Mystery Bounties, Ontario Online Poker and the Sale: Q&A with Partypoker's Jaime Staples Mystery Bounties, Ontario Online Poker and the Sale: Q&A with Partypoker's Jaime Staples

At times I have had as many as 15,000 watching me play poker live, and millions of people on video platforms. It’s been quite a journey It has been nearly five years since Jaime Staples joined partypoker. While other ambassadors have come and gone, Jaime and his brother Matt remain the sole ambassadors representing partypoker today.

Originally from Alberta, Canada, Jaime has not only become one of poker’s most beloved Twitch streamers but also a prominent voice in the online poker community. His passion for the game and his dedication to fostering community connections have earned him a huge following.

Jaime took time out of his schedule to answer some of our questions about his role at partypoker and share his thoughts on the room’s future. We also delved into topics such as the potential legalization of online poker in his native Alberta, his perspectives on Ontario’s segregated player pool model, and addressed speculations surrounding partypoker’s potential sale.

Hello Jaime. Thanks for taking the time to do the interview. To kick things off, could you share a bit about your background and journey into the world of poker and your role as an ambassador for partypoker?

It’s a pleasure, Anuj. I started playing poker in 2010. In October of 2014, I saw a post on this 2+2 forums about streaming on Twitch which is the largest video game streaming website on the web. I had heard my brothers talk about Twitch before so I figured I would try out showcasing my poker there. It ended up becoming something much bigger than I imagined. In the 9 and half years since that day, I have worked with two of the largest poker companies in the world in PokerStars and now partypoker to try and tell the online poker story. At times I have had as many as 15 thousand people watching me play poker live, and millions of people on video platforms. So it’s been quite a journey that I count myself lucky to experience.

As one of the two ambassadors for partypoker, alongside your brother Matt Staples, could you share your experiences and insights into your role at partypoker?

The majority of our job is about showcasing poker to the masses. What it is, how it’s played. We talk about some of the things people might not know about the game. etcetera. I think we are a guiding hand into understanding the poker world. We do that primarily through playing partypoker tournaments, cash games and Spins Overdrive while sharing our personal journeys along the way. Our secondary duties involve being a voice for players within the company, and a voice for the company to communicate out to players as well. We get to provide feedback on plans and do general consulting on things going on from within. We also produce explainer videos on promotions or tournament series, and provide the social media department with content in which to showcase partypoker on their pages.

As part of your role as an ambassador, what initiatives or projects are you most proud of that you’ve been involved in with partypoker?

Before I joined partypoker, there was very little social or internet media footprint. The focus was primarily on live poker and sponsoring existing large production type stuff. I like those types of productions as well but sometimes I feel as if online poker should do a better job of standing on its own. We aren’t primarily live poker companies. We are online poker companies. And there are some distinct advantages to a digital game that make it different to live. A good example is progressive knockout tournaments. A very difficult game to run live, that works perfectly online. There are all sorts of interesting formats waiting to be explored that only work digitally. Which gets more views — CSGO esports or airsoft gun championships? The digital format is better in this example, and there is no reason why that can’t be true of poker too.

I think Canadian regulators should look to the UK and the system they have developed for poker when moving forward with province-by-province legislation. So we have been able to start telling the online story of partypoker. Featuring our daily legend poker tournaments, streaming the story on Twitch. We had a great event called The Big Deal where we got around 50 streamers to come together and all stream 1 poker tournament at the same time. That was pretty cool.

Being originally from Alberta, Canada, you’re likely aware of recent reports suggesting the province is considering legalizing igaming including online poker. What are your thoughts on this potential development? Would you prefer Alberta to follow Ontario’s model of segregation from international player pools, or do you see a different approach as more beneficial?

I don’t live in Alberta right now but I hope for the best for my home province. At its core, I think it’s important for poker players to be able to compete with people from around the world. This is the only game in a casino where that actually matters. Because poker is a competition, even when you play for fun, with an expectation of losing. Imagine not being able to play chess against someone outside of your home province. It would stunt the players from using those platforms and push them underground to non regulated options generating no tax revenue, and with no oversight. I’m not sure regulators know that about poker specifically, or care. And for the parent companies lobbying to make this regulated market happen, poker revenue is an afterthought in comparison to their total portfolios. So It’s a bit of a grim picture when it comes to our chances at shared liquidity which is so important.

I think Canadian regulators should look to the UK and the system they have developed for poker when moving forward with province by province legislation. They strike a great balance between consumer protection, tax revenue, protecting UK business interests while still allowing market forces to ensure the best product for consumers. They let the best operators do what they do, and everyone is happy. The Ontario model is not working for the game. For me, the answer is clear. Regulate poker, tax operators an amount (similar to the UK) where it is not prohibitive to run poker, have strict regulations on consumer protection, game integrity, and anti money laundering standards with periodic reviews, and license existing operators that want to play fair. It’s a win for everyone. Adopting this model also respects First Nations, Metis, and Inuit autonomy within Canada which is important.

We have ceased to operate in many countries that do not have a clear road to regulation. Most of our competitors have a different approach. I am totally indifferent to ring fenced casino because it makes no difference to anyone. Just poker needs different treatment because it’s PvP.

What plans does partypoker have in store for its users and the online poker community this year? Are there any exciting updates or initiatives on the horizon? What about Mystery Bounty tournaments?

Mystery Bounties are fun aren’t they! I have been in some discussions about that. I don’t have anything to share beyond that but it definitely has been on our radar for quite some time.

We have a lot of fun tournament stuff happening right now. We have The Big Quarter which is a four times a year tournament with a $200K Gtd. Every Sunday there is an $11 flight and they all combine to make one big finale which is cool. We also have a micro series running starting Sunday March 24th featuring buyins from 0$ to a $22 main event. And last, my favorite, Millions Online is coming May 9th-June 4th. There will be $5 Million Gtd across the series and a $500K Main event. So that is my main focus coming up.

We’ve noticed a lack of announcements regarding live events from partypoker this year. Can we expect a return of live events this year, and if so, what might they look like?

Partypoker was the first to pull out of the US after UIGEA, it is the first to pull out of grey markets as well. We do things by the book I don’t have anything to share when it comes to live events. It has typically operated fairly separately from the online side of things so it’s not a part of the company I work with.

Partypoker has seen fluctuations in its prominence over the years. What, in your opinion, contributed to the challenges faced by the platform?

The goals of our parent company Entain shifted, and as such so have we. Entain wants to operate in regulated markets. As such we have ceased to operate in many countries that do not have a clear road to regulation. Most of our competitors have a different approach. When I joined partypoker 6 years ago, the focus was very much to compete to become the biggest. The goal now is to be the very best at what we do. Our strength is our name. Partypoker was the first to pull out of the US after UIGEA, it is the first to pull out of grey markets as well. We do things by the book which means we have a safe trusted fair place to play cards. That’s our strength. The people that play with us care about that.

What’s your take on the recent reports surrounding the potential sale of partypoker? How do you think this might affect the platform and its users moving forward?

Currently, my understanding, and that of the people I work closely with at partypoker, is that this is all speculation. Although it casts some uncertainty in terms of the long term direction, if anything like that happens I have no doubt whoever ends up guiding the ship in the future will find success.

How do you see the landscape of online poker evolving in the coming years?

In a macro sense, I think we will continue to see fragmentation of markets into ring fenced liquidity. And we will continue to see poker players take their action into unregulated environments and underground. From the micro view, we will continue to see passionate poker people at poker companies, innovate, and change the game for the better. I expect lots of security innovation as it is less and less optional to invest significant resources in that area. I have 100% faith in our approach at partypoker in that area as I also do with my former partner PokerStars. Poker will live on forever, but getting new players in seems a stretch in the current legal environment.

Looking ahead, what are your personal goals and aspirations within the poker world and your involvement with partypoker?

I want to do meaningful work in poker and make a difference in poker. That’s my north star at the moment. Meaningful work. So whenever those opportunities arise, I will jump at them. My next project with partypoker is to interview our head of Game Integrity about our approach with security. Another site reached out about doing something like that with them too so I may pursue it as a series where I could survey the whole industry. More stuff like this is what I’m excited about.

And of course continuing to stream every week on Twitch, Youtube and Facebook.

Thanks for asking me the questions Anuj. I enjoyed the opportunity to talk about online poker.