Lex Veldhuis Keeps Reinventing Himself, Conquers Twitch (Part 3/3)
On Saturday, we kicked off this 3-part interview series with PokerStars Team Online pro Lex Veldhuis. In Part 1, we talked about his time at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure where he didn't play, but was part of the commentary team. We continued that conversation in Part 2 yesterday. Today, the third and final part.
A lot of people tell me that you really need to focus a hundred percent on one discipline if you want to make it in poker these days. Somehow, that doesn't seem to apply to you or maybe not to the discipline you've invested yourself in. Because streaming takes up a lot of effort and energy, and still you had an amazing 2017. Is that variance, or what's going on?
Obviously, variance is a part of it. I've run extremely well in important situations in 2017. Of course I'm happy with that.
Besides that, I've put a lot of time and effort into my game as well. I've tried to improve in very specific areas, and I feel some of the lazier regs have dropped the ball there.
Since I've streamed my sessions, I've played fewer tables. You can't be multi-tabling 20 tournaments; people watching would have no idea what's going on if you did. That allows me to really focus, and I see all the hands at all the tables from all the players.
Besides, playing a wide array of different buy-ins has another advantage. Things I see in smaller events, I can try out in bigger buy-in events.
I feel that makes for a learning experience in a very efficient way, more efficient than playing 24 tables at the same time. But, again, I've got so much to learn still, so variance is a part of it as well.
Streaming also helps with tilt. There've been moments where I might have gone on tilt otherwise but tried to compose myself as 5,000 people were watching at the time. There's nothing sadder than to just piss away your chips in big buy-in events while the world is watching.
It would make for an entertaining stream, though, I imagine.
Yeah of course. But don't get me wrong; I'm still emotionally invested. It happens often enough that I get angry, or can't believe what I'm seeing. And I'll show it on the stream too. I'm not the player to instantly put everything into perspective. If I lose aces to kings, I'm not gonna say 'Well, this happens every once in five times, so it's fine.' People like that really give me the creeps, I can't stand it. For me, that doesn't work. I'm competitive; I want to beat people, and I want to win tournaments.
"I'm competitive; I want to beat people, and I want to win tournaments."
I just play my A-game more often now that I'm streaming, as I know people are watching. If I bust everything on a Sunday and only have the Big $22 with still 400 people in it left, I'm not just gonna go all in blind simply to be done for the day. If that's your last event and you gotta win it to even break even for the day, it's easy to just tilt your stack away and go to bed. But I've had it plenty of times last year where the stream was going well, I had a lot of viewers, and I ended up going deep, salvaging a bit of a disastrous day. Those are really the sick moments, and they really do make a difference on your bottom line.
Maybe I'll get destroyed at poker this year, and all that I said is bullshit. But yeah, that's how I look at things. Besides, I don't plan on getting murdered at the tables this year. I'm working on my game, getting coaching from "bencb", so all is good.
That all sounds like positives. Are there negatives to streaming? I imagine the regulars have a unique insight into your game as every hand is broadcasted.
Yeah, for sure. I hope I play balanced enough so they can't fully use it. But I gotta be honest, there are plenty of situations where I'm not balanced enough and a good regular will instantly put a note on me with an explanation how they can exploit me. That's definitely a downside to streaming.
"If I would play breakeven poker, I'd still make a pretty decent living."
Another downside is the time it costs. I get up at 7 a.m. every day and go for a walk to go over my day in my head. I finish around 8 p.m., five days a week. So, if you take in the preparation and all, it costs a lot of time.
I have a girlfriend and I try to maintain a social life as well. So where do I find the time to study? When can I find time for a review, go over a spot one more time? After a long stream where I've been talking to the camera for like 9 hours straight, I don't have the energy to go and review my session.
Isn't that something you put on yourself? Why do your sessions have to be so long every day?
I just want to be consistent, I want to make the hours. I want to offer a reliable schedule for my viewers, so they know when they can tune in and when I won't be there. I feel that's really important for Twitch as a platform. If I cut my hours, I'll lose a part of my audience too. If I stop three hours earlier, people in New York won't be able to watch. If I start three hours later, others will miss out.
I love what I'm doing right now, I love my schedule.
I'm not really into the world of Twitch, so help me out a little. Say you break even with poker in a month, do you still make a lot through the platform? Would you still be getting rich?
Yeah. My sponsor contracts are built around it, so that's one thing. On top of that, I have a lot of subs, so I can live from that. If I would play breakeven poker, I'd still make a pretty decent living.
Must be nice.
Yeah, it's fantastic, it's great. It's 'I've made my hobby into my job' all over again. In fact, I have that with two things I enjoy a great deal; streaming and playing poker.
I love Twitch, I really love it. I've been watching game streams since 2011 and I just love it.
The community is awesome. There are so many people who work with me on my channel: mods, people building the community, helping me out with social media. It's crazy.
A lot of people have left PokerStars. Jason Mercier, Vanessa Selbst, Felipe Ramos, now ElkY. What about you? What does your future with PokerStars look like? Is this going to be a regular thing, you as part of the production team?
I'm not sure about the tv part, I don't think they'll have this set at every stop. But I have signed on with PokerStars again, so I won't be going anywhere for the foreseeable future. I feel that what I'm doing, bringing poker to a wider audience streaming my games on Twitch, is a direction PokerStars is happy with.
Does is it really bring in a new audience? Or is it just the same people now watching on a different platform?
It's for sure a new audience. Just to give you an example, I'm in contact with a lot of other gamers and one of them, who has like 12,000 subs and solely streams Hearthstone, hosted my channel the other day. That's 8,000 viewers who probably have never watched poker before. That's just crazy. A lot of them hang around after, so you really do grab people new to poker.
I feel that Twitch, compared to Twitter for example, is a lot better at branching out your audience. If I tweet about something, only people already following me will read it. And those people probably already play poker. On Twitch, a lot of people come in solely because they enjoy the show and the antics. I really have people asking me what a big blind is regularly. That's the direction we should be heading, I feel. PokerStars is very much agreeing with me there, so I just extended my contract.
I saw you were hanging out in Costa Rica with some other players that stream on PokerStars. How did that come to be?
My girlfriend and I were already living together and had some talks about what we wanted for the future. At one point, she came to the conclusion that she really wasn't ready to fully settle down just yet. She would look at some of her friends who had baby showers and everything and felt she wasn't looking forward to all of that just yet.
So we looked at some travel plans, and I started talking to Jaime Staples. We eventually found Costa Rica and I streamed from there for 5 days a week, while swimming in the Pacific in the morning. On my days off, we would venture into the jungle and stuff like that. We did that for 3 months and loved it. And then I went to the PCA.
So you won't be going back to Zeeland [a Dutch province] just yet?
Nope, we're going to Panama where we'll be staying for two and a half months. After that, we'll go to Victoria, a small little place close to Vancouver, to play SCOOP. Maybe we'll do Vegas after, but we're not sure about that yet.
Download and upload speed is all of the sudden the most important thing you look for when mapping out your travel plans, I imagine.
Yeah, that's something new, haha. I ask these people before how the internet is, and they all tell you it's great. But it really isn't. When you inquire about internet speed, people will tell you the download speed. But I'm not interested in that, it's upload speed that matters. A decent upload is hard to find.
"A monkey jumped on a power line which meant no internet for me, haha."
Costa Rica was barely good enough, and that's one of the fastest countries. Just about anything but Costa Rica, Panama, and Mexico have terrible upload speed in Central and South America. So that's why we'll go to Canada after; the infrastructure is just better over there.
In Costa Rica, at one point, a tree hit the powerline. That meant no power for three days. And one time, literally, a monkey jumped on a power line which meant no internet for me, haha.
Luckily, Myrthe, my girlfriend, is quite good at handling stuff like that. She's really on top of these things.
I'm shipping my own computer, I shipped it over in a crate with 40 kilos of stuff. All the screens and everything. I can't just buy that new anywhere I go, so this was the best solution.
It's remarkable how you seem to reinvent yourself every time. You stay relevant while poker changes.
You know, I just really love poker. And I want to stay in poker for the foreseeable future. I've been lucky that what I've loved doing was relevant at the time. When I loved to grind crazy online sessions, was when online poker started to become popular mainstream. When I reached a time in my career that playing big buy-in live events was a possibility, the EPT exploded in Europe. And when I started streaming, the Twitch platform just did everything right. I've somehow always found my place in poker, and I don't mind working hard for it. I'm pretty happy with where I'm at.
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