Exclusive Jaime Staples Interview Part2
Here is part two of our exclusive interview with Jaime Staples. You can read part one here: Part1
Interview and text by: 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.
BB: Since you started streaming how far has your game progressed? What about your average buy-in?
JS: It’s been a crazy road. When I started playing poker I primarily played small and mid-stakes tournaments. I would play maybe the Big $55 and under. Then I would sell action if I wanted to play the Sunday Million or the Big $109 or something.
My bankroll throughout college fluctuated between $10,000 and $25,000, and it was just back and forth from there. I’m down short I would move down. If I have more money I would move up, right? That’s really how my stream started, but then it became different in that there was revenue coming from outside sources so I didn’t really have to rely on poker day to day to live the lifestyle I wanted to live.
That then opened up a bunch more questions. So some of these tournaments are marketing tools. Say that I have a -5% ROI in a $1000 tournament, so I’m losing $50. But the equity that I’ll create in the stream of playing that tournament, and bringing in additional viewers, or the perception of me as a high stakes player, perhaps it’s worth playing that. Or the experience I’ll gain playing against these players allowing myself the ability to improve faster, and getting more comfortable in those situations. So a new situation presented itself where I could afford to take shots in games that I wasn’t proven at, and I hadn’t earned my keep at through poker. That, just like everything else we’re talking about, is a balancing act.
So I moved up to the high stakes and for eight to nine months I was playing all the $1000’s every week, and everything like that. And I just got crushed for like nine months! Really really destroyed; huge downswings and people are going mad saying I’m the worst etc etc.
BB: Is this the infamous $60,000 downswing then?
JS: Yeah. It was about a $60,000 downswing, but a lot of those were $1000’s and $2000’s. It did do a lot of damage to the community though. There’s a significant faction out there that now thinks I don’t have anything good to say about poker at all, and I just suck. My answer to that is I’m playing against the best in the world, and they’re going to beat up on me a little bit. Don’t hate me for trying, just because I have the ability to try.
BB: How much did you learn from all that? Was it an invaluable experience, or do you wish that was a beating you never had to take?
JS: On the poker side I definitely did learn. I learned quite a bit. But what it did to the community, I don’t necessarily think it was worth it. I should have been a little bit more selective because people are a little results orientated, maybe. And then a little bit more short term in terms of their thinking than what a typical poker player would be. So it’s a pretty common occurrence now when people come to the stream and think “well he lost $60,000 last year so he’s a terrible player.” Which doesn’t really have a lot of finesse to it!
I’ve been beating up on the Big $22 for six years, and still crushing that field, and I’ll continue to crush that field. So, the damage it did to the community, I think, was net negative, but for my poker game, I think it really did improve, and over the last couple of months I’ve been working hard on my game. I’m winning at about 8bb/100 right now, and playing an average buy in over around $40. That’s a decently high buy in and that’s a really good win rate for those stakes.
I’m going to keep doing that for the next two months or so, and when the Spring Championship (SCOOP) comes along I’m going to fire again, and maybe this time the shots will stick.
BB: What’s different about your stream? What do you bring to the party that others don’t?
JS: I think I bring a level of realness, or vulnerability that no one else really wants to.
BB: Interesting that you’re happy to admit this. I feel that by opening yourself up like this, a lot of the haters out there are thinking they’re just as good a player as you, but are jealous because they couldn’t bring themselves to open up in public like you do in order to achieve the same goals.
JS: Yeah, that’s the thing, and I understand that’s why people push back against me. The vulnerability and that I put myself out there; opening myself up and putting it all out. This then leaves weakness to be attacked from people that need to feel better in life, or whatever. Maybe they’re having a rough time.
Then there’s the poker perspective. From a poker player’s thinking, they see these Twitch streamers, and the value that poker professionals get from Twitch streamers is like “are they good at poker?” That’s what’s fun for a poker professional to watch; really good poker.
That is not who I’m streaming to. That is a very different thing than the whole audience I’m talking to. There’s players out there who are ten times better at poker than me, and put in way more time playing poker than me. Yet here I am with a couple of thousand viewers telling me what a great player I am, and getting paid by companies to do it. That’s got to be frustrating for some of these guys, and I understand that. But being a great poker player is not what this is about. Maybe it is about that for some people, but a stream can be about giving people something to laugh at, or giving people something to laugh with.
BB: I agree with this 100%. There’s guys out there streaming Hearthstone at the lower levels and yet they’re giving their viewers something of value to keep them. It’s not about being the ultimate best.
JS: Exactly. There’s different reasons for different people. Some people are there for the strategy, to get better and make more money. But the vast majority are there because they find it entertaining, or the sense of community. They get to log on and hang out with people and grind for eight hours every day, and that’s what it’s about. This is where there’s the biggest disconnect with my biggest opponents. They don’t understand that value within their reality; they don’t see any value in that sort of thing.
BB: Do you think that’s because this is such a relatively new thing, and the world’s not fully online with it yet?
JS: Well, the internet is still young. Never mind live streaming. This is all new where we communicate in mass and hear so many opinions at the same time. So live streaming has just begun; we’ve just seen Youtube put out a live stream; we’ve just seen Facebook open up the opportunity; Instagram recently; Twitter with Periscope. The biggest companies in the world are getting on board with this idea; it’s just beginning.
BB: Who or what has been the biggest influence on your game or career?
JS: In my poker game it’s been such a mish mash of different people. So I’m going to cop out on this answer and say the poker community as a whole. I’ve learned from so many different people. I’ve had two coaches; I’ve been a member of six or seven different training sites; I’ve used five or six different software tools to help myself learn; read a couple of books here and there. Any one of these is a cornerstone of why I’ve been able to progress.
In terms of streaming, I think Jason Somerville led the way on this platform. From a creative side, and also from a business side. I learned a ton from him coming up, and still learn from him now in what he does.
BB: Do you know Jason in real life? Is he a friend?
JS: I do yeah. We talk about once a month. I went to his event at Run it Up Reno last year, which was pretty awesome.
BB: What about your biggest career highlight so far?
JS: I signed with PokerStars April 1st in 2015, and that was a lifelong dream of mine to be a sponsored player with the biggest poker site in the world. It was a really big deal to me. But on that day I won the Big $109! Which was just poetic. My biggest online score ever at that point. Then a month later I won the Big $109 again, sort of back to back. So that was really the highlight when it comes to poker and streaming.
When it comes to live I think my deep run in PokerStars Championship Bahamas. I was on the feature table for a while, and then cashed for $19,000 after getting down to the last four or five tables and falling a bit short in the end. I had a big opportunity and it just felt special.
BB: What has been your family’s reaction to the whole thing?
JS: Well, six years ago when I started playing poker they didn’t really understand it; they were definitely concerned. They didn’t understand the difference between poker and Blackjack which is natural. Then I started making enough money to live and get by, so now they’re thinking this is a fad but it’s fine.
But then with my Twitch stream and signing with PokerStars, the local newspaper did an article on me. Pocketfives did an article after interviewing my parents. Now they’re like “okay, this is pretty cool,” and they’re really proud of me. I always say parents are risk averse and results orientated; they need to see the success, and they don’t want to see their offspring go through any chance of failure. But sometimes you’ve got to say you’re just going to do your thing.
BB: What about health and fitness in your life? I keep hearing about this perpetual cycle of stopping smoking and starting again, which I can sympathise heavily with.
JS:I think my opponents like to exaggerate about all of that. I did quit smoking for about three months, and then went on a 30 day downswing immediately; I was so frustrated at the world. I couldn’t stream properly and struggled with that.
In terms of weight I’m a very big guy, and always have been. Especially with the sedentary lifestyle of poker. It’s something I haven’t been able to adjust to yet. But it’s always been a problem in my life, and something that I’m always working to get better at. I’ve made a lot of progress recently on understanding my habits and how they affect my life.
I do open up to my audience every once in a while, and they get to see the struggle; see the failures.
BB: What about mental game? This is the latest buzz-word in the poker world.
JS: I’ve had a couple of sessions with Elliot Roe, which I’ve really enjoyed. I do say though that my mental game might be my strongest attribute in poker. As a junior golfer from 13 to 18, I was training to try and be a professional golfer and I’d had mental lessons, golf psychology lesson etc.
In golf sometimes you hit a shot and have two to three minutes to wait before the next one. That mental space has to be filled with something to give yourself the best chance of success, and I managed to transfer that across into poker really easily. My perspective is that poker is a long term game and I’m always trying my best so I don’t beat myself up. And the luck; who gives a shit? It doesn’t help to worry about something outside of my control. I have no problems with how much money I’m going to have at the end of the week or the month; it all doesn’t matter. I’m in this for the long term which is all about making good decisions.
BB: Okay thanks for your time Jaime. I really appreciate you doing this for us. Is there anything else of interest that want to end with?
JS: Thanks. I appreciate the opportunity and would like to pass on that I stream on twitch.tv/pokerstaples and I’m going to be streaming as much as possible through all of February, all of April and May. I’m going to be putting in over 250 days of streaming this year. And I also have my Youtube channel where I put my highlights of every single day for people who don’t have time to watch the whole stream, and want to keep up to date with what’s going on. That’s at youtube.com/Pokerstaples
So that’s me and what I do and I’d love to see some of your audience out there.