Exclusive Jaime Staples interview Part1
Interview and text: Mark Patrickson
Over the last couple of years Jaime Staples has transformed himself from a novice streamer into one of the most popular guys out there. His fans have been able to follow him as he chases his dream of high-stakes tournaments in every corner of the globe. Now with more than 80,000 followers supporting his aspirations, the 25-year old PokerStars Team Online member is ready for his shot at the big time.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing so far though; as you might expect there have been trying times which would have tested even the most ardent poker player. From online trolling to huge downswings, there’s been a lot to deal with.
Last week Jaime was kind enough to spare some of his free time to share a few thoughts with us at BankrollBoosters.com. Let’s take a look at what he had to say.
Jaime Staples: Hello!
BankrollBoosters: Hey Jaime. How are you?
JS: Hey. Good to see you.
BB: So how’s Austria then?
JS: Oh it’s great. It’s fantastic. It’s very different than home, which is what I was hoping for, so really enjoying it so far.
BB: But it’s still freezing cold, I bet. Maybe you like that, I don’t know.
JS: It’s not quite as cold, I mean, it’s about 20 degrees warmer, so I’ll take it.
BB: I didn’t realise it was that cold in Alberta.
JS: Hmmm, maybe the average temperature is -15, during the winter.
BB: So, tell me how the Austria thing happened?
JS: Right, so I guess it’s always been a dream of mine since I started playing poker in the beginning to take advantage of the freedom that poker provides; the ability to work remotely sort of anywhere you want. I always look at it as, I’m 25 years old now, I’ve lived in Canada for 25 years of my life. That’s a long time, that’s just one country in the world, so I want to take the opportunity I have, without ties to one specific place, to see what it’s like to live in some other cultures, and see life through a different lens.
So Austria is the first place in that journey; we’re going to Croatia next, and then we’ll have to see after that. I’m really enjoying it so far. It’s very different than Canada, but I like that.
BB: What do you make of us Europeans so far? Are we as strange as you imagined?
JS: No! You guys are great. It’s might be a little bit grass is greener, like home feels very ordinary, and over here feels very cool. I suspect that’s playing a part. I’ve really fallen in love with the lifestyle that people seem to live, over the last ten days here. It’s just very easy to live a really productive, healthy, and motivated life. So I’m really enjoying that, and there’s all the history; history more than 200 years! It’s amazing. All the art as well. It’s great.
BB: Is art a big thing for you? Of course, I remember now. Do you not have a routine where if you achieve a certain something then you treat yourself?
JS: If I hit a score over $5000 in an online tournament then I’ll buy a piece of art. That’s my rule. It’s sort of like we don’t get trophies in online poker, I like art, and it sort of commemorates something that happened in my life that’s memorable, so you know, I buy a piece.
BB: So how long is your trip going to be? When are you going back to Canada, or do you not know; is it open ended?
JS: I’ll be back in Canada in April, because of visa issues. I can only do three months here, and three months in Croatia, then I’ll have to head back to Canada. So we’re thinking maybe Vancouver for four months when we get back, then make our way back over here if we can.
BB: So you’re on a Schengen visa then?
JS: As a Canadian citizen you don’t actually need a visa to come for 90 days. You can just come over, but it’s 90 out of every 180 days, then you have to get out.
BB: Tell me about your plans for the live scene while you’re on your travels.
JS: I’ve got a lot going on in the live scene. It’s going to be a very busy year for that. Things have gone well in the last year; I’ve just cashed for $19,000 in the PokerStars Championship Bahamas, which was really great. I cashed EPT Main Event in Dublin last year for about $11,500, so it’s working out and I’m really enjoying going, so let’s keep this rolling.
This year I start off with PokerStars Festival Rozvadov, I’m going to be playing the main event. I think March 10th I get there. And on the 14th I’ll be flying from Vienna to Panama to register the main event there, so I’m hitting both a PokerStars Festival and PokerStars Championship in a month.
We have a streamboat thing going on, which isn’t really live, but it’s in different locations anyway, so it feels live. We’re going to be streaming on a boat in St Thomas, in the British Virgin Islands, with Bill Perkins, Jeff Gross, and Matt Staples. It’s at Bill Perkins’ place which is going to be very bizarre and very amazing; I can’t wait for that opportunity. And I think it’s pretty likely I’ll be playing PokerStars Championship Monte Carlo and Barcelona.
So that is the immediate plan. Which is quite a lot!
BB: Wow, that is a full program. Is that the plan from now on, to play all the big ones? Even if it means travelling purely for the tournament, then heading back to Canada.
JS: Yeah, I think so. It contributes to creating these experiences that I think I’m going to remember beyond poker; something more than just chasing profit. It’s something you can really take with you. I really enjoy doing it, so long as I don’t have to sacrifice my stream too much. I don’t want to spend too much time on the road because it’s really important to stay consistent with my audience.
BB: So that really is your number one focus when it comes to poker now? Keeping the stream going over everything else.
JS: Yeah. Absolutely.
BB: Okay, so tell me how it all started for you. When did it all start, and how? Why poker?
JS: I got into poker after high school. My brother was playing play chips, and he had more play chips than me on a Facebook App or something. There was a leader board, and I’m thinking hmmm that’s not okay. And so we started competing, I started looking at some strategy, watching TV shows, and really fell in love with the game at that point.
So then I started playing as my main thing in life, on the side of school and transitioning out of golf (I wanted to be a professional golfer as a kid), and it sort of paid for my lifestyle through school.
I ended up dropping out of school two years ago, and I decided if I was going to drop out of school and really pursue what I wanted to do, which was poker, then I wanted to participate in the industry. I wanted to improve at the game and contribute something to the game, as opposed to just being like a leech upon it.
And so I had this goal, and saw a post about Twitch poker two weeks later which was just starting. Jason Somerville was firing up his first stream, which was perfect timing; I was very very lucky for all that to work out. So I started streaming October 25th 2014 and kind of didn’t stop for around seven months streaming six days per week.
BB: What’s been the toughest challenge so far with it all?
JS: It’s a media business really. As poker players we’re not inherently content producers; that’s not what we do. Producing content and having an audience is something completely foreign to a poker skill set, I think. Learning that whole business, and how to optimise it is a huge undertaking. It’s been crazy.
BB: What you said there reminds me of the opening page of any TwoPlusTwo book, warning the reader that the authors are not professional writers, rather poker players with something to say. It’s easy to forget that what you guys on Twitch do isn’t a common skill found in the typical poker player.
I think it’s fantastic to see people taking this on, but one thing which many people have commented about is how a small group of guys seem to be dominating the Twitch poker landscape now. What makes you guys different from the rest?
JS: I just don’t think people are giving it as much of a chance as they did in the beginning. Maybe it seems a bit intimidating now to see some of the big streamers, and the challenge looks insurmountable. Parker Talbot, TonkaaaaP, has grown his stream in about 13 months to be, I think, the second biggest broadcaster right now, behind Jason Somerville, is where I would put him in viewership. So we’ve seen him come right up, we’ve seen Lex Veldhuis recently grow his stream to be quite large; he’s been getting over a thousand viewers every day.
So I think there is an opportunity, it’s just people hop into it not understanding the amount of time and dedication it’s going to take to become one of those guys. I know the biggest five streamers have a bit of a gap. That would be Lex Veldhuis, Kevin Martin, myself, TonkaaaaP and Jason Somerville. All of us have dedicated the majority of our time to streaming over the past amount of time we’ve been doing it. It just takes a lot of effort, but if you love it and you work hard it can pay off.
BB: Do you think you’re hurting yourself putting so much into the streaming as opposed to something like sitting down to do four hours of equity simulations to really improve your game? Do you not think it may be an idea to take some time away from it to try and bridge that jump up to high stakes games?
JS: You know there’s about 17 hours left in a day after sleeping, and you need two of those to be human, to shower to eat etc. And then there’s 15 hours left in the day, and for me it’s about figuring out the most valuable way to spend those 15 hours. That balance has certainly been off at times in my progression, but generally I’m doing things that I think are going to maximise my happiness long term, and part of that comes down to money as well. So I have started studying two hours per day, every day, taking two off that 17 because I think it’s important to improve my content and get to higher levels within the game, but I do think those other 13 hours are best spent creating content and working on growing in the game as a whole.
There’s such a tremendous opportunity, and not a lot of people truly understand how big it really is because they’re not inside the industry and don’t understand the economics of the whole thing. There’s a lot of attention, a lot of people watching these streams and that’s worth a lot of money if you work hard at it.
I could go for a split shift of four hours studying in the morning, seven hours of playing and four hours studying in the evening, and I think I could become a really really great poker player.
BB: Probably miserable and bitter too!
JS: I don’t know if I’d be able to handle that sort of a day. I don’t know if I’m inherently smart enough to manage to get to the top. But I do think I’m taking the best route for my long term success right now.
BB: I’m seriously impressed for somebody so young to be taking this kind of approach. Has somebody tried to impress this upon you in the past?
JS: I’ve learned from a multitude of sources coming up. Jason Somerville led the way; he started streaming a month before me, and was a much bigger streamer, and still is. He really understood the space a year in advance of everyone else. So I’ve learned a ton from him, but I think it’s just like as streamers we have all the information, we have all the data that the people looking in from the outside don’t have, so we’re making informed decisions rather than guessing what’s happening in the industry.
This was part one of our interview with Jaime Staples. Part two will be out tomorrow!