It’s fair to say that her trip to the Bahamas didn’t get off to the best of starts Alexandra Botez.
She almost missed her flight. She was chilled from her first tournament. And – perhaps most unbelievably – she forgot to bring a chess board.
“One of my close friends is DanSmith and at each event we get together to play chess for about five hours,” she said PokerNews. “And we was will do that this time. But I was so late for my flight and almost missed it – and I forgot to bring a chess board.
“I need to order a board or I’ll get withdrawals.”
Warm up for the PSPC
The popular chess and poker streamer Twitch and YouTuber is visiting the Bahamas PokerStars Players NL Hold’em Championship (PSPC) which starts today, and also played in yesterday’s women’s event PokerStars ambassador Jennifer Shahade and Georgina James.
“I just flew in and jumped straight in. I busted my first ball in a cooler – I flopped a set and lost to a slightly higher set. I love women’s events – they are my favourites. In poker, you’re allowed to talk at the table, so it’s a lot friendlier, while in chess, nobody talks and it tends to get super serious.
“It’s a lot more intimidating in women’s chess tournaments. They could be friends after that though [during the match] They just stare at each other in silence and anger for about six hours.”
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Poker and Twitch streaming
With over a million followers on YouTube and Twitch, Botez has made streaming chess equal parts immersive, exciting and fun. Now she’s started turning her attention to streaming poker, saying it offers a variety of ways to make the stream as enjoyable as possible for everyone involved.
“I definitely play differently and give more action when hosting a game and when cameras are filming the game. I’ll play looser and do things like slide tackle because I think it’s important to develop a good product. Not only for viewers, but also for potential poker sponsors and all guests who have decided to join the show.
“I definitely play differently and give more action when I’m hosting a game and when cameras are filming the game.”
“So it affects my actual play, while in chess of course it’s perfect information and I’m a bit distracted because I’m talking or chatting, but in poker it feels like there’s a lot more pressure to make interesting hands and getting that cool clickable moment, because that’s sort of how you create virality in poker
“I mean you do it a little bit with chess where you’re playing in something that’s not that good, but it might have some kind of attack. That said, it doesn’t necessarily correlate with more views or anything like that.
“I guess I don’t really think about it [making it more exciting] in chess – that’s more my style! While playing poker, I’m actively thinking about it while I’m making the content.”
Did you know? In May 2022, Botez won nearly $500,000 in eight hours Hustler Casino Live stream alongside Mr. Beast, Ludwigand ninja as well as professional poker players tom dwan, Phil Hellmut and Alan Keating
The key to a (different) poker boom
The B-word has been thrown around in both chess and poker in recent years, and Botez says she believes the ingredients are in place for poker to follow in chess’ footsteps and experience a “boom” of sorts.
“A lot of people think the big breakthrough for chess was Queen’s Gambit, and it helped get more players, but what actually was the breakthrough for chess was COVID,” she said. “More people played online occasionally because they had more time to play.
What can poker learn from the Queen’s Gambit?
“I think poker is even more accessible than chess”
“And what happened after that was that a lot of streamers started doing chess and there was a boom. I think what actually happened with chess is that it became a lot more accessible to the average person. And I think you absolutely can do that with poker.
“That’s why I also make creator games, where you bring in people who have an audience from somewhere else, and it’s fun. It shows that it’s not just about GTO – there are personalities and you make people watch and be like that. “Wow, that’s really super fun to watch!”
Poker’s accessibility is key
At its core, chess has not changed as it has seen an increase in interest and player numbers. Instead, Botez says there has been a change in the way it has been marketed.
“It took a while for chess people to realize that you really adapted the format for the casual viewer. And I think if you could do that with poker, then I don’t see why you couldn’t. I think poker is even more accessible than chess because it has RNG. In chess you can get tired of grinding and it’s all your fault if you lose!”
Poker is recreation at its core – Botez says the Creator games were designed to hang out, laugh and learn – and she says these three tenets are key to encouraging new players to get interested in poker and realize how much you can enjoy it.
“I think poker is even more accessible than chess”
“I think it’s important that people who are starting out in poker think differently about it. Think of it like ‘I’ll spend $100 to play poker’ rather than ‘I’ll spend $100 to try and win’.
“It has to be about the experience. I spent hours grinding $2/$3 at the casino because it was fun and therapeutic! I had headphones on, just thinking about life, waiting to get good hands.
“And I was there for a good five or six hours and it was an incredible experience. I just thought about it like I’m not expecting to win, I’m paying for the experience. That’s what I got out of it. “
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Enjoy the PSPC experience
Starting tomorrow, Botez will be playing for much more than the experience – although for many the PSPC is an experience of a lifetime – with millions in prize money up for grabs in this $25,000 buy-in tournament.
“I know I’m less experienced than most people here. I think my coach said I was in the bottom 15% – at least! – which, you know, is perfectly fine. I’ll just go and do my best, try to study and pay attention while I’m at the table. I’ll be vlogging and creating content while I’m there because that’s my job, after all.
“But if I do my job well and enjoy the experience. That’s all I can ask for.”
Will Shillibier lives in the UK. He graduated from the University of Kent with a BA in German in 2017 and went on to study for an NCTJ in Sports Journalism at Sportsbeat in Manchester. He previously worked as a freelance live reporter and video presenter for the World Poker Tour.