Twitch Poker Needs A Revamp

1 year ago
Twitch Poker Needs A Revamp
14 Apr

The Exodus 

There was a time, not that long ago when Twitch was the biggest deal in online poker. New careers seemed to be forged by mid-stakes grinders who had the charisma or character to capture views.

It was a place to watch serious grinders grinding. People like Joe Ingram, Felix Schneider and Doug Polk were huge on there; Jason Somerville has 50,000 followers and over three million views (so still pretty huge). But of late there has been something of a decline in the magnetism of Twitch; increasingly the really great poker content is moving to YouTube.

Back in 2014 Twitch was rising so fast that Amazon was able to buy it up for something in the region of $970 million and have its stock price rise. Even with Amazon’s backing it’s having difficulty matching up to YouTube’s conservative estimate of $25 billion. YouTube is owned by Google and Google owns the internet. C’est la vie.

Why Move?

YouTube has several advantages over Twitch, not just the wider and more mainstream audience but also just a cleaner user interface and a design that is centered around interaction between creators and commenters.

It’s set up for clean and easy use on Android and Apple OS’s and offers far more variety for those looking to express themselves with a bit of vlogging, the odd hand breakdown, poker podcasts or interviews.

It’s also hard to argue with the aesthetics of the website. That cleaner interface isn’t just practical it looks nicer. The purple splurge of the Twitch site is slightly gruelling to look at, YouTube you can watch for hours and hours. It’s much harder to see where that $970 million dollars went when looking at the front page of Twitch.

The original appeal of Twitch was live broadcasts which, like the hole-cam before them, provided access to the cards of the pros. This time with the added insight of the pros own thought processes narrated real time like and early twentieth-century modernist novel. Live streams turned out to be both entertaining and educational. Every one of those features is provided by YouTube. So why Twitch when you can tube? Most of the big Twitch names have been uploading the recorded Twitch streams to YouTube anyways as a secondary site. Now some are just cutting out the middleman.

Left Behind

The vacuum this move to YouTube has left behind is being increasingly filled by pirate TV broadcasts of the WSOP and Poker Night in America, clip selections from High Stakes Poker (also pirated), and Casino players streaming table games and video poker. What serious poker content is being streamed often lacks the personality, information and often even the pixel count of the better streamers.

Doug Polk has his podcast over on YouTube now where he seems to be doing pretty well out of riling up Negreanu. Jason Somerville still checks in to do a stream every now and again, but with nowhere near the regularity of the good ol’ days. But now he’s one of the top five most subscribed YouTube poker channels.

Both Felix Schneider is still streaming fairly regularly, but those videos and accompanying highlight reels go up on his YouTube page where he is also vlogging and doing hand breakdowns. Jamie Staples is also continuing to stream, but the ease and mobility afforded by YouTube works beautifully with his trotting about the globe and so Twitch is getting less and less love from him and his hoodies.

It is getting harder and harder to find the stars who made Twitch what it was in its heyday and anyone hoping to break in with some quality content is more likely to be dropped from the front page by someone shoving virtual quarters into virtual slot machines.

There are even the half-poker/half-stripshow feeds now joining the race to the bottom, sometimes – in the case of the strip shows – literally.

The Solution

It wouldn’t take much to restore Twitch to something closer to its former glory. Get in a designer who can put together something less cluttered to replace the navigation bars and the hideous front page for the poker section. Get a decent sorting algorithm that puts the best content in front of the viewers eyeholes before their etiolated attention-spans shuffle off.

I’m not suggesting Twitch shut out new talent but YouTube’s solution of a front page that offers lists of top rated, most recent, subscribed channels and recommendations is a great way to balance the priorities of the customer. And if you can’t beat them, you might as well rip them off.

But then again, why bother? Now that poker players are finding YouTube the range and quality of content increases on a weekly basis. Perhaps a revamp would just be dressing the corpse for the funeral.

I’m sure there is a universe of disagreement out there both on how to solve the problems and whether there is a problem at all. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter in the comments. How would you Make Twitch Great Again?

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Jon is a freelance writer and novelist who learned to play poker after watching Rounders in year 9. He has been giving away his beer money at cards ever since. Currently he is based in Bristol where he makes sporadic donations to the occasional live tournament or drunken late night Zoom session. He ...Read more


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