How to Become One of The Top Poker Streamers3 years ago
Online poker players such as Jason Somerville and Jaime Staples (Pokerstaples) have carved out a new and exciting niche for themselves as top poker streamers on Twitch.tv. The more widespread availability of superfast broadband has made streaming live video much more accessible to internet users and on a good night, Jason Somerville can have tens of thousands of people watching him play poker on Twitch!
In my opinion, it is still early days for Twitch and there is a big difference between the good and bad streamers. There are a lot of people that stream poker, but only a few do it really well, but I believe it is still possible to build a fanbase and be successful if you do things right.
Here are a few tips to get you started. Please note this is an overview and you will need to do some further reading to grasp the technicalities of setting up your broadcast software and background tools. But take it from me, it is not that difficult, and you will gradually pick up the skills you need as you get more experienced.
Getting Set Up
You first need to go to Twitch and set up an account. Take the time to create graphics and a thumbnail image that look good and give your channel a branded feel. Do not leave parts of your profile blank as this looks unprofessional and disorganized. If you cannot create graphics yourself, Fiverr.com is a great place to get some graphics made for as little as $5, although to get both a profile background and thumbnail image may cost a little more.
When you are about to stream, remember to go into Twitch and change the title of your stream to something interesting and make sure the “game” is poker, otherwise you will not show up on the poker stream page. Visit Twitch before you start and see what titles attract you from the list of available streams. Why did they interest you? You will also see examples of poor titles. A quick look on Twitch now and one streamer is doing a poker stream called “Poker”. That is not very original.
Equipment You Need
You need some equipment to get started but the good news is you probably have most of it already. The broadcast software does eat into your processor, but any decent PC will be able to handle it. You will need a USB microphone and a webcam. Webcams are not essential, but Twitch has progressed to the point where users expect to be able to see you and engage with you so a webcam is really important.
You will also need broadcasting software. I use Open Broadcasting Software (OBS) because it is free to use. Once you have the software, copy the Twitch broadcasting key from your Twitch settings and enter it into the broadcast settings in OBS, then you are good to go. When you press "start stream" in OBS, you are live on Twitch! Easy!
I could write an entire series of articles on this section alone. The overlay is the arrangement of your stream and this is where you should spend 90% of your time , gradually tweaking and improving stream's visuals. The overlay dictates what your viewer sees when they watch your stream.
Go to Twitch now and click on ‘games’. Find poker (usually a purple graphic with two white poker chips on it) and click the graphic. You will see a list of thumbnails which are all the current live poker streams. You will see that some are tidy and neat whilst others are a mish-mash of tables, webcams, and text. Note that the smart and tidy streams seem to get more viewers. An untidy overlay usually indicates a streamer doing things wrong.
When configuring your broadcasting software, the basic guidelines are that elements can be added in layers, with items such as webcams, images or the game footage itself presented in different shapes and sizes. One great tip is to get a graphic of a TV from Amazon then re-size your webcam to make it look like the footage comes from a TV. If you have a green screen you can configure chroma key to make it so only your face and body show up in the corner of your overlay. There are few limits to what you can do to make your stream look great.
There are also a number of tools such as Moobot and Xanbot which help you engage with viewers in your stream. Xanbot, for example, can be configured to offer polls or raffles to your viewers. This keeps them engaged and participating whilst watching you play and increases your audience retention. Other options are automatic chat enters which could be the chatbot encouraging viewers to press the follow button or ask you a question.
If you have money to spend, there are a number of professional overlay designers popping up at present who can do all of this for you. Their prices start from around $100 and go upwards depending on how sophisticated you want your stream to be.
A very important aspect of poker streaming is to set up a time delay. The last thing you want is an opponent logging in and watching your hole cards, so setting a time delay of 120 seconds or 180 seconds is essential. Do not set the time delay too far into the future, otherwise, when your viewers ask you questions in chat, they will have to wait for some time before you reply! Many streamers set up their overlay to contain the chat box, which shows the viewer where you are up to in terms of what you can see in chat, bearing in mind the time delay.
How Many Tables?
Most online poker players like to multi-table and poker streamers are no different. But rather than have six tables tiled across your overlay, which can be difficult to see if your viewer is using a device to view Twitch rather than their desktop, it is a good idea to set up an area of your screen for the “broadcast tables." You can move tables in and out of that area as the action dictates it. This is the strategy most often used by the best poker streamers.
The sweet spot at present seems to be two tables of action with a couple of other tables in the background that you can move to the viewing area if you encounter an interesting spot or bust out of a tournament and need to replace the main TV table.
High and Low Volume Times
When considering your schedule and what might be the best times to stream, it is recommended that you stream at both high AND low volume times. When Jason Somerville is streaming, he will have thousands of viewers, but unfortunately they are all watching Jason! That said, some will surf around and check out what else is on offer.
Streaming at low volume times means your stream will start higher up the rankings so you can look to impress poker fans who might be searching for interesting streams to watch whilst the largest streamers are offline.
Engage Your Audience
So we have got you set up, you have put together an awesome overlay, and you are ready to start streaming. Now how do we build an audience? Again, there is tons of advice online about this area, but let’s look at what you should not do. As bizarre as it will feel at first, do not wait until you have viewers before you start commentating. You may be talking to yourself for a while, but you must be engaging to viewers so when they arrive at your stream there is something to watch. I watch so many streams where I log in and wait...and wait.....and wait some more and nothing happens. They don’t speak! Twitch is as much about the streamer as it is about the game, so smile, be confident, and have some fun with it. Encourage viewers to chat with you and answer their questions.
Unfortunately, you will encounter trolls from time to time. For some reason some folks just want to be abusive. Pokerstaples (Jaime Staples) always answers questions in a polite and friendly way even if someone is being trollish or clever and he has gained an excellent reputation for being a nice guy. If you do encounter trolls, just ignore them. It does not look good to shout or abuse trolls and it will only attract more abuse in your direction when they realise you react to them. You nice viewers will not like this either. So don’t feed the trolls!
Get a Schedule and Keep To It
Take a look at the profiles of the best poker streamers and you will see there is a lot of information given about their stream in their profile “panels”. You should edit your panels too via your profile page. Make sure you give your viewers a schedule so they know when you will stream rather than just appear at your computer whenever you feel like it. You will find that a bunch of regular viewers join you almost straight away. Once you have a schedule you must be professional about it. If you set a schedule and viewers come by and you do not turn up, they will probably not come back again, choosing instead to follow another more reliable streamer.
If you want to get serious and become a successful poker streamer this is the type of commitment you will need to make.
What’s In It For You?
You should encourage new users to press the follow button so they can be notified about when you start to stream. Be welcoming and friendly, and people will come back. Using PayPal you can also set yourself up to receive donations and many streamers earn money that way.
As you grow your channel, Twitch can offer you partner status, which means you can encourage users to “subscribe” which costs the subscriber $4.99 per month. You will need to offer perks to encourage people to subscribe. Some of the larger poker streamers move the chat into “subscriber chat only” when they make a final table, which blocks non-subscribers from chatting, but at the same time encouraging them to subscribe if they want to take part. Streamers often give shoutouts to their subscribers via Twitch alerts, which is another tool you can use. Twitch takes 50% of the subscriber fee and my understanding is only the top 10% of streamers are offered partner status. This is something to aim for.
For a poker streamer, becoming a partner and gaining subscribers is a great way of topping off your bankroll each month so you can continue to buy into the bigger tournaments, thus making your poker stream even more interesting for your viewers.
How Good At Poker Do You Need To Be?
Great news, you can be rubbish at poker and still do well on Twitch! You need to work out in advance what type of streamer you want to be. Do you want to be a beginner, taking advice from the chat or would you prefer to offer strategic poker advice to others? Whatever you choose, be humble and do not pretend you are better than you are. Be honest and your viewers will appreciate it. What matters the most as a streamer of any game is that you entertain viewers andmake it worthwhile for them to come back. Remember, as a streamer, you are more than a player, you are also a performer.
Once you begin to generate followers you will see the view count and follower count increase, motivating you to come back and making it easier for others to discover you on Twitch and join your community. It is an upward spiral from there towards becoming a Twitch partner and, who knows, possibly a professional poker streamer in the near future!
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