Released last month in May of 2017, PokerGo is the world’s first subscription based streaming service to offer poker-only content. PokerGo provides a reasonable viewing experience, yet is overpriced and doesn’t offer enough live poker tourney coverage to offset the limited and poor on demand offerings.
PokerGo charges $10 per month with the option of getting a discount if you prepay $99 for the entire year. Both options will auto-renew when the term is over, and to their credit, this feature is advertised in large print directly below the price. That amount might not sound like a lot, but when paired up against other streaming services that offer much more variety and high budget exclusives for less, it feels like paying rake on top of a time charge.
Most of the popular streaming services offer first month free trial periods; PokerGo does not. Granted, no business owes this benefit to the consumer, but it does imply a lack of confidence in their own product. There was speculation in NVG that both the lack of a free trial and the option to prepay betrays PokerGo’s concerns of mass cancellations once the WSOP wraps up for the summer. Contrast that with Netflix, who are not afraid to let you sample the goods for free because they know you will be back next month to pay for another fix.
PokerGo is view-able via mobile app or browser on all major devices right now. Their site advertises future XBox and Playstation console support, but no ETA is mentioned. In the TwoPlusTwo forums, there were initial complaints about the streaming quality or lack of Chromecast support. I encountered no problems with streaming speed or video quality on my browser or mobile phone, both for the live events and on demand content. On the contrary, I found the video and sound quality to be quite high, though I should provide the disclaimer that I do live in a major metropolitan area in the United States. I can’t personally vouch for the Chromecast support, but I did notice that it was eventually added to their website on the list of supported devices shortly after the complaints had aired.
After signing up and logging in, you are presented with two main options: Live Events and On Demand. The latter is subdivided into four sections, which are Event Replays, Featured, Originals, and The Vault. Once I started delving into the available content, I found that any potential issues with streaming quality or device selection are the least of their problems.
The current advertised live event is the $1,000 WSOP Seniors Event. I decided to click “Watch” to catch a glimpse of what my life might look like in 12 years if I continue to make poor decisions. Much to my disappointment, clicking “Watch” doesn’t channel the experience of a $3/6 limit Hold’em game at 8 AM on a Tuesday, but rather, takes you to a page with a countdown to this so-called “live” event. I believe I speak for most of us when I say that I am not looking forward to the day that I officially qualify to play in this event, thus I can only imagine that counting down the seconds to the Seniors Event must be like watching the Death Clock during a chemotherapy session.
Irony notwithstanding, this is not an isolated incident. There are currently over 20 events listed with the option to “Watch” that aren’t yet available, with the last one on the list nearly a month away. It may be necessary to advertise for upcoming events, but displaying a button to watch a live event that is hours, days, or even weeks away is more than a tad disingenuous. After all, when I login to HBO GO and see advertisements for Game of Thrones, I don’t see anything that says or implies that I can watch the as of yet unavailable Season 7 right now.
On Demand Content
Original content is the bread and butter of modern streaming television. Its importance has not been lost on PokerGo, yet they seem completely lost on how to create or apply it. As of this writing, there are just eight options to choose from, though I think it’s more appropriate to just call it six. I don’t consider watching reruns of the Super High Roller Bowl from the past two years as being any more original than watching football highlights from 1983, no matter who owns the rights to them.
I will admit that I very much enjoyed Dead Money, the documentary of Matt Berkey’s run in the $300k Super High Roller Bowl this year. Unfortunately, PokerGo managed to cast some unnecessary doubt upon what would otherwise be a quality production by needlessly slicing up an hour-long feature into eight tiny segments before releasing them all at once. The result is a binge-watching experience designed for the anorexic demographic. The only purpose for this that I can think of would be so that live tournament grinders can peck away at it during shit breaks or so that PokerGo can create the illusion that they have more original content than they actually do.
As for Features, well…there really isn’t much that much featured there. In that regard, it’s basically a metaphor for the entire PokerGo experience. There are new episodes of Pokerography starring the likes of Liv Boeree, Johnny Chan, and Maria Ho, yet anyone who is likely to be interested enough to give their full attention are probably already familiar with their background stories. Beyond that, there is only SHRB 2017 Recaps and Dead Money.
The Event Replays section is exactly what you would expect, minus the thrill of the live countdown. My personal prediction is that this spot will serve as an incubation chamber for expired live events before they get a second life in the Featured or Originals section, where they will likely remain for the next two years or longer.
Should you feel like reliving the good old days of life before Black Friday, then look no further than The Vault. Here you have the options of watching pros play other pros wearing Full Tilt patches on Poker After Dark, pros tag teaming other pros wearing Full Tilt patches on Doubles Poker Championship, or pros wearing Full Tilt patches in the ultimate bumhunting contest against random donks on the NBC dud, Face the Ace. With so much FTP sponsored content, The Vault feels more like sifting through the evidence files of the US DOJ than taking a trip down memory lane.
I found this section of PokerGo to be not only tired, but flat out offensive. While watching these fallen poker angels swap my bankroll back and forth, it occurred to me that the only place I would pay money to watch any future videos of Howard Lederer or Chris “Judas” Ferguson would be on World Star Hip Hop. I mentioned earlier that PokerGo does not have a free trial period, but apparently, I was mistaken. It just goes by another name and it’s called YouTube.
The only thing of value contained within The Vault is the 2011 feature length documentary, Grinders. This is something of a minor cult classic that only holds much appeal to true poker fans. However, those same true poker fans would never confuse Grinders for Rounders, which is currently streaming on Netflix for a mere $8.95 per month…and you can cancel that at any time.