Thursday, October 16, 2014

Streaming Poker

A week or two ago I watched a stream of a guy playing Hanabi with some of the people who watch his stream. Hanabi is a hidden information game so playing it on stream has some potential cheating concerns. They solved the problem by having the people playing the game just stop watching/listening to the stream. In a cooperative game you're playing just for fun with people you have some reason to trust that seems like a fine solution. But it got me thinking about how one would go about streaming something like poker, where if one of the opponents was able to watch your stream they'd have a ludicrous advantage over you. Would you go to a long 'tape delay' where you wouldn't stream a hand until it was over? Find some way to blank out your hand? Both of those options feel like they're going to hurt the quality of your stream. People seem to like watching streams that are exciting or where they can have a reasonable amount of interaction and poker without a hand cam has proven to be pretty unexciting and throwing a long delay on it would remove any pretense of interaction.

So when I saw a stream yesterday with a poker tournament I was intrigued. The streamer went the 'blank your hand' route which made watching what he was doing less interesting for me. But he added in the interaction element by playing against people in the stream. They had $150 in prizes and no entry fee to sign up, so people were just around to hang out, play some free poker, and maybe win a non-insignificant amount of money. It turns out the streamer runs cash tournaments for a game called Puzzle Fighter II with some regularity and I'd actually tuned in to watch one of those many months ago. He generates the money for the prizes in these things from viewer donations. This seems like a really cool idea for how to make use of donations to ramp up viewer interaction.

At any rate, I watched the end of the poker tournament and wasn't terribly impressed by the level of play. People going excessively all in with 4th pair, or a small flush, that sort of thing. After the first tournament ended they ran a second one for fun, but then the streamer decided to throw in an extra $20 to the winner if they got at least 9 people. Then after that one wound down he decided to run it back again.

I wouldn't really say I play poker, but I read a fair bit about it. I've just been finishing reading a pair of books on tournament poker and I decided I'd take a break from playing WoW to give this free poker thing a shot. I ended up winning the 12 person tournament for a cool $20 profit. Woo! Now if that's just a factor of getting lucky or maybe knowing a little bit about what to do I can't really say, but it was fun.

As far as streaming goes I like the idea of running games with your viewers, and I like the idea of giving out prizes without there being an entry fee, and I like the idea of using donations to make that happen. But I don't think I like the idea in general of streaming poker. At least, I don't know that streaming hands with a hand cam turned off is interesting enough? Maybe I'm wrong...

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