Are the streamers more famous than the High Rollers?

Is Lex more famous than Ivey? Is Parker more likely to be asked for a selfie than Fedor? Barry Carter looks at the changing of 'celebrity' within poker.

If you were on the forums or poker Twittersphere last week, you’ll know that all the talk was on the Triton High Roller Series. Phil Ivey made his winning return to poker, Jason Koon tangled in two of the biggest pots ever seen on screen, Tom Dwan was in the commentary booth and all the buzz was about Short Deck Hold’em.

Kudos to the people at Triton, they seemingly came out of nowhere and produced something really special that had serious poker fans really engaged.

But the thing I found really interesting was this comparison of the live stream viewers of Ivey winning the Short Deck tournament and other streams at the same time.

When you add the YouTube live stream viewers, the Ivey final table (where he was heads-up vs Jungleman) got to 4,000 viewers, which was still beaten by Lex’s regular stream. Later on this same week Lex broke his own viewing record with 18,331 viewers, for a stream where he was two tables away from a six-figure SCOOP score.

A wider spread of audiences

Chris Moneymaker
Moneymaker thinks the streamers are the new celebrities

Ivey heads-up vs Jungleman just a few years ago would have been the biggest thing in poker that day, week, and maybe even year. What we are seeing is a seismic shift in what sells in poker. I spoke to Chris Moneymaker last week and he argued that Lex, Tonkaaa and Jaime Staples are bigger ‘celebrities’ than the High Rollers these days and I think this shows he is correct.

Twitch and to an extent YouTube do have a selection bias towards gamers, so this doesn’t mean this is true in all of poker. When the WSOP is on ESPN this summer the complete opposite will be true I am sure and Phil Ivey will be the headline act. It does show, however, that there is a hardcore poker audience (which you and I are no doubt both in) and then lots of larger more casual audiences that have different preferences. I suspect hundreds of the people watching Lex didn’t even know who Phil Ivey was.

It’s not a bad thing either, given online poker is the best gateway into the game we have in general. Twitch streamers are bonafide infomercials for poker itself, they get to show off the software and the game offering before the potential new audience tries it out. A much more linear journey for new players than seeing a high stakes live cash game in Vegas then depositing $20 at an online room to play $1 SNGs.

The same things still appeal

Jason Koon
Big money stakes still appeal to all audiences

Before I proclaim live poker is dead, a second, perhaps even more telling statistic. The now infamous cash game at the Triton series has already attracted over 50,000 views between Twitch and YouTube. Still less than a typical Doug Polk video and I suspect most of the views were after the stream, because of the buzz about the historic pots that happened, but that is still sizeable for a mostly online gamer-centric audience.

What this tells us is that the gamer-type audience is particularly interested in big money prizes, like the rest of us. Lex has had three or four landmark streams and they all came when he was deep in a tournament playing for a massive prize. The same is true for other vanguard streamers like Jason Somerville and Parker Talbot (as this goes to publication Parker is deep in the SCOOP Medium Main Event and his stream will be huge tonight). The most commonly asked question on Twitch is ‘is this real money’ and perhaps the most fascinating aspect of poker, compared to regular video games, is the fact that anyone can be playing for a small fortune at any time, not just the handful professional gamers.

Either way a very positive week for poker on Twitch. The star power is changing in poker as a new audience emerges, but the same things about the game remain compelling as ever.

Are the streamers the new celebrities in poker? Let us know in the comments:

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Comments (4)

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  • Stazuke


    No matter what, this is good for the poker industry. Things are evolving and it's great that online poker can benefit from the giant that Twitch has become. Who knows, someday we might get a streamer that's just an average poker player but a beast of entertainment and fun. Someone like that could bring a lot of fresh players...
  • CrazedTulip


    random fish and casual + losing poker players watch twitch stream, there is about 1000 of them to 1 winning regular, who don't have time or use for that.
    not saying that they don't watch Ivey as well, but they prefer "fun"
  • Yuris125


    The big change Twitch brought into our lives is interaction. Watching Ivey's poker face gets old fairly quickly - his poker face is always the same, that's the point. Streamers are emotional, entertaining, and successful streamers are also the ones willing to interact with the chat and answer questions. This definitely makes them bigger stars - if not now, then in a very near future

    Tonka broke 20k viewers tonight btw
  • gunnarb


    Might be as simple as this; watching the high stakes pros with no other content than big money pots is as fun as watching paint dry. Koon, Durr, Ivey, Jungle are just boring, introvert, sad shadows of their likes that stream on a regular basis. Poker is all about fun, socializing and excitement. The high stakes shows don’t do much to mediate that.