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2017 SOPA Nominee Jeff Gross: "I Can Say I Truly Love Poker"
The quote in the headline says it all.
Whatever the ups and downs of the game, the brutal beats, the relentless travel or epic online sessions, if you can shut it down at the end of each day and say "I still love poker," you win.
Jeff Gross wins.
Formerly better known as the "Professional Best Friend" of Antonio Esfandiari and Brian Rast, Gross has forged his own impressive path in poker over the last few years and the results are showing everywhere.
A super popular - and growing - Twitch stream. A legion of loyal fans. Great results at the tables, live and oniine. Guest spots on major poker commentary teams. And now a prestigious patch as a member of Team PokerStars Pro.
It's a position Gross has earned by hard work, determination and unrelenting enthusiasm and it's no surprise he made the final list of nominees for our 2017 Most Inspiring Player Award.
A man perpetually on the go, Gross hit PSC Barcelona last week for a couple of the events and we caught up with him quickly on his day off to find out more on the next Streamboat in the British Virgin Islands, the highlights of his Twitch career and more.
PokerListings: Let’s talk about Streamboat first. Please explain what it is and what’s happening next.
Jeff Gross: The first one was pretty much just Bill Perkins inviting a couple of people on a boat. So me, Jamie and Matt Staples, Bill Perkins and a couple of friends went on a boat off the US Virgin Islands where Bill has a house. We were streaming from the boat because it’s US territory so you can’t play from Bill’s house.
This means there will be more streaming as we have a physical location, and Kevin Martin from Team PokerStars Online is joining as well as is Mike McDonald.
Last time it was just a random week and we played a little cash games or random tournaments. But this time the WCOOP will be on so we’ll be streaming every day plus there will be six contestants.
JG: What we’re going to do is we’ll invite six people to come down there and play with us. You can send in a video about why you should be part of this in my home games and then we’ll pick six winners to get the Streamboat experience with us.
There’ll be two groups of three staying there for three days each. Should be fun for all of us.
There’ll also be some organized activities, we’ll be out on the boat and a couple of other things and it will be chaos.
PL: Is that a promise?
JG: Yes. Bill in particular is a wild card. Every time we meet we do something nutty and crazy and he always has a good time. It’s going to be a very special event.
PL: In a time where it’s increasingly difficult to get sponsorship has Twitch taken over as a new money source for poker players?
JG: There’s a fair amount of Twitchers but I wouldn’t say it’s a replacement. Also, you have to understand that only the top Twitchers make decent money.
It’s not that you start a Twitch channel and you’ll instantly make a lot of money.
But it of course is a new income source if you have really good content. I see a resurgence in online poker and it certainly has to do with Twitch.
It gave me back my love for online poker. Being part of a community is so much more fun.
When you’re on the online grind and there are people watching how you win a flip deep in a tournament and you’re dancing around and people are happy for you, it’s just such a nice experience.
I see a lot of people talk about it, it gets people interested in the game and it makes people play again. Someone told me recently they saw Doug Polk’s channel and it made them want to get back in to poker.
Of course, it’s polarizing and other people don’t like the content at all, but as long as it makes people talk it’s good for poker in general. Look at the live events like here; the numbers of players are pretty much at an all-time high.
PL: What are some highlights of your Twitch experience?
JG: One highlight was when we had a stream house in Montreal. Kevin Martin was there and Jaime Staples and Matt Staples, too.
I was there for about three weeks but one week we did a 24h stream for seven days. We were streaming in six-hour shifts to raise money for the Michael Phelps Foundation and managed to collect over $20,000.
Another real highlight happened just before I got married. I was in Brazil at my now wife’s parents’ house, and I did a 25h stream. I jumped into a Razz tournament where I eventually chopped with the last three players.
I remember my parents-in-law going to bed and when they got up again they saw me still sitting there playing. This was a couple of days before my wedding, and they were like 'who is this degenerate and doesn’t he have something else to do just before he’s getting married?' so it was pretty funny.
My biggest show was during the SCOOP when I final-tabled a $1,050 tournament and I had over 20,000 people watching. I remember I got it in one hand with kings versus ace-king when we were down to about 50 players.
Guy flops an ace and then the case king came on the turn but he still had a redraw to a heart flush. I won the hand and the people just went crazy. It was absolutely incredible.
Sometimes people ask me if it isn’t tiring but I now understand Phil Hellmuth when he says poker is my life. I can say I truly love poker.
PL: You also commentated on the WSOP. What was that like?
JG: I did some of the commentary for the Main Event and I also did some for the early tournaments of the series. I’m not even 100% sure if it went on ESPN or not.
The thing is, I love playing. I gave up a possible career in soccer to play poker and whenever I’m there watching poker I want to be in there.
Then again, as a Twitch streamer, I’m used to talking for hours on end so I enjoyed doing the commentary as well.
PL: Do you like the idea of being the next Gabe Kaplan or Norman Chad?
JG: Who knows what’s going to happen? I love playing but there are certain shows and formats that combine both. Look at Tony Dunst playing those events and also doing his show.
I think going to big PokerStars events and being in the commentary booth for final tables is definitely something that I’d like to do, and then we’ll see.
PL: Thank you, Jeff Gross!