Professional high stakes poker player Matt Berkey returned to the Poker Life Podcast Monday for a 90-minute segment with host Joey Ingram on the state of televised poker.
The show included the 2016 Super High Roller Bowl final table participant’s response to critique from YouTube Poker personality Doug Polk following recent Live at the Bike programming changes that resulted during “Doug Polk Week” after several players (including Berkey) cancelled their appearances shortly before the stream was scheduled to start.
— Doug Polk (@DougPolkPoker) November 15, 2017
The high profile “call-out” by Polk — along with Berkey’s thoughts — communicate a number of challenges that the televised poker world is facing as we approach 2018.
Matt Berkey and Doug Polk: Both Great for Poker
Personally, I’m a fan of Matt Berkey… and a super fan of Doug Polk (plus I collaborate with him and his training site Upswing Poker). So despite whatever disagreements either personality may have with the other, both openly share their wealth of knowledge with the poker world while showing a clear tendency to positively impact the game of poker.
Therefore, this writeup is heavy on TIMESTAMPS & QUOTES from Monday’s conversation between Berkey and Ingram which you can find below. Most of the “televised poker” dialogue takes place near the beginning of the podcast, but I’ve also included some other quoted material from the show to even the article out.
One final note before moving on… broadcasts such as LATB, Poker Night in America and Poker After Dark have captivated both veteran and casual poker audiences in 2017. However, that success has also led to a higher level of scrutiny by an increasingly-informed public that yearns for Poker TV programs that are highly organized, innovative, competitive, and entertaining.
Whether on-air talent and relevant interests are capable of continuing their high level of collaboration and creative innovation will be one of the main factors in determining how the televised poker business shakes out in 2018, in my opinion.
Poker Life Podcast TIMESTAMPS & Quotes (Matt Berkey)
Day 1 Ratings (Nov 20, 2017): 8,213 Views – 169 Likes, 11 Dislikes
(0:00) Intro, Poker Life Podcast with Matt Berkey
(2:10) This week’s Poker After Dark shows
(3:11) Matt Berkey’s response to Live at the Bike lineup changes
“Yeah, I mean… it happened. There was supposed to be a $200/$400 [No Limit Hold’em] game for Live at the Bike. I wasn’t all that confident that it was really ever going to run, but you know, I tried to prepare accordingly. And the games the week prior got big.
I guess I didn’t realize first that Garrett [Adelstein] was playing, which I’m glad he did. I really enjoy playing with him as a whole. He makes the environment really ‘gamble-ly’ which is great, but when I was playing this trip I was supposed to play $25/$50 [Nov 7th], $25/$50 [Nov 8th], $100/$200 [Nov 9th], and $200/$400 [Nov 10th]. And I figured, ‘How much could I really get hurt in two $25/$50 games with a bunch of social media stars and a decent $50/$100 game?’ And I lost like $110,000 after the first two sessions of $25/$50… which were ultimately $25/$50/$100/$200 with infinite ante.
So yeah. I just didn’t have enough money to play the $200/$400. I alerted Ryan [Feldman] about it on-stream Tuesday. You [Joey] were in the booth with me. And, you know, he didn’t seem to be too concerned with it. I figured there are probably people wanting to play in this game, but I’ve been around high stakes long enough. It’s like… the lineup just continually kept deteriorating. It started with a lot of business people and ‘fun’ players and ended with a bunch of ‘killers,’ which hey… that’s going to happen. I get it. That’s the high stakes realm. I’m happy to play in those games. It’s just another opportunity to play $200/$400 [No Limit Hold’em] which is a bigger deal to me than lineup-choosing, but I’m certainly not going to play against a bunch of killers with what ultimately works out to less than 100 big blinds [session bankroll] once we throw in a big game.”
(5:13) Matt says $200/$400 NLHE LATB game promotion was a “partial truth”
(6:37) Funds for high profile nosebleed poker games are not easy to move around
“It’s not easy to just move a half-a-million from place to place. When I was texting with [Ryan] Feldman… like asking if he had somebody who could facilitate swapping out ARIA chips, he’s like, ‘No, but just bring cash.’ And I’m like, ‘What? Do you think I just have like a briefcase with a half-a-million in it? I’m just gonna like lug it to L.A. with me in a car?’ Like, that’s not how this works.
But yeah. It’s challenging. It’s a lot easier to play at ‘home’ than it is on the road. Especially when the people that I regularly play with that I might have borrowing power with weren’t around. So I’m sure I probably could’ve like really put myself out there and asked some of the guys in the game, but from what I could tell everybody else was on pretty limited funds as well. And I don’t think anybody was really in a position to just like be firing $100k my way and then just like hope that I’m gonna pay.”
(8:05) Matt Berkey not overly concerned with Doug’s video
(9:30) Lack of incentives for TV poker cast members
“You have to look at it from the incentives. I think [Doug Polk] kind of approached it from a very ‘me-centric’ point of view. Of like, ‘I’ve had a Poker After Dark cancelled on me and I flew out here for this game.’ And you know, kind of framing it in a way that this happened to other people as well. Everybody who flew out there with the exception of Dan [Merrilees] is from Vegas. We all could’ve played here. And we all had plenty of money. Why doesn’t that game run every single day of the week? It’s like, some of us would be happy to play… whatever.
But the whole thing is it’s all incentives, right? And this was the one thing that was never really examined, is the incentive-based aspect of it. We keep calling it ‘televised poker’ but like, I get that TV is moving to live streams but this isn’t the same as Poker After Dark on NBC [2007-2011]. And so it’s not a shock that there’s going to be a lot of hiccups.”
(10:52) Environment for paid TV talent – Past vs. Present
“In the past you had TV as a driving force and you had sponsorship, and the players were paid. And everybody had a reason to be there, right? Now, the only thing these streams can really offer are soft lineups and promotion, but — outside of Doug and myself — nobody in that game is looking to build their brand. And even for the two of us, it’s not the biggest platform in the world. Like, I would definitely say that Doug is bigger than that platform. I’m not saying it won’t help him, but it’s like… he’s already getting hundreds of thousands of views on his YouTube page. Doing a simple live stream is gonna help facilitate that but it’s not going to grow him like 10 percent.”
(12:40) Live poker stream organizational and promotional challenges
“That’s the biggest challenge that these promoters are going to face. Brent [Hanks] is one of my best friends, and I know the struggles that he goes through with Poker After Dark, right? Because the ‘fun’ players want everything in their favor in order to even consider inconveniencing themselves to play. And the good players want a reason to be there, right? You’re exposing your strategy. You’re putting yourself out there for the world to see, etc. And there just isn’t the same incentives because they don’t align anymore.
So this whole ‘live stream’ thing… it’s a really tough racket. And for Ryan [Feldman], this is the first time he’s ever tried [to organize] a game this big. And it’s like, I wish he would’ve leaned a little more heavily on those of us who play these stakes a little more often. Like you know how many times I’ve seen a $200/$400 game crumble? You know how many times I get text messages from [Jean-Robert Bellande] or the like and it’s like… ‘Oh, so-and-so is in town! We’re going to have this big juicy game.’ And then it’s just like, ‘Hey, it never happened. No one showed.’ That’s the racket, right? That’s the business. The high stakes community is very small and it’s driven by a very finite amount of money.”
(14:06) Matt sends a BANG BANG to Doug’s Facebook Live clip
(17:26) Matt Berkey’s business growth, personal brand vision
(18:47) LATB, Ryan Feldman get high praise
(19:56) Should big name poker players become more active in organizing TV games?
(21:30) Andrew Robl “leads with value” as “the bank” for some big games
(23:36) Matt says Global Poker League is inconsiderate of value provided by players
“People just start to assume that like, ‘Well this company has a reputable name or this player has a certain name in the industry, so they’re all marketable.’ Or, ‘They’re worth playing for,’ etc. And at the end of the day we end up with things like the [Global Poker League], where nobody ever saw the value. They were just gambling. This guy [Alex Dreyfus] says, ‘Hey, come be a part of teams and play in this sports-like atmosphere. I’m gonna sportify poker,’ etc. It’s like, ‘Okay, cool. What do I get out of it?’ ‘Well, you just have to trust the process and at the end of the day it’s going to be a really big deal.’ Like okay… you’re asking me for a big favor.”
(25:01) More thoughts on Doug Polk
(26:50) Joey talks about an upcoming surprise, Friday episode with Doug Polk
(28:15) Cryptocurrency discussion, CoinPoker
(35:39) The current state of online poker, middleman Internet wagering
(43:30) Private poker games, cannibalization of stake levels
(46:53) Why the Los Angeles poker ecosystem is “better” than Las Vegas
“I think there’s a simple reason for that, right? They’re not full casinos. They are card rooms that also offer Baccarat and whatever else… I guess Three Card poker, maybe? But largely speaking, [Los Angeles card rooms] facilitate games for their clientele at all times. And they facilitate it at like a really high level where you can play almost anything.”
(50:06) The continued growth of poker tournaments
(52:05) Promotional ideas… OMG Bomb Pots!
(55:02) How short-stacking No Limit games is harmful
(59:42) Joey talks about Doug spreading awareness of poker, cash games
(1:00:30) Matt says Doug’s LATB clips were long on critique, short on solutions
(1:02:50) Matt Berkey’s relatives look just like he does, nephew talk
(1:06:09) Joey missed Tony Robbins event, was uploading Deep Thoughts on YouTube
(1:11:12) What Matt learned from recent conference featuring Tony Robbins
(1:12:31) Mental health, suppression of creativity
“I think so much of what we’re taught from childhood ’til we just finally crumble is suppression. It’s ‘Don’t talk about those things that are embarrassing. Don’t talk about those things because people will judge you. Just swallow your anger. Swallow your transgressions. Swallow all these things and don’t be open and honest with people because they’re just going to come back and drag you through the mud for it.’
I think that that’s highly frightening. We’re seeing a lot of it now with these Hollywood actors being accused of taking advantage of women, etc. Where they’ve been victims for years and just didn’t have the platform or courage to come out.”
(1:14:39) Solve for Why Academy
(1:18:11) The “Young Prince” Fedor Holz
(1:19:47) Matt Berkey’s plans for rest of 2017
(1:24:34) Joey Ingram’s recent and upcoming YouTube content
(1:24:55) Adderall, caffeine and other substances that affect brain activity
SOCIAL MEDIA CONSIDERATION (TWITTER)
@berkey11, @joeingram1, @SolveForWhyAcad