The Rise of Poker Vlogs and Why They Have Taken the Poker World by Storm8 months ago
The idea of a vlog, which is short for a video log, is nothing new. It has been around in various forms on YouTube in particular for over a decade now. But this kind of personal and interactive video content has never really taken off in poker until now.
In 2017 in particular we saw a massive increase in the amount of poker vlogs being produced and as we enter 2018 there is no reason to believe that it will slow down any time soon.
I am going to cover it all below.
The Poker Community is Starved For Entertaining Content and New Heroes
Poker entertainment has gone through a lot of different transitions over the years. A little over 10 years ago poker became massively popular on TV with the WPT and the WSOP. This was in large part because they put the player’s hole cards on TV for the first time.
Alongside this we also saw the rise of shows like High Stakes Poker and Poker After Dark which were filmed in a more intimate home game type setting. These shows further introduced us to a core group of high stakes pros.
In fact, many of these early poker TV shows created household names out of people like Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu, Gus Hansen, Mike “The Mouth” Matusow and Phil Ivey. They became the heroes (or villains) that drew vast numbers of casual players into the game.
As the poker boom started to show signs of slowing down by the early 2010’s though, and the internet became a bigger part of our lives, the poker community needed new forms of poker entertainment.
Twitch.tv entered the scene and helped serve this need especially for the hardcore online poker player segment of the community. Sure, training videos had been around for years and years before on sites like Cardrunners and DeucesCracked.
But this was the first time that people could actually watch some of their favorite online pros playing in real time and they could actually interact with them as well via the chat.
While Twitch proved to be popular among a certain segment of the poker community (and it still is), there was still something missing. It just wasn’t ever going to gain that widespread appeal across the entire community, especially among the casual live players.
Enter the Poker Vlog
Poker vlogs were the answer to this. The breakneck speed with which the poker community has embraced YouTube poker vlogs within the last year is undeniable proof of this.
The reason why poker vlogs are the answer to a community starved for poker entertainment is because they are personable and relatable for all poker players, not just the hardcore online multi-tablers.
In fact the best poker vlogs often include only a small amount of actual poker content. Most of the production revolves around the lifestyle of being a poker pro, the day to day grind and random rants or insights into the state of the industry.
The viewer also gets to really feel both the exhilaration of winning and the bitter disappointment of losing alongside the video producer. It is real life played out in front of a camera.
Poker vlogs tell a story. They connect the viewer to the content on a much deeper level than anything before. The visuals, drone shots, time lapses, music, editing and hand history analysis all add to this as well.
Poker vlogs give us real life heroes to root for once again. Somebody to have a personal stake in. A guy sitting in front of a camera (often in silence) in a dark room 8 tabling Zoom on PokerStars just doesn’t quite have the same appeal.
Who are the Biggest Names in Poker Vlogging Today?
1. Andrew Neeme (75k Youtube Subscribers)
Even though he wasn’t the first to do it, this is the guy who first introduced me and many others to the format of poker vlogging.
Andrew is a long time small/mid cash game pro based in Las Vegas and his first vlog on Youtube came out on October 7, 2016.
He is often credited with starting the entire poker vlogging trend and that is probably because he has seen the most rapid growth of anyone with 75k subscribers on YouTube at the time of this writing.
While that might not seem like a lot compared to some other big name YouTubers with subscriber counts in the millions, remember that Andrew accomplished this from scratch as a virtual no-name in just one year’s time.
Poker is also a highly niche industry and it will therefore never draw the same amount of interest as videos about gaming, tech or fitness for example. So this makes his numbers even more impressive.
I think what first drew me and many others to Andrew’s videos was the fact that they were well extremely well shot, edited and clearly optimized for the viewer experience.
In fact even from his very first pilot episode he opens with a montage of aerial shots and music far above Las Vegas that draws the person watching right in.
Andrew is also well known for offering plenty of solid educational value in his videos. He usually includes a full breakdown of several key hands from his session.
Lastly, I think what really made Andrew’s channel so popular from the get-go is that he just comes across as a genuinely nice guy in every video. You know, the kind of guy that you would enjoy sitting down and having a beer with.
Given the endless list of scandals, con artists and cheats that have plagued the poker community over the years, this is a real breath of fresh air. It restores people’s faith in poker players and gives them someone to cheer for.
The final thing to note is that Andrew does not play super high stakes like most of the TV poker pros from the past. He typically plays at stakes like 1/2, 2/5 or 5/10. These are the exact same games that most of his audience is playing at their local casino as well.
So Andrew really appeals to a broad part of the poker community especially in the US but all over the world as well. I can only see his channel getting more and more popular in the future. I know I will be watching.
2. Tim Watts - TheTrooper97 (31k Youtube Subscribers)
Tim is the OG of poker vlogging. This is the guy who is often credited with truly starting the whole poker vlogging phenomenon. He was putting out poker vlogs years and years before it ever became popular to do so.
Tim’s channel features his animated and entertaining commentary (including some epics rants) on grinding live Las Vegas poker games. The cut scenes in his videos are also well edited and enjoyable to watch.
He also does a great job of really bringing you into the life of a low/mid stakes Vegas pro. In this vlog for example from June 2017 there are some great street scenes as Tim walks down the strip to the Venetian to play a session. He also goes on a classic rant about Las Vegas cocktail waitresses!
In his videos Tim also includes plenty of good inside information such as how to find the best game quality in Las Vegas poker rooms, the best times to play and so on. He also includes some interesting hand commentary as well.
I would say that The Trooper probably gets more of a “love him or hate him” type reaction than most others on this list because he doesn’t hold back in his videos and he is the type of person who always speaks his mind.
Whether you are a fan or not you have to respect Tim’s work ethic and hustle though. He puts out more consistent content than anyone and you can tell that he is a well seasoned Vegas grinder as well.
3. Brad Owen (28k Youtube Subscribers)
Brad is another one of the most popular poker vloggers today. He is a low/mid stakes pro based in Las Vegas. His first vlog was uploaded to YouTube on Dec 2, 2016.
The first thing that drove me to his channel was his well spoken down to earth personality and approach to the game. He is another one of those highly likeable guys who is easy to cheer for.
Hand analysis is also a real strength of his vlogs which will appeal to more of the hardcore poker nerds out there like me. The hands also really show how loose and bad some of the players in low stakes Las Vegas cash games are.
He uses a simple TAG exploitative strategy to beat these games which is highlighted in one of his latest videos.
This is a breath of fresh air from all of the overly complex GTO based strategies out there, which are completely unnecessary in order to beat these low limit games.
Brad also offers plenty of insights into the life of a Las Vegas grinder and touches on his personal life in Northern California as well.
Overall Brad’s vlogs are some of my personal favorites to watch and my only wish was that he put out more videos! I am sure we can expect many more entertaining vlogs from him in the future.
Who Are Some Up and Coming Poker Vloggers to Watch Out For?
Now there are many more popular poker vloggers that I didn’t even mention above such as Jamie Staples and Alec Torelli.
And then there are other guys like Doug Polk and Daniel Negreanu who have much bigger audiences but their main emphasis isn’t always strictly on vlogging.
Rather than cover more big names though I would rather highlight a few of the smaller channels and up and comers to watch out for in 2018.
1. K. Pokerkraut (7k Youtube Subscribers)
Kevin is a German low/mid stakes Las Vegas grinder. Very likeable guy with lots of day to day footage of his life as a small stakes pro. Includes random roadtrips, dinners and mini-golf with friends for one of the most personable poker vlogs on this list.
2. Jeff Boski (9k Youtube Subscribers)
Las Vegas based low/mid stakes MTT grinder. The fact that Jeff plays tournaments (NL Hold’em and Omaha) makes him unique as almost all other vlogs out there are about cash games. Emphasis is on the poker hands.
3. Matt Vaughan (6k Youtube Subscribers)
One of the few amateur poker players vlogging which provides a new and fresh perspective. One of the youngest on this list also at 25. Focus is on hands, low stakes cash games. Solid analysis.
4. JohnnieVibes (4k Youtube Subscribers)
Brand new poker vlog. 10 year cash game pro based in San Diego, California. Has a side hustle with a clothing startup. Johnnie plays a bit higher stakes than most people on this list (5/10+). Excellent hand analysis.
5. Poker Statistician (3k Youtube Subscribers)
Noah is also based in San Diego, California and at 24 he already has 10 years experience playing the game. Focus is on the hands. His college math and statistics background influences his analysis.
How Can Poker Vlogs Improve?
I think there is no doubt that poker vlogging is here to stay. As the numbers show, the poker community is clearly drawn towards this format that provides them with a deeper insight into the life of a poker pro and new heroes to cheer for.
With that said, I think there is still plenty of room for improvement in poker vlogs.
1. Length and Production Quality
One way that poker vlogs could improve is time wise. Currently most videos are at least 15 to 20 minutes in length and some drag on to 30 minutes.
This is definitely a bit of a turn off for some. I know that for me personally, I rarely have this much time to devote to an entire video. Keeping videos to around 10 minutes and uploading more frequently might be a better way to go for some of these vloggers.
I think there is a lot of room for growth in production quality as well. In my opinion Andrew Neeme clearly has the best photography, editing, drone shots, music and time lapses of any poker vlogger out there right now.
Some of the biggest names in vlogging today such as Casey Neistat (who happens to be one of Andrew’s inspirations), are well known for placing huge emphasis on the creating the best visual and audio experience for the viewer.
I think that many of the newer up and coming poker vloggers in particular should pay close attention to what Andrew is doing and consider upping their production quality if they want to attract a larger audience.
2. International Expansion
Something else that is literally impossible to miss is that almost every single popular poker vlog out there is based in Las Vegas, with a handful in California as well.
Poker vlogging needs way more content from other places around the world. We all know that Vegas is the Mecca of poker for the most part. But there is a lot more poker being played around the world in Europe and even Asia these days with huge action in places like Manila and Macau for example.
I don’t think that poker vlogs need to be restricted to just live poker either. There are huge amounts of online poker players who have relocated to places like Mexico, The Philippines and Malta to name a few. And there is probably no bigger concentration of them on Earth than right here where I live in Thailand.
People want to know what it is like to live in these exotic places. They also want to see the inside day to day life of an online grinder hustling to make it in one of these foreign lands. So I think some of these online poker expats should consider starting a vlog as well. I am definitely considering it myself!
Poker vlogs are an exciting new addition to the world of poker entertainment. Just because the poker boom has waned in recent years doesn’t mean the interest in the game has dropped.
People all over the world still eat, sleep and breathe this game. However, not everybody will accomplish that dream of telling their boss to go shove it while they pursue the life of a poker pro.
These poker vlogs give us a fresh new insight into that world or dream for some. And they do it mostly at the lower stakes, which is a level that is realistically attainable and accessible for most people.
These vlogs also give us new heroes to cheer for who have down to Earth and likeable personalities as well. They don’t have that “I’m too famous” aura about them that some of the big name TV pros from the past have.
Poker vlogging is still in it’s infancy though and it is hard work creating and editing all these videos. So make sure you give these guys your support. Or even better, go start your own! The barrier to entry is literally an iPhone and a poker dream.
Let me know who your favorite poker vlogger is in the comments below. Is there someone else that I missed who should be on this list?
Nathan “BlackRain79” Williams is a poker pro with some of the highest winnings in online poker history at the micros. He is also a multiple time best selling poker author and writes about micro stakes strategy on his blog: www.blackrain79.com
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