The online poker industry continues to focus on reaching new potential customers through Twitch with the two top online poker giants PokerStars and partypoker fortifying their positions on the platform.
Last week, industry leader PokerStars added a dozen poker players to its roster of ambassadors and created a new ambassador category called “PokerStars Streamers”.
Among the dozen new signings were former Big Brother Canada contestant and Platinum Pass winner Arlie Shaban; OP-Poker, a team of Twitch streamers and poker content creators focused mainly on PokerStars’ Power Up and other novelty variants, and eight “rising Twitch stars” joining the new roster of PokerStars Streamers.
Within hours of PokerStars’ announcement, competitor partypoker also announced that it has signed Kevin Martin, former PokerStars pro and high-profile Twitch streamer, as part of its newly created Team Online roster.
Throughout this year, there has been a flurry of activity around streamers and ambassadors either leaving or joining poker rooms. It started with a trio of well-known poker streamers, Jeff Gross, Jaime Staples and later Kevin Martin announcing their departure from PokerStars only to later join rival poker room, partypoker. The group has over 260,000 Twitch followers combined.
Just when it seemed that things had settled down, three more ambassadors parted ways with PokerStars. Jake Cody announced his departure in March, followed by Randy “nanonoko” Lew who bid farewell to Stars in April. Barry Greenstein, one of the longest-serving ambassador for PokerStars, apparently also left PokerStars as he is no longer listed as Team Pro.
Elsewhere, Unibet ambassador Alan Widmann, another Twitch streamer and avid gamer, announced his departure from the room as did Daiva Byrne who decided not to renew her contract with the company. In addition, Twitch poker sensation Parker “tonkaaaaP” Talbot made news when he left 888poker.
partypoker’s Increased Twitch Focus in 2019
Meanwhile, partypoker in direct response to arch-rival PokerStars announced the formation of Team Online, a new stable of ambassadors intended to increase its presence on Twitch. Prior to that, the room had joined hands with Bill Perkin’s popular Twitch channel dubbed Thirst Lounge in a bid to build a global Twitch audience in 2019.
Within a couple of weeks, the new Team Online roster grew to ten streamers with two of its highest profile members being courted from partypoker’s main competitor PokerStars.
“We are leveraging the new Team Online to raise awareness across the Twitch platform and showcase our suites of games and offerings,” said Colette Stewart, partypoker’s Social, Community and Twitch Specialist, “in an interview with Poker Industry PRO.”Behind Partypoker’s Team Online: Five Questions for Colette Stewart
“Twitch is growing so fast that new viewers are joining daily, yet there’s still room for more poker streamers and content creators to come on board,” Colette added.
The creation of partypoker’s Team Online comes as part of a wider strategy to “make up for a lost time,” according to Tom Waters, partypoker Managing Director, on announcing the Team Online initiative in February. Tom Waters admitted that his company had been “a bit behind the curve when it comes to streaming.”
As part of a longer-term strategy, the room also started a number of initiatives including launching a 24/7 streaming channel to showcase partypoker LIVE event highlights. The room also plans to host a series of high stakes cash games which will be live-streamed on partypoker’s Twitch channel.
“[W]e believe for poker streamers there will be a lot more competition than previously! partypoker has made a big commitment to the platform and that should spur on a lot more streamers, putting on higher quality content streams, and generating more enjoyment for viewers,” Colette remarked.
PokerStars New Ambassadors
Although PokerStars may have lost some of its high-profile streamers to its competitor, the room still dominates the Twitch airwaves as it has many heavy hitters on its roster, including the likes of Jason Somerville, the name that is synonymous with Twitch poker, who pioneered the movement of streaming online poker as well as Lex Veldhuis, the latest Twitch sensation.
However, the addition of twelve new sponsors will certainly help boost the company’s presence on Twitch as each of them brings variety to the team in their own ways, and they also fill the gap created by the exodus of the trio of popular Twitch streamers.
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The OP-Poker team comprised of Nick Walsh, James Mckenzie, and Eva Reberc produces strategy content on Twitch and YouTube focusing mainly on innovative formats such as Power Up and novelty variants such as Fusion, Showtime, 6+ Hold’em, etc. The team also regularly streams Spin & Gos and PokerStars’s new virtual reality game, PokerStars VR.
As pokerfuse revealed last week, the room will continue to develop novelty poker variants such as DeepWater Hold’em and Split Omaha, and it seems like the signing of OP-Poker is a perfect way to introduce viewers to PokerStars’ quickly expanding portfolio of new games.
Arlie Shaban, the Canadian streamer known for his enthusiastic and passionate energy in his Twitch streaming, came into the limelight last year after he successfully completed the marathon challenge of streaming poker live on Twitch for 1000 hours over 125 consecutive days. The former Big Brother contestant also won a Platinum Pass after successfully completing the Herculean challenge tasked by PokerStars.
Alongside OP-Poker and Arlie Shaban, PokerStars has also signed eight more streamers—half of which made up of French and Spanish players in a bid to appeal the Southern European audience. It is worth noting that PokerStars had earlier signed Ramon Colillas, winner of the inaugural PokerStars PSPC event and Frenchman Kalidou Sow, a Platinum Pass winner.
“It’s no secret how much love I have for Twitch and how important I think it is for the growth of poker,” said Lex Veldhuis, Pokerstars Ambassador and the current most-popular poker streamer on Twitch. “I’m really happy PokerStars is recognizing the effort these streamers are putting in and empowering them on top of that. It will be very inspirational to watch them develop and grind,” Veldhuis added.
As outlined in The State of the Online Poker Industry, Spring 2019 report, Twitch has grown immensely in popularity over the past 2-3 years, and with more than 15 million daily users, it is now one of the leading broadcast platforms in the gaming world. Not surprisingly, today all major poker operators have a significant presence on the platform and it has been used to great effect by these companies to introduce the game to a new generation of players.
“I think there is lots of room for Twitch poker to continue to grow, however, I think more importantly, there is a lot of room for Twitch to help grow poker,” said Scott Ball, President of End Game Talent and former Head of Twitch Poker, exclusively in an interview published in The State of the Online Poker Industry. “I’d love to see poker grow and thrive, but operators and Twitch really need to give it more attention and proper focus in order for that to happen.”
From sponsored pros engaging with fans to final tables of major live poker events, Twitch has become ubiquitous within the poker industry. Both market leaders PokerStars and partypoker are now looking to raise the stakes and deepen their connection with the live-streaming site.