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Somerville: "I Can Almost Guarantee Nov. 9 Gone Within 5 Years"
The largest home game on PokerStars. The largest online poker audience. The highest output of online poker TV content in 2015
All of these claims to fame belong to Jason Somerville.
Within a year Somerville has become the leading player in poker streaming on Twitch and a true poker pied piper for a huge new market.
After streaming for 185 days and 1,100 hours with his RunItUp series last year he's getting 2016 off to a fast start by streaming directly from the PCA in concert with the EPT Live Stream.
He started today with coverage of the $100k Super High Roller and continues Saturday from 12 pm EST on his own Twitch channel.
He'll keep it going right through until the end of the main event with guests including Jamie Staples, Nanonoko and more.
Jason Somerville: I’m streaming at the same time as James [Hartigan] and Joe [Stapleton], but what they do is a regular TV show while on Twitch it’s much more about interacting.
We’ll look at the hands and try to guess what the players have or explain why they’re doing what and so on. Don’t get me wrong; they’re the best in the world, but I like to stick with my Twitch family.
PL: You’ll be streaming every day until the end of play?
JS: Yes. It’s going to be a crazy month because right afterwards I’m flying to the Aussie Millions and will jump right in there to do the same.
PL: How is streaming a live event different from your regular show?
JS: It’s very different. At live events I’m obviously not commenting on my own game but I get the same feed as PokerStars.tv and everyone else, and I’ll give my two cents about what I see.
It’ll be different at the Aussie Millions where our stream will be the exclusive home of streaming. I’m very excited about that one as it’s the biggest tournament outside the US and Europe and one of the greatest events anyway.
PL: About a year ago you said that Twitch is the platform poker needs. Do you feel vindicated today?
JS: One year ago, streaming on Twitch from the PCA was pretty much an experiment. I was the guy who said ‘Twitch is going to happen, wait and see.'
We can’t even imagine that on any other poker media. We had 16.5 million non-unique visits between March and December, as I didn’t stream before March.
During the WCOOP, which is the largest online poker event of the year, we had 37,000 people watching me play the Knockout final table.
27,000 people watched me play the Stud Hi-Lo final table! Stud!? I mean these numbers are insane!
They haven’t been seen since the heyday of ESPN coverage when everything was hot, when you could show anything and even the Celebrity Poker Showdown was good enough.
So, what we can see is that people do like to watch poker, and that it can be fun, but I think that the poker TV media has stagnated for the last five years.
We’ve seen repeated cuts made to the costs of the poker TV industry and it breaks my heart as a player and as a consumer of poker content.
Look at the World Series of Poker. What an amazing month and a half of poker! But it’s called the World Series, not the main event of the World Series.
And what does ESPN do? They focus on one single event out of 70. And to rub more salt in the wound, the story starts on Day 4!
That’s the state of poker television. That’s the showcase event that makes up most of what millions of people see in poker per year. But we could do so much better than this if poker wouldn’t have to fit into the ESPN broadcast schedule
Poker does so much better on Twitch. Regarding the WSOP main event first thing is they should kill the November Nine and bring the final table back to make it a real climax of the World Series.
I can almost guarantee you that the November Nine will be gone within five years.
PL: Why would they do that? It’s good for ESPN, isn’t it?
JS: I’m not so sure. The ratings aren’t great and it takes away the spotlight from the actual series of poker.
If Ty Stewart would be here now I would tell him the same thing.
Bring the final table back, maybe with a delay of a couple of days or weeks, but make it the crown jewel of the summer!
Also, poker live streams usually just focus on that one feature table. Look at the way eSports are presented today.
They have cameras everywhere in the rooms, multiple sideline interviews, guests and reporters, and they get hundreds of thousands of concurrent viewers.
It creates an atmosphere and an energy that are showcasing the Twitch dream.
PL: Supposing that poker and eSports have the same target audience.
JS: Which it does. We are looking predominantly at males between 15 and 40, that’s the same for both.
About five years ago Ty Stewart said on the Pokernews podcast – I think – that live streams are only for hardcore poker fans. That’s just stone wrong and we’ve proven that last year.
Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of recreational players have watched our stream, which proves that poker can be fun; it’s just how you present it.
The poker TV media, the content-producing media, have sort of exploited the players.
For example, since the era of Late Night Poker and Poker After Dark, where players were paid to play, there has been no compensation for players for being part of a TV production.
There have been instances where the players even had to pay the dealers. I think we’re going to have to see changes to that model of production.
PL: Have you succeeded in bringing fun back into poker?
JS: Absolutely. I had a blast the last year and we did 1,100 hours of live streaming. Or look at the PokerStars home-game section.
We’ve run up our home game to 42,000 players, which makes it the largest home game on PokerStars by a mile.
We once did a Triple Stud tournament for a $2 or $3 buy-in and we had 700 runners!
Triple Stud is a dead format; even PokerStars doesn’t offer it anymore and we only had an hour’s notice.
The reason why this works is because I try to foster an atmosphere of positivity.
I say ‘come in and play poker with your friends and let’s all have a good time.'
How can having fun not be the prime objective of the game, as it should be in life, as we don’t really have that long?
PL: Over the last couple of years the chatbox has pretty much become a hatebox. Have you managed to reverse that development?
JS: I promise you, the chatbox in our home game is the warmest and kindest anywhere in online poker, because everyone is on the same page.
They all want to win, but they also just want to hang out and have a good time.
PL: Money. Have you managed to make some in 2015 from Twitch?
JS: Yes, this has also changed. We have forged deals not only with PokerStars but with other multi-billion dollar companies like Draft Kings and Peppermill who value the traffic.
As an example, last year during the WCOOP, I promoted RunitUp Reno every day, an event I was going to be part of, and they received 2,500 global orders from the RU store.
450 players from all around the world came to Reno to play in a $500 event, even from Denmark, Dublin and the UK.
It shows that it’s just about the game; it’s about having fun and spending time with me and your fellow poker players.
PL: You’ve become very successful on Twitch, but many people don’t. What’s the key?
JS: The number one thing is consistency. People know me because they can rely on me being there. As I said, I streamed 180 days last year for eight hours and more.
If you take a week off, you’re losing something. You need to put in a lot of hours. Also, you have to be positive and affable so people can relate to you.
You have to be interesting and offer something unique. I feel like I’m a tour guide to online poker in general and on PokerStars in particular.
Jamie Staples for example has made his pursuit of being a poker pro public on Twitch, and people are rooting for him to succeed. That’s a different approach.
PL: Do you have to make your life public to succeed?
JS: Not necessarily, but it’s one possible route. Myself, I haven’t really been doing much else than streaming, eating and sleeping.
PL: So you don’t need to make it public because this basically is your life.
JS: (laughs) Exactly.
PL: Do you see yourself more as a player or as a coach?
JS: I’m still more of a player. I stay away from all the heavy duty hand history reviews. I teach a lot of people and I want everyone in who’s interested in poker on any level.
I have people who tell me they play six tables every day and they watch every minute of my broadcast, that’s awesome. But I also know of 65-year-old women from Scotland who follows me, and that’s just as great.
Recreational players and beginners are maybe the most important people for me. The diversity is just amazing.
PL: What do you think of other ways people seek to change the poker economy, for example Jonathan Little and his webinars?
JS: I think Jon does a great job. He does a ton of online work and seems to write another five books simultaneously.
I also applaud people like Alex Dreyfus and his Global Poker League.
PL: Do you understand it?
JS: (laughs) Maybe not 100% and I don’t know if he'll succeed. But the fact that someone is doing something bold is important.
Failing is not a problem as long as you try again, and Alex has obviously identified problems in today’s poker and he’s trying to do something about it.
I definitely root for him.
PL: What about bringing back the bad boys of poker, the characters like Tony G, Hellmuth and Matusow?
JS: As a viewer I always loved that stuff, for sure. But today I’m worried if that’s the kind of example that we want to set.
Do we want to encourage people to identify with and behave like bad boys?
I’m not saying this will happen, but it can in some cases. I think there’s enough room for personality without that.
The most interesting players on TV are the ones with personality without necessarily being a bad boy, like Daniel Negreanu.