Tuesday, April 21, 2015

No Itch for Twitch

Jason Somerville entertaining the masses
Unless you’re living under a rock, you have heard about the “exciting relationship” forged between Poker and Twitch (the “new” live streaming service).  That relationship is that some poker pros are streaming their online play and gathering substantial followings.

Wait… why all the “quotes” around “key words” in that paragraph?

Well, first of all, Twitch isn’t all that new – the service has been active since 2011 (just after Black Friday), and the gaming community has been actively using Twitch for nearly that long (I learned about it from one of our employees at the ice cream parlor, an active gamer).  I used the term “exciting relationship” only because I don’t know what else to call it…as you will soon see, I have a slightly different take on the subject than most.

Nearly everyone has hailed the fact that Jason Somerville has more than 50,000 subscribers (at $4.99/month) and that big names like Daniel Negreanu and Chris Moneymaker are coming online (and many made a big deal of Daniel’s “live streaming” in the loo this weekend).  And while I agree that ANY exposure for poker is a good thing, to me Twitch seems like a combination of the following: 
  • The early days of radio, when half the fun was the technical wonder of it all and finding out what stations you could listen to from how far away, or
  • The early days of TV, when half the fun was the technical wonder of it all and watching damn near anything because you could, or
  • The early days of online porn, because…well, just because.

Because the barrier for entry into being on Twitch is virtually non-existent (anyone can do it), it’s a lot like the early days of radio in that there are some entertaining and informative players, there are some who are entertaining, some who are informative…and many who are neither.  Just there.

Because of the technology involved, and the fact that the Twitch audience has been brought up in a TV/digital world, almost any Twitch poker broadcast has something for everyone.  Busy screens with multi-table action, commentary, the chat room that progresses as the action continues, replays of the action…it’s Bloomberg TV with poker, in that the screen is covered with ads, chat, this, that…busy-busy-busy (and the tiny font is hard to see for us old folks – just sayin’).

Because it involves something we all love, and love to do, it’s a lot like porn.  Sometimes fun to watch, but wouldn’t you rather DO it than WATCH?

I liked the idea of the cash/profit graph.
But the screen is cluttered and unreadable.
And that’s my main beef.  I watched a variety of live and prerecorded Twitch over the last three days.  There are times when Somerville’s commentary was illuminating…and others when he was quite defensive about his play (he seems more illuminating when he wins, BTW).  I missed all of Negreanu’s Sunday action (including the piss), but it might have been fun (in a vicarious way) to watch him pocket $50G.  But I did spend some time watching a couple of low-level grinders win $1.79.  Meh.  And the commentary from these “semi-pros” were about the level you might expect. 

Another beef – the chat room seems to be a way for watchers to “be involved” but a more narcissistic group I’ve never met.  As if they could care less about what was on screen and more about “HEY, WHAT ABOUT ME?”  Is there a way to turn that off?

Ads are a problem – one interrupted my feed at a time that seemed Somerville was about to make a very good point (and then the stream came back garbled, so I missed it completely).  Ads in general piss me off, but $4.99 per month? C’mon.  And one player (forget who) had his own “donation” station and actually had sponsors ponying up $50, $100…no wonder people want a channel.  Of course, Twitch says some of the $4.99 goes to the broadcasting player, too…so that’s another way to add to the ol’ bankroll.

Lots of action here - fold, fold, fold, fold.  Repeat.
But in the end, my feelings are like one guy who was watching Somerville and added this to the Chat room “conversation:”

These tables today is so boring to watch, 3+ people sitting out or folding every single hand, holy crap 

Not horribly articulate, but accurate.  Kind of like Twitch.  It has promise, and it might be fun to pop in and watch for a little while.  You might learn something (nothing so far I haven’t learned elsewhere in books, videos, etc.).  You might be entertained a bit.

And you might want to go do it yourself and have even more fun.  Yeah, it’s like porn.

PS – one final complaint.  It seems that anytime anyone critiques or complains about Twitch, and, like me, doesn’t absolutely love it, others harp back with the same jab:  “Oh, you must be a winning player and know it all already” (and yes, I recognize it as sarcasm, thank you).  What’s with that?  Are you saying the only people allowed to say “damn, this is boring” are experts, and that I “show my ignorance” because I don’t watch to watch?  Hey, perhaps I have a busy schedule and MY TIME IS MORE VALUABLE THAT WATCHING DANIEL NEGREANU TAKE A LEAK, OK?

Now, if it was Kara Scott in the can…I’m there.

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