The US online poker market has gained some traction recently. With more states considering legalization, operators seem to be taking an American expansion more seriously.
For PokerStars, that recently included adding some Americans to its ambassador and streamer ranks. Keith “AccidentalGrenade” Becker and Mark “naigo1” Foresta stream their action on the site in Pennsylvania.
PokerStars remains the only poker site in PA and the additions signal the state’s importance to a growing US market. USPoker spoke with Becker and Foresta about their new roles with PokerStars in the Keystone State.
Keith “AccidentalGrenade” Becker
Poker streaming to link up with friends
Streaming poker seemed a natural extension to producing YouTube gaming videos for this married father from Boiling Spring. With friends spread throughout the country, he missed the “couch co-op” feeling of sharing a gaming experience.
“As soon as I heard PokerStars was bringing online poker to Pennsylvania, I couldn’t wait to stream that as well,” he says.
“Now my friends or fellow players on PokerStars PA will hop into chat and I get to have that feeling again. My mom used to sit next to me on the couch when I would play poker on my laptop, and now she’s one of my biggest supporters in Twitch chat.”
When not playing, Becker works as a software developer and business analyst. He’s been streaming since PokerStars PA launched.
“It’s all a bit surreal at this point,” he says of being an ambassador. “Growing up, poker ambassadors were some of my heroes – those players were larger than life. I’m extremely excited to join PokerStars and be one of the first ambassadors alongside Mark Foresta and joining the legendary Jen Shahade.”
Becker says the Pennsylvania community is a tight-knit group that shares in each other’s successes and struggles.
“For a community centered around a competitive game,” he says, “I’m always surprised how much love there is.”
Home game to PokerStars ambassador
Like many players, Becker’s love of poker comes from home games. He and his friends played using layers of psychology – constantly trying to out-think each other.
“Those days of camaraderie and victory are what I still enjoy about the game today,” he says. “But the scale has changed – now I enjoy the game with a whole Twitch community in addition to my real life friends.”
Engagement with viewers while streaming is a priority. Polish is also a big focus. Becker’s obsessed with tweaking his platform with a new look, tools, and content.
That has included a dual stream with fellow PA ambassador Mark Foresta. They eventually hope to host a live meet-up game with fans. Humor is also a big part of his streaming efforts.
“I love the big poker or gaming moments, but I also love the moments when the stream is just the backdrop to a fun night with people I love, debating nonsense or taking jokes entirely too far in the silliest way possible,” he says. “The connection, that’s what it’s all about.”
When not streaming or playing, Becker enjoys spending time with his family, watching movies and television shows, and reading. He’s excited about the future of legal US online poker.
“There is so much hype and excitement among players,” he says. “I think it can only be good news for the game and players if more people see the value of the entertainment, togetherness, and community that can be achieved when players have an opportunity to log on and play responsibly.”
Mark “naigo1” Foresta
Joining the PokerStars team
Becoming a PokerStars ambassador is a dream come true for Foresta. Originally from Mount Laurel, New Jersey, the 28-year-old now lives in Philadelphia and works as a software engineer. He’s excited about the ambassadorship opportunity and possibly more collaborations with Becker and Shahade.
“The word we’ve been using is ‘buzzing,’” he says. “Every time I hang out with one of my amazing new teammates in their chats I have been asked, ‘are you still buzzing?’”
The answer is yes and PA online poker has been a welcome addition.
“Having PokerStars in PA has been a blast,” he says. “I can say with confidence from speaking with members of the community that having a safe, regulated, and respected poker operator in the state did wonders for the interest of the game.”
PokerStars ambassador Lex Veldhuis served as inspiration to begin streaming. Veldhuis “raided” fellow PokerStars streamer Georgina “GJReggie” James on her birthday.
A raid means a streamer sends all his or her viewers to another streamer. GJReggie made it in the money of the $109 Sunday Million and Foresta found the whole episode fun.
“The excitement she had was just so unbelievable and I wanted an opportunity like that,” he says. “I also know in retrospect how excited I was to be there and being able to provide that for others would be amazing.”
His own big run in a $20 NJCOOP Deepstack event also motivated. Foresta was chip leader several times throughout the eight-hour tournament and sprinted downstairs to share updates with friends.
“I went on to win the event and from that moment forward I knew if PokerStars ever launched in Pennsylvania, where I spent most of my time, I was going to give streaming a try,” he says. “Sure enough on launch day I was live.”
Celebrating poker success and community
In Pennsylvania, online poker remains a “ringed-in” environment, meaning players only compete with others in the state. Foresta believes that gives his stream some uniqueness – focusing on that small community.
That includes keeping tabs on fellow players who may have won a major event or scored in a big satellite. The stream recognizes that kind of success.
“Celebrating victories of the community members is this amazing feeling that I have never had anywhere else, and this connection seems to be a two-way street,” he says. “It feels like when I’m lucky enough to find a final table myself. I feel this energy of people being so invested in our joint success.”
Foresta grew up playing games like “Follow the Queen” and “Blind Man’s Bluff.” When Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker in 2003, he and friends began playing $5 tournaments.
Away from poker, Foresta enjoys traveling and recently spent time in Ocean City, Maryland, for some time at the beach. He also enjoys green felt of a different variety – he’s been a billiards player since he was young.
Foresta believes his experience shows what the US online poker industry might be in store for. With more states considering legalization, he thinks the industry is primed for success.
“The excitement and buzz I see and hear in the Pennsylvania poker community is so apparent,” he says. “I’m sure Michigan is experiencing similar levels of hype. I believe the sky’s the limit and hope I can be there for every step.”