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Business of Esports TV: Poker’s Esports Emergence

(Podcast #129)

In this segment, we discuss poker’s imminent rise as an esport following the popularity of chess and what that could mean for the future tastes of gamers.

The Business Of Esports brings you news, debates, and all the information you need to know about the gaming sector, the world’s fastest-growing market. With Paul “The Profit” Dawalibi leading the charge, and a variety of special guests, BoE TV is the only place to find insider information on the esports industry!

Check out the rest of the podcast here:

Paul Dawalibi 29:58
um, Let’s move on let’s talk about call it new eSports. And I think one of the big ones, one of the big themes that has come back on the podcast in the live stream pretty repeatedly is Chess’ sort of rise as an esport. This is why this headline caught my attention. This is another good story. It’s why Poker’s emergence as a major esport is imminent. And and let me just read some of the first paragraph here it says when we think of the biggest eSports games today, Poker and sports games hardly come to mind. The biggest titles in competitive gaming where you know, CS:GO, League of Legends Fortnite, Dota, FIFA, etc. There’s no mention of Poker. Now, in this context, William of Chess being considered one of the biggest eSports in the world right now, right, where streaming is massively popular where you know, the tournament’s online are getting huge audiences. Why has poker not emerged in the same way? A and B, do you buy this headline that? At some point in the near future, we’re going to start calling Poker an esport?

William Collis 31:14
Yeah, I Well, I mean, this is where the moniker of esport is a bit tricky, right? Because I’ve long said and I’m quite happy that I sort of got this right, like head Chess been invented last week, we would have called it an esport.

Paul Dawalibi 31:28
Like, Oh, my God, this is crazy. Like, who’s thought of this like, to do this, you crazy team of two people, you know, like,

William Collis 31:36
you know, we would have we would have, we would have thought it was a big deal. And so a lot of these traditional games, and by the way, there’s a huge chocolate like I’m too Yeah, I’m waiting for Bridge to have its breakout moment. You know, like, I’m serious Bridge is a great game. Like,

Paul Dawalibi 31:49
I love it. There’s,

William Collis 31:51
there’s a lot of really great games out there that get rediscovered with the audience power of these streaming platforms, right. And Poker, if you guys have not played Poker, it’s a really great game, you know, I defy you to go watch Matt Damon in Rounders, and then not get like super excited to go shuffle up some cards and you know, deal, like, flip the river, you know, or whatever, you know, but um, but like, yeah, there, there are some factors around Poker that I think may get a little harder than some of these other games. Because Poker is, you know, it’s fundamentally tied a lot to wagering. Right. And traditionally, we haven’t seen eSports come into the space that you know, basically like to have the maximum amount of skill component involved, require money and wager, and you can play Poker with just chips and everything. But fundamentally, even you’re just playing with chips, it’s like, it’s a bit like, this is a new frontier for us, you know, in the industry, because Poker is a great game. Same thing, another challenge Poker is there’s a lot of legacy. There’s already lots of great places where you can go to like, watch Poker. I mean, we’ve talked about on this podcast, you know, that there’s, you know, very successful poker media companies that have been built. So it’s also like, unlike Chess, which I don’t really think had a good consumer platform until Twitch came into being Poker already has ways of reaching out to its fans, right. And so I don’t think there’s this vacuum that creates such an immediate, light bulb moment, you know, like, it’s crazy how quickly the best Chess players in the world got on Twitch, because they weren’t really anywhere else before, right. So as soon as they were a little bit unfair, but generally speaking, like they didn’t have a platform that let them reach and build brand and as powerful away as these live streaming companies. So as soon as one person did it, everybody was like, Well, why don’t I do this? This is great. And so it remains to be seen what happens, but I do believe there’s tons there’s gonna be tons of classic games that come into the industry, I think they will always feel a bit different, because they won’t have been designed with the digital nature of the medium, like fully embraced, right? So I think that they’ll always feel a little bit analog, but that’s also not necessarily a bad thing. There’s a beautiful tactility to these traditional games, and its simplicity to them. that I think could be very appealing. It could also help eSports skew older and demographics, right, like if this gets 55 plus watching Twitch, I’m all for it. So you know, let’s let’s see what happens but I’m I’m a believer, I would buy it if you told me Poker was blowing up on Twitch, I’d suggest it and I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Hearts Bridge, you name it, right?

Paul Dawalibi 34:25
I like I like part of this thesis which is like Poker. You know, poker already had a scene. Poker already had an outlet, right? There’s lots of Poker on TV. A lot of you can go watch you know, World Poker Tour has a zillion shows. There’s lots of Poker on YouTube. There’s, you know, there’s lots of Poker to watch if you really want to watch it. And the theory here that Chess didn’t have that, which is why it’s rise as an esport was meteoric. I sort of by I could argue The flip side though, William, which is like, because Poker has the media experience, right? already has already had its time in the sun, you know, with World Poker Tour on TV when you know, 10 years ago or 15 years ago, when it was the hottest thing

William Collis 35:15
around fun to watch. It’s fun to watch.

Paul Dawalibi 35:18
They should. And you could argue that if anything, they should be ahead of the curve, right? Like they have the they understand how to produce big events, they understand how to build audience, they understand maybe even the digital component like, couldn’t you argue that Poker, having experienced tremendous media growth and audience growth already, in a way that Chess never did? They should be better positioned to become an esport and see, like the same kind of meteoric rise? Could you not argue the exact

William Collis 35:51
Yeah, yeah, you could? You absolutely could. Paul, you absolutely could. I just, you know, I, I tend to think that, you know, we’re, how does fit nicely, like humans, like, we tend to notice degree changes much more than absolute changes. Do you know what I mean? Like, and air rushes to fill a vacuum. And so those two things, really make chess those two factors really play for chess and make the growth in Chess on Twitch and live streaming and in the esports world, feel much more meteoric right, like, it’s just, it’s like, it’s interesting, you know, but like you, like you said, like, we already had exposure to Poker. So even if Poker were really blowing up on live streaming platforms, there’s already other places for Poker, it wouldn’t feel like such a degree of difference. And I think part of the success story of Chess, like I said, is it was just so at like, I wasn’t watching. Like, I mean, maybe you were because you’re cooler than I was, but it wasn’t like I was sitting down three years ago, and like watching chess or reading a Chess book, or laughing at a silly opening move, you know, and now I’m like, Oh, yeah, let’s go. Come on. Knight E5 Oh, I wouldn’t have done that. Oh, wait, that was a great move. I’m an idiot. Oh, okay. You know, like, it’s just it, you know, and I will also say, you know, the skill in Chess, I think, is a little more and this is I’m not trying to disparage Poker at all. But I think the skill in Chess is a little more apparent, right? Like, if you think of what there’s less luck involved,

Paul Dawalibi 37:21
no question, right?

William Collis 37:22
less, less randomness. But think about like, and again, this is somebody I’m sure will hit me up on social media doesn’t say this. Belizean is my ignorance here. But like, think about how when you make a move in Chess, and you’re live streaming, think about that, how much there is to talk to your audience about what you wait for that other person to make their play, right? You can say like, well, I put the night here because I wanted to set up a fork here. And I also want to take pressure off of this piece. And this frees the Bishop and Bob, like there’s a real library of discussion you can have. And it’s a very concrete series, like you can say, now this square is threatened right now this piece is free, like it’s very, it’s very, you can get a clear mental image of it. If you think of skill in poker, right? A lot of is like I have a read, you know what I mean? That guy definitely doesn’t have two Aces. Right? And I’m not saying there aren’t other things, there’s, you know, probably some math you can do and odds on and all that stuff, right. But even that is a little bit less transparent. Like, oh, I ran some quick things. And I think I’m 43% to get this hand, right? Like, yeah, but how would you do it, you know, you’re not going to break down the math steps, oh, to dime to, you know, to, to, to have heart showing or to arts to club showing. So. So like, I think the fact that the strategy and Chess lends itself to the live streaming format, helps it significantly as well. Agreed.

Paul Dawalibi 38:35
I think there’s good there will be though this interesting. learning that we will take away from this should Poker emerge as an IT AS AN as an esport. And something that is streamed, you know, commonly, which is what works better, right? Poker where you have randomness, luck, but you have drama as a consequence, right? Like that, where is your faith can turn around by, you know, some stroke of luck, even if your play was bad. Versus Chess, which is very methodical, it’s, you know, there’s no, there’s no randomness whatsoever. It’s you either out play or get outplayed. Right, and, and, therefore, potentially has less drama. Right. So there’s this like, there’s this interesting conversation around what makes for good eSports entertainment also, right?

William Collis 39:26
Well, I, I definitely think Chess and this is a controversial statement. But I definitely Chess to be a better game with a little bit of randomness in it. Right?

Paul Dawalibi 39:34

William Collis 39:36
debate about how much randomness should be in games, but I think like, like, let’s imagine you and I play Chess today. Paul, you’re better at chess to me, you’ll beat me every time I don’t stand a chance. Right? But if we play Valorant together, maybe you walk around a corner, and I happen to have my own hand out and you know, like I can at least get around off of you. You know, and I can be like Oh Hi Lisa. So I do think, you know, like, there are a lot of like, I’m not criticizing Chess, it’s is brilliant game. But I do think it would be an easier game to get into if there was some randomness in it. Right. But I also think that, you know, maybe that, you know, is appealing is that is if the goal is to be a viewership driven sport and not a player driven sport, maybe we like the fact that the best people are consistently the best, right? Because maybe it really speaks to the highest level of play wins, the best moves are always rewarded, right? There’s no you know, like, oh, the person roll the 10 on their damage roll doesn’t matter what I do I have 10 health, what are the odds, you know? So.

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