Stream of Consciousness: Jason Somerville’s Twitch Teachings
One of the growing trends to emerge from online poker’s post-Black Friday reconstruction period is the integration of live video streaming for the purpose of interactive instruction. Typically broadcasting via the Twitch platform — a pioneering industry leader in the live streaming game — several well-respected poker pros have established themselves with must-see streams.
At any given time you can find Randy “nanonoko” Lew, Jaime “PokerStaples” Staples, Felix “xflixx” Schneiders, and many others playing on their respective (and popular) Twitch channels. Even Chris Moneymaker — the central figure in that earlier “boom” in poker over a decade ago — is now among those live streaming their online sessions for the world to watch.
But while each of those players have made a mark on live streamed poker, nobody has taken Twitch by storm like Jason “jcarverpoker” Somerville. Already the proud owner of a World Series of Poker bracelet, along with nearly $4 million in reported live earnings, Somerville got in on the ground floor and has since spearheaded the growing effort to turn live-streamed poker into a spectator sport.
Operating under his familiar Run It Up brand and now a Team PokerStars Pro as well, Somerville’s channel on Twitch has grown from a passion project for the pro into essential poker programming for legions of loyal fans and subscribers. With over 81,000 followers and nearly 5 million views to his credit, and dozens of instantly classic streamed sessions available in his free-to-access archive, Somerville is truly leading poker into a new era of instruction.
With that said, you can understand why I found myself casually watching Somerville’s stream a few nights ago as he weaved his way to the final table in a recent multi-table tournament, The Big $55 hosted by PokerStars. Somerville eventually finished in fifth place for $4,709, and the entire 11-hour stream for this deep run can be viewed on Twitch here.
A particularly interesting and informative hand from the latter stages of the tournament caught my attention, one occurring near the end of the ninth hour of the stream. If Somerville’s objective with Twitch-streamed poker truly is to entertain the masses while educating recreational players, hands like this one provide the perfect fusion of those philosophies.
DEEP RUN IN THE DOUBLE NICKEL
To set the scene, Somerville had played his way to the final three tables of The Big $55 which on that day had attracted 1,983 total entries. The prize pool topped out at $99,150, with more than $15K due to go to the winner.
With the blinds at 3,600/7,200 with a 900 ante, Somerville was sitting in second position out of 24 remaining players with a stack of 621,375 or about 86 big blinds. Aside from one big stack two seats to his right, Somerville was playing with more than double the chips of each his other six opponents at the table. As one would expect, he built this big stack by serving as the table captain, opening and defending frequently, playing plenty of postflop pots, and applying constant pressure to his short-stacked opponents.
After showing down with for ace-high on the previous deal and winning a checked-down pot, Somerville next picked up in middle position. When the action folded to him Somerville told the audience “I’m going to keep raising it up here… we did break that 600K mark. We have 200 starting stacks, that’s pretty strong.” Then after opening for 14,400 — just above the minimum-raise amount — Somerville further explained the logic behind his loose-aggressive play during the latter stages of a long tournament.
“A quarter-million is average right now,” he elaborated while checking the lobby. “So that means with 12 left average [will be] 500K — so we’re just about average stack for the final table.”
Somerville touched on several key concepts here, including the importance of planning ahead when evaluating decisions in the present, as well as the various ways a current chip stack can be valued. By recognizing that he has plenty of chips to play with at the moment, Somerville entered an exploratory pot without fear of going broke.
The player next to act elected to reraise, three-betting to 35,545 while leaving 198K behind. With the action back on him, Somerville again sized up the situation aloud.
“I’m not going to be folding this,” Somerville continued. “Because we have to call 21K to win 70K… we’re getting just too good of a price preflop. I do believe he’s probably in first place right now, but our hand is so good we can happily call here and take this one to the streets.”
Here, Somerville gave the audience a basic primer on pot odds, acknowledging that his hand was probably second-best at the moment but offering a mathematical explanation for seeing the flop. Getting 3-to-1 on his money with a suited Broadway hand, Somerville gladly called the reraise in hopes of exploiting his skill edge during postflop play.
The flop fell , and Somerville’s subsequent monologue illuminated the intricate lines of thought that separate pretenders from profitable players.
“Okay, flopped the nut gutshot, backdoor flush draw,” he observed while checking it to the aggressor. “Still might be live with our queen or our ten as well. I do believe if he bets an amount under 50K, I have to call. At least call. I don’t think I want to check-raise all in or anything like that, although it can’t be a terrible play to do it against him.”
The player then bets 38,345, and Somerville continues without pausing.
“It’s 38K… so I could shove this. Maybe he’d fold a hand like two tens or two jacks here. But I think I’m going to just call here. We could always turn a heart, a queen, a ten, a jack. We’re getting 3-to-1 right now — that’s a pretty good price, man. Obviously I’m preferring a jack to a queen, a ten, or a heart, but all of those [possible turn cards] are decent. So I’m going to start here with a call, see a turn card, and go from there.”
The lesson here was deceptively simple: take your time and evaluate the circumstances in full, rather than surrender at the sight of a scare card or dry board. Somerville did more than simply analyze a tricky spot here, though. He succeeded in leading an audience of nearly 21,000 viewers — enough to fill a sports arena to capacity — through the twisting turns of logic that high-level poker truly entails. Following Somerville’s call, the paired the board on fourth street, and the master class continued.
“King is a pretty good card for me,” he mused. “I mean, it’s not a great card for me, don’t get me wrong. But it’s an okay card for me, because he might be afraid of me having a king now. If he has a hand like tens or jacks, those hands don’t bet, so they do give me a free river card. And, I might be able to bluff him on the river here if he checks back and the river is just a banana....”
ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?
Just seconds after having plotted his next move should the river bring a “banana” (a blank), Somerville and his opponent instead saw the complete the board. With just over 165K in the middle and his opponent having not quite 160K behind, Somerville’s eyes lit up slightly as he pondered his options.
“Aye…that is not a banana,” he said, wincing just a bit. “That is not a banana. Hmm… you know, I think I kind of like just f-ing betting the pot here, man.”
Having sized up his opponent’s stack, Somerville did just that — betting almost exactly the pot — to force the player into a tough decision for his tournament life. With his work now complete and only the tank left to sweat, Somerville gave viewers a glimpse the hand-reading ability that prompted his bold bluff.
“I mean I kind of feel like unless he has or …” he said, his voice trailing off. “If he has or now, this is a really tough decision for him.... Like if he has a monster ace here on the river, I have a king pretty often. What are the hands that I have that are bluffing? I have to have , , or exactly — nothing else makes any sense. And I could easily have , , I could have, you know, … if I could have ... if I could have , I could have .”
“And also, if we lose this hand we’re still going to have over average stack. I feel very confident that he has either a hand like two queens, two jacks, two tens, , or . Putting him in the tank, that’s for sure… but the longer he takes the more worried I am that he’s going to find a call on the last second. Ah, three seconds, two seconds…”
When his opponent finally clicked the fold button and conceded the sizable pot, Somerville’s unrestrained reaction showed exactly why he has become poker’s ambassador for the modern age.
“Nice, guys... ni-i-i-i-ice!” he said, exhaling in excitement as the comment board lit up in celebration.
“That’s how we do right there! Sometimes when luck shuts the door we say ‘don’t worry, I’m going in through the window!’ That’s right, that’s what we did right there. A little bluff-shove on the river action, how about that? I f-ing love it, that’s what I live for right there. All in, bluff-shoving on the river live here on Twitch, seven days a week. That’s how we do.”
That’s how Somerville does, all right — playing hands expertly, explaining them just as well, and consistently entertaining his audience hand after hand after hand.