3 Minutes Read
Poker streaming is a trend that had very few takers in India until very recently. In fact, up until a few years back, the list of Indian poker streamers was limited to just a very few poker pros.
All that is changing rapidly now. There’s been a sudden onslaught of players that have taken up live-streaming recently. Hardly does a week go by when we don’t see fresh, energetic live-streams from Young Gun Siddharth Karia, Raj Juneja, Anujkumar Kodam, Kshitij Kucheria, and Shobhit Bhargava, Aditya Wadhwani, Chirag Sodha, Jaideep Sajwan, and others.
Is this lockdown-induced poker streaming craze a value-adding pastime? Possibly for some, but the rage has undoubtedly caught on, and it’s also changing the poker industry’s dynamics. Sensing an opportunity, online poker brands are roping some of these players to live-stream their tourneys.
For this feature, we caught up with a few of our own ‘desi’ streamers. Let’s find out what drives them to stream and their views on this thoroughly fun activity, which presents a gold mine of learning for upcoming players.
From industry old-timers to seasoned regs and upcoming pros, the list of Indian poker streamers is growing every week. But does this signify a tectonic shift in the domestic poker sector, or is it just a temporary, lockdown-pushed trend?
Star commentator Aditya Wadhwani feels streaming is here to stay. “It was always going to pick up, the lockdown was a catalyst to the current state surely,” he said.
Season 1 of his talk show ‘It’s Your Turn (IYT) With Aditya Wadhwani’ was just the starting point, and he plans to live-stream very regularly, along with “big schemes in the works” for IYT Season 2, once his at-home studio is set up.
Chirag Sodha, who has hosted four live streams on PokerBaazi`s YouTube channel, echoed the same thought. “I feel that the lockdown definitely pushed more people in this direction, but now that we can see its merits, it should continue to grow in popularity.”
He tried out streaming from his own Twitch channel first. “I wanted to know what it would be like! We eventually figured that a few of us could get on board and stream on the PokerBaazi channel so that we can reach more people, and it’s been great so far.”
Be it regs, newbies, or upcoming players, a whole new bunch of players have taken up live-streaming their poker sessions, and are going full-throttle about it!
For Kshitij Kucheria, streaming started as a means of warding off boredom and personally motivating himself to play. He has been streaming for three months and getting consistently better at it.
“I saw a lot of people playing online poker because of the lockdown, but very badly… so I thought that I should just create some content so that people tune-up and learn,” said Kucheria.
Jaideep Sajwan had travel vlogging on his mind when he started his YouTube channel New World Nomads. After realizing that the COVID-19 pandemic was going to dampen his year’s travel and WSOP plans, he decided to dedicate two months to creating poker content “Initially I planned to make a few fun episodes on poker, and streaming just got added on.”
Sajwan’s streams are lively, and he often invites other guests like Chirag Sodha and Sumit Sapra on air. Even though Sajwan insists that this was just a two-month content creation adventure that has come to an end, his streams are very popular, and chances are bright that he will persist with streaming.
Apart from the usual poker regs, there are upcoming players like Shobhit Bhargava from New Delhi who has been playing poker for only a year and a half but has a natural flair for streaming. His streams are energetic and entertaining, and it’s very evident that he puts in the extra effort in editing to churn out content.
Bhargava is also one of the more active streamers as he streams on YouTube, Twitch, and Instagram from his channel ‘569poker’ thrice a week. “After falling in love with poker about 1.5 years back, I have been following a lot of poker streamers; however, finding a regular ‘Indian’ poker streamer was impossible. So that got me wondering what it takes to put up a decent quality stream,” Bhargava told us, emphasizing that he also wants to clear the myth that streaming is only for the pros.
When Siddharth Karia began live-streaming his tournament grind on PokerBaazi, it was like an experiment starting out and an add-on to his daily poker regime.
It turns out, Karia is quite a natural to the genre, and he admits he’s enjoying it so far. “I thought that I can entertain and play my game, and I have started to look forward to my weekly Tuesday streams.”
Fun, you say?! Yeah, that, and a lot of hard work, according to MoneyMaker champion, Anuj Kodam.
“It’s a unique experience, quite daunting the first time, cause for hours, you just talk to yourselves. Who does that in real life? And keep people entertained with no person to react to. And delayed streams get tricky,” said Kodam, adding that it all comes down to one`s comfort groove, and streaming, in general, is a booming space that will add to the exposure of the game.
Kodam, who runs his own YouTube channel for “Poetry, Poker and everything in between,” is nowadays live-streaming his Saturday tourney runs on PokerBaazi. “I like playing poker and talking to people, streaming is the best of both worlds. I’ve been wanting to make content for a while, streaming was the low hanging fruit, so when (Poker) Baazi asked me, I was all in.”
No, poker streaming is not easy; take it from the former streaming ambassador for PokerStars India, Sharad Rao.
The talented poker pro from Pune has been away from the poker scene for a while, but when we spoke to him on the subject, he was quick to point out, “Streaming is not for everyone. Streaming and being in public space needs a special set of skills. But people who’ve got it- there’s a lot of potential to grow IMO. Everyone should give it a shot, see if it’s something they enjoy and if they think it’s their calling- invest hours. Being regular and following a schedule is the key!”
Inadequate response is another problem for streamers chipped in Kucheria. “The viewership is not good, and it is challenging to organically grow, though now I have got some permanent audience for myself…” says Kucheria, who has been streaming for three months. He is planning to shift his focus towards audiences who have not heard of the game.
Sajwan seemed to have a similar opinion and conceded that although the response to his streams has been amazing, he was expecting it to be better. Streaming has also affected his poker regime more than he expected.
“It’s too much hard work. Adding to the part that you gotta play poker and utilize those aspects, then you gotta stream and be entertaining enough. It definitely degrades your game. I thought this content adventure for two months would reduce my volume by 30% but ended up reducing it by 70-75%. So that was a huge loss for me for sure, and I don’t see that happening too much in the future,” Sajwan said, adding that he is planning to stop streaming to focus on the WSOP Online series and WPT Online.
And the award for the best poker streamer goes to……Well, there are quite a few deserving candidates, to be honest. We asked our Indian streamer who they took inspirations from when creating content. While many international names popped up, a few Indian names were thrown in as well.
Muskan Sethi’s favorite international streamer is Lex Veldhuis, whereas Aditya Wadhwani’s top pick is Spraggy (Ben Spragg). As far as Indian streamers are concerned, Wadhwani feels, “In India, I think it’s important we check out everyone at this point, as it’s still a young crew. “
But if you take a vote, Sajwan is hands-down the most popular, at least among the Indian streamers we spoke to.
“There is nobody who is creating content (in India) at JDSaz’s (Jaideep Sajwan) level,” Kshitij Kucheria said. His international favorites are Matt and Jaime Staples, and for the strategy aspect, he likes to watch streams by Jonathan Little.
For Kodam – Sajwan, and Poker Bootcamp India are the ones to watch, “JD is doing a great job in building the scene…” Kodam said, adding that he also follows Charlie Carrel and Ginge Poker.
So, who are Sajwan’s favorite Indian streamers? “I usually stick to streams of my friends, like Chirag Sodha, Anuj Kodam, and Siddharth Karia, whom I know personally and can relate to.”
This sudden spike in interest for poker streaming in India is definitely good for the mind sport`s growth. There is no denying the fact that the world lives and breathes on social media. It is quite easy to lose oneself down the YouTube rabbit hole. An upsurge of poker-related content on such platforms will make it easier for the game to reach the masses, while also helping upcoming players hone their skills.
Sodha recalled, “Streamers like Adi (Aditya Wadhwani) and JD (Jaideep Sajwan) were probably the first ones to bring streaming to light. Recently we have seen so many streamers like Kshitij (Kucheria), 569poker (Shobhit Bhargava), Siddharth (Karia), Anuj (Kodam), Poker Bootcamp coaches Abhishek Goindi and Tanmay, Nikita (Luther) and many others.”
He emphasized that in the end, this will help grow poker. “It’s great to see! Personally, I feel good about being able to help people who are still new to the game – that’s where I believe my streams are doing some justice.”
Karia opined that streaming gives a feel of what poker players are experiencing, and will help make poker more popular amongst the masses. “People will be able to get a feel of what so many players are experiencing and going through while playing poker…Will surely depend on what kind of audiences are attracted to it. It will be fun to see how it unfurls!”
Wadhwani underlined how perspective helps get better at the game. “Watching different poker players go through their process in real-time, no matter the level of skill is a great way to see how differently this game can be played and enjoyed. Genuine engagement is a great source of inspiration in my opinion.”
We asked PokerStars India Team Pro Muskan Sethi her take on the new crop of Indian streamers, and she said, “I love it! I have immense respect for all the upcoming streamers of the Indian poker community. They say that whenever we step out of our comfort zone, great things happen!”
Sethi has had a lot of practice with content creation, running her “Off the Felt” video podcast, and streaming as the next big stop isn’t ruled out.
Bhargava is confident that a whole new industry is waiting to boom, though it may take a while.
Wadhwani made a pertinent observation. “I’ve noticed a definite upswing in support of poker content online from poker brands. Lockdown was a catalyst not just for the creators, the companies now require a source of the sport being showcased somewhere since live events are on hold. Since streaming is a digital medium like online poker is, the relationship should be symbiotic in theory.”
Verdict: Indian streamers have a lot to catch up on, to come to par with international streamers, but like poker itself, even poker streaming holds all the promises to become much bigger and better in the country. Let’s show some love to this passionate bunch of streamers, by watching their poker streams, and keep them motivated to create quality content for the fast-growing Indian poker community!