From 7pm today, the television stage at EPT Barcelona will be given over to an amiable bearded man from the northeast of England who is going to play a game of poker against his mates. True Geordie: The Showdown is the grand name for what is a very simple concept: a bunch of poker fans playing a game among friends.
This isn’t going to be the place to learn many sophisticated strategies. The play won’t be GTO approved. But this is going to be a more relatable poker experience than any other. And that’s precisely the point.
At the exact time that Brian Davis — aka True Geordie — sits down with his friends in Barcelona, there’s a very high chance that plenty of other groups of mates will be playing home-game poker too: chewing the fat, taking the piss, winning and losing a few bucks.For the overwhelming majority of the world’s poker players, this is what poker is all about. There won’t be a full broadcast team watching all those games across the world, of course, but the concept is the same.
Giving the full streaming treatment to a home game is the latest step in the development of poker broadcasting, which has shifted its focus and gradually adapted as the game itself has changed through the years.
In the early boom era of poker, the game grew as a TV spectacle alongside its online counterpart. Some of the early stars of TV poker were definitely among the best players in both Las Vegas and Europe, but the bigger personalities were the ones who tended to be booked most often. That fact encouraged players to play up to the cameras, knowing the TV producers favoured fireworks rather than subtle plays.
The games themselves were almost always edited highlights packages as well, sometimes with a made-for-TV structure, which meant all the viewers tended to see were the big pre-flop showdowns, and occasionally a crazy bluff. With some notable exceptions (High Stakes Poker, for example) the TV product wasn’t really representative of what happened in real poker games.
Live streaming changed that. As soon as online platforms figured out a way to show everything from a poker table — many hours featuring hundreds of apparently inconsequential hands building towards a significant whole — they tried it, to great success.
PokerStars Live led the way with days of streaming from poker tournaments. Full narratives were now stitched together, revealing precisely how poker tournaments were won and lost. It just so happened that players were becoming very, very good as well. The top players realised that every decision needed to account for numerous factors, and that meant intense concentration was far more important than yukking it up for the cameras.
Lo and behold, some viewers considered this to be boring. Players didn’t talk. Players took their time over decisions. Players were too analytical. Players kept pots small. No one ever got knocked out. In the early days, you couldn’t even see players’ cards unless there was a showdown. For viewers schooled on those highlights packages, it was a rude and unhappy awakening.
Essentially, all the intrinsic elements of high level poker, the things that made the broadcasts authentic, were the things that now irritated some viewers. People complained that the “personality” had gone from poker, even though this is just what poker tournaments are actually like.
At a similar time, a few top players were experimenting with streaming online poker live on the internet. The former Team PokerStars Pro Jason Somerville is the man most credited with introducing poker to the nascent online broadcasting platform Twitch, and thousands of people began watching him playing high stakes games online.
Somerville was perfect for this. He was a top-level player who had learned and prospered at poker during the early boom years, sharing houses and knowledge with the earliest American elite. But he was also a born raconteur, able to talk freely and articulately on numerous subjects, all without losing any of his edge. Commenters got in touch with observations and questions about his gameplay, which Somerville happily answered. But he could also just chat about the NFL if he was card-dead, keeping the conversation flowing throughout.Despite plenty of scepticism, Somerville confidently predicted that Twitch poker would be huge — and he was proven right. These days, tens of thousands of people tune in to watch the top poker streamers, and the Team Pro roster is now dominated by the very best.
Although a lot of the streamers also happen to be very good poker players, that is something of a secondary talent. We’re back to a point where poker skills are less important than personality to succeed in this domain. Viewers want warmth, engagement and entertainment; deep tournament runs and strategy tips are a welcome bonus.
All of this brings us back to True Geordie, and the fantastic show we’ll be watching tonight.
A self-confessed video obsessive, Davis grew up in front of camera, recording his chats with friends and family, or his excursions through his home town and further afield. He then began broadcasting his conversations among friends about football, which frequently descended into rants about his beloved Newcastle United FC. He hosted a podcast about football, but was a natural on Twitch, where he found that people will be happy to observe him “Just Chatting” if the chat was relatable enough.
Davis and his friends also liked playing poker, and they found that they could continue the chat while also adding some spirited competition. Poker is so brilliantly social that it was the perfect fit for this group. Hence “The Showdown” became a fixture on True Geordie’s ever-growing channel, where he players all wanted to win and took the game seriously enough that it wasn’t purely a lottery, but where they also weren’t stressing too much about getting every bet size perfectly approved by a solver.
With streaming extraordinaires Lex Veldhuis and Spraggy also joining in for the game tonight, alongside PokerStars commentator Joe Stapleton, the chat and the poker should be first rate. And there’s an EPT London Main Event ticket on the line too. Tune in from 7pm to find out who wins.
True Geordie: The Showdown from EPT Barcelona will be streamed on: