid Poker, but I’m very much not Daniel. He sees something that’s wrong and he writes a blog about it. That def ain’t me. If I end up being an ambassador through all the work I do that’s great, but I have no intention or motivation to be a straight up ambassador.

How do you pitch the level of strategy in your shows?

I try to talk in plain English as much as I can but I never try to dumb down how I feel about a certain situation.

If you’re a new player will you miss things?

Yes, you’ll definitely miss things. If you’re Greg Merson – Greg Merson watches the show – I don’t think he’s learning anything, but I don’t think he thinks I’m talking down to him either. It’s important for me that the show is entertaining and accessible, and broad without being shallow.

You’ve had a $30k cash already, do you think you can better than before the end of this season?

If it wasn’t for SCOOP then I’d say probably not, but with SCOOP I think I probably can. I’d love nothing more than to have a six-figure cash on stream. I’m just trying to have fun though. I’m trying to get better every day.

It’s crazy that Twitch is the fourth biggest source of traffic on the internet, and yet so many people haven’t heard of it…

Yeah, I mean who hasn’t heard of YouTube? Twitch isn’t as well known because it’s skewed young, but I think if you asked 1,000 20 year olds what Twitch was you’d still get 250 or 350 or more that didn’t know. They still have a way to go in terms of marketing.

You’re going to stream for 70 days. Are you breaking for the WSOP?

The plan is to stream until the end of SCOOP then play the World Series for six weeks. I suppose there’s a universe that exists where the stream is doing so well I don’t want to go, but the plan is to go and then come back for WCOOP in September.

Are you playing the One Drop?

100%. I’ll definitely play the One Drop, at $100k I’d play it every year. A million is too much for me, it’s silly money. Hopefully I’ll do as well as I did in my last one.

Ah yes, the $100k at the Aria? You came fourth right?

We chopped four-handed. I got the least of the four of us. It’s one of my biggest regrets of last year. ‘Oh you got fourth?’ Well actually we chopped. But the pain was healed with the $1.3m I cashed for. I’d highly recommend cashing for a million dollars.

Do you plan on playing more high rollers?

I played a lot of $25ks when they were high rollers and then the $100ks came along. I don’t look to make silly gambles. If it’s 30 of the best players in the world and five business guys, I’m not getting in there, you guys have fun. Over the summer when there’s 85 people in there, that’s just crazy – that’s just too good.

Are there still things you want to do in the live arena?

I would like to win a WPT title and another bracelet – one is good but two would be sweeter. I’d love to make a deep run in the Main Event. I’d love to make the final table at one point in my life – that would be one of the most fun experiences of my life, even though I think the November Nine is outdated.

So you think they should revert back to playing it out as a standard tournament?

Yeah, I’d run it maybe two days after, give people time to fly their friends and family in. Look at the stuff we’re talking about now on Twitch, things are live, happening now. And then we have this, where the show’s been stretched out to fit the platform.

To me, the WSOP would be the biggest success on Twitch ever. They’re only getting 100k unique viewers on ESPN. Maybe the final table got a million. You’re doing all that and you’re not even beating out the X Games?

You’re in Canada at the moment. Has the US regulation been a disappointment?

When I was at Ultimate it was tough hearing all the problems with regulations. I’m glad I’m not involved with Stars’ struggles with regulators. It’s not a fun process.

People ask me, what can I do to help bring back online poker. I realise the PPA is doing something but I don’t quite know what.

I’m very pessimistic about the political process in America. If Sheldon Adelson can make such a huge impact just because he’s got money, and he clearly can, it seems the only way to fight a huge amount of money is with another huge amount of money. If it happens it happens, if not then America can do it’s thing and I’ll go hang out with the rest of the world.

If you missed the first part of this interview with Jason Somerville CLICK HERE…

You can follow Jason Somerville’s brilliant Twitch stream here.

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