Twitch, originally an outlet for gamers, has seen a new subgenre of poker streamers pop up in the past couple years. Each poker streamer offers up its own brand of entertainment and jockeys for channel views among an ever-increasing number of peers.
Jamie Staples is one of the streamers who’s been able to differentiate himself from the crowd. Staples is one of the most popular poker streamers on Twitch, with nearly 70,000 subscribers to his PokerStaples channel.
I had a chance to sit down with Staples and talk about what has made his Twitch stream so successful.
First and foremost, it’s about the journey
Staples’ recipe for success is a bit different than other Twitch streamers — partly by design and partly by necessity.
Staples is relatively new to the poker scene, and doesn’t have the typical resume that draws in viewers. He doesn’t have a big signature tournament win at PokerStars or elsewhere under his belt, and he isn’t a nosebleed online wizard. What Staples does possess in spades is charisma, and coupled with a self-effacing view of his talents, Staples has been able to connect with his audience.
Rather than a poker lesson, Staples’ Twitch stream can best be described as a character-driven journey, where his viewers can follow along with someone not all that different from themselves.
“I think what makes me stand out from some of the other streamers is that they’re all very accomplished and they’ve done a lot in the game,” said Staples, during our interview at the recently concluded PokerStars Festival held in New Jersey. “I’m a relative newcomer to professional poker. I don’t have a ton of accolades. I’m still making a lot of mistakes, so I think there’s some relatability there, where people get to see the path from early on in a career to the finish.”
Staples, like his loyal community of viewers, is progressing toward a goal, while other top streamers are already at or near their end-goal; thus, their streams tend to be more instructional.
“A lot of people can play poker well, so if there’s 20 guys playing tournaments there’s really no reason for people to choose to watch me over anyone else,” Staples said. “To me, there needs to be some sort of community, some sort of reason they’re going to watch this stream over someone else.”
And the basis of the PokerStaples community is the “we’re all learning this game together” attitude Staples brings to his streams and his personal interactions with viewers.
Connectivity is key
Staples’ natural ability to connect and entertain during his streams is only one element of his popularity. Another key component is his accessibility and commitment to his fans post-streaming on social media.
“It really helps to develop those personal connections,” Staples said of continuing the conversation on social media. “On the stream, things are crazy; chat is going by real fast so it doesn’t give you the chance to connect one-on-one.”
For Staples, the stream is the classroom, whereas he sees social media as a chance to talk one-on-one after class.
“[Extra conversation] really goes a long way to developing a community,” Staples added.
As his stream has grown in popularity, Staples has found responding to each individual message — be it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Twitch — more challenging. Nowadays, instead of responding immediately, Staples responds in bunches, only filtering out requests for money and technical questions about streaming.
“I’m still able to respond to each message, but the response time has changed,” he said.
Staples is of the opinion that the strategic component of a poker stream is less important than connecting with the viewer on a personal level.
“The strategic part doesn’t even need to be there, but in terms of myself, that’s something I want to have in there,” Staples explained, calling it a balancing act.
“I feel like the poker community at large just assumes the biggest stream is going to be the best player with the best strategy, and that’s just not the case. It’s more about being an engaging personality, so I try to explain higher level strategic concepts in a way that’s intuitive to a wider audience.”
Staples strikes the balance between strategy and entertainment by making the content entertaining first and foremost. He follows his own ideas of what’s valuable and eschews the typical poker jargon and high-level talk found in other streams.
For Staples, it’s about making sure a person who stumbles on to the stream won’t feel like an outsider.
Using Twitch to advance the game of poker
On a broader level, Staples also sees Twitch, and poker streaming in general, as a way to continue promoting the game.
“For a long time, poker’s primary source of getting out to the public was TV: the World Series of Poker, Poker After Dark, High Stakes Poker, The Big Game, those sort of things,” Staples said. “Those sorts of opportunities aren’t around as much anymore … TV isn’t as important as it used to be, now that people are consuming content through different channels.”
From Staples’ perspective, as more people cut the cord, Twitch is the next way young people are going to find out about poker and see that it’s a great game. Having the viewer follow all his ups and downs, and see him progress as a player right before their eyes, is an interesting journey to follow and one they might want emulate.