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Guide to Streaming Poker on Twitch.tv

28,305 Views on 11/5/16

Our guide on streaming poker on Twitch.tv covers everything you need to know about showing your game play on this insanely popular platform.

Article image

Above - Twitch star and Team Pokerstars Pro Jason "JCarver" Somerville

Streaming poker via Twitch.tv is all the rage right now. While the main goal for most of the streamers is becoming "internet-famous" getting into twitch partner program and/or start generating some added revenue streaming your poker sessions can be beneficial in many other ways.

Even if you fail to gain a substantial following or you'll gain it at a very slow pace the act of streaming can contribute to your bottom line by forcing you to be more alert and more disciplined. Not to mention that interacting with the viewers is a fun way of mitigating the tediousness associated with playing long MTT marathons.

Whatever your personal reason for streaming might be here's a quick guide on how to get started.




Hardware

Step one. You need a PC. Unless you're reading this on a mobile device you already have one so you might be good here. I'm saying 'might' because streaming is fairly taxing on your PC and it requires a reasonably modern machine. Fortunately, streaming your desktop and a few poker tables is far less demanding than streaming modern games so unless your computer already had his 5th birthday you can take a swing at Twitch. There are too many computer parts and different laptop models to list them all, but here's what twitch has to say about the recommended PC specs for streaming:

CPU:Intel Core i5-4670 or AMD Equivalent (Compare your CPU)

MEMORY: 8GB DDR3 SDRAM

OS:Windows 7 Home Premium

Those are actually a bit above your average PC especially if it wasn't built with gaming and or somewhat heavy productivity in mind. Fortunately, Twitch is overshooting a bit and when it comes to streaming something a bit less demanding like poker you might even get away with a highly clocked (3GHz or more) desktop dual-core Pentium CPU (something like Intel Pentium G3258 might be a great part if your poker workload is not very heavy and you're on a very tight budget).

That being said for the optimal experience a strong 4 core CPU is a must. This is even more true if your poker workload is heavy as it is (tracking software, huge database, additional programs etc.). Here are some examples of CPU's that are suitable for streaming. You can check your own part against the list or consider it when upgrading or buying a new PC:




Low Budget:

Intel Pentium G3258 (or any other dual-core processor manufactured after 2011 with at least 3.0GHz clock speed)

Intel i3 Series (from 5-year-old i3-2100 to current i3-6100 etc.)

AMD Athlon 860K (and other models from the last two generation of Athlon series CPU's like 870K, 880K, 760K, 750 etc.)

AMD A8-7650K (and other AMD APU processors with at least four cores like A8-6600K, A8-5600K etc.)

Keep in mind that those are budget solutions and while they might (and most likely will) work for light workloads they are below the official twitch specs so buy at your own risk.

Below - High end streaming setup




Mid-Range:

Intel i5 Series (from i5-2400 made five years ago to the newest i5-6600K)

AMD FX-Series (from FX-6300 to FX-8350 etc.)

This is pretty much what twitch recommends. Either solid 4 core CPU from Intel or 6-8 core CPU from AMD.

While it might seem like having more cores is better (and it usually is to a point) AMD solutions are actually slightly worse than Intel (unless very heavy multitasking is involved) since even though they technically have more threads they aren't as well engineered as the 4 cores in i5 processors. In any case, if you have one of those CPU's you shouldn't have any problems with streaming.




High End:

Intel i7 Series (i7-2600 and above)

For the enthusiast out there.



Laptop CPU's and Laptops in General

Everything written above applies to the mobile processors found in laptops. Though they have a slightly different naming scheme and they are usually underclocked compared to the desktop counterparts as long as you have access to quality 4 cores/threads you should be fine. If you bought a mid-range to high-end business/gaming laptop manufactured in the last 4-5 years or so you're probably ready to go.

That being said laptops are usually considerably worse at dealing with heavy workloads than desktop PC's since the parts are slightly underpowered to suit the limited cooling capabilities offered by  confined space.

Streaming poker on a solid laptop is obviously doable, there's just more room for error and unpleasantries (like overheating, thermal throttling etc.) than in the case of desktop PC's.




Memory

Twitch recommends 8GB and that's the way to go. If you have or can upgrade to 16GB that's even better (and since RAM prices are constantly going down you might as well do that at some point), anything above that will yield some serious diminishing returns and is almost certainly not worth it.

4GB - similar to the low-end CPU's listed above - is probably good enough for light workloads but we can't make any guarantees.




Operating System

Windows 7, 8 and 10 provide the best experience when it comes to streaming. XP might work but since Microsoft ceased the support for that OS you'll most likely run into problems (besides it's not a good idea to use an unsupported system if you're a poker player).

You can also stream on OS X if you have a Mac and on Linux if you're using it, but since both of those operating systems seriously restrict the number of options you have when choosing a poker room and tracking software most poker players will be using windows a based PC.




Graphics Card

Skip it! You obviously need some sort of a graphics card to power on your PC, but as long as it's capable of displaying things on the screen it is good enough for poker. The card integrated with Intel CPU's and AMD APU's is more than enough. Combining AMD FX and Athlon CPU's (that don't have a graphics card integrated into them) with a super cheap dedicated graphics card is also fine.

Obviously, the situation changes if you want to stream games but that's outside of the scope of this article (we're here to stream some cards!).




Capture Card and/or Additional Streaming PC

You might have heard about those if you ever researched the idea of streaming. Forget about it. Buying a capture card and/or building a second PC to act as a streaming server will be extremely inefficient for most mortals trying to stream poker. You can explore this topic once you're a Twitch rockstar with thousands of viewers trying to transition into streaming modern games (and even then it might not be necessary).




Web Cam

This is very important. Believe it or not, but the presence of your glorious face on the screen might be the difference between people sticking around or just clicking through your broadcast and moving on to someone else. While there are tons and tons of webcams on the market there's only one industry standard for streaming called Logitech 920C.

Even some of the biggest streamers on Twitch aren't buying anything more expensive. It's a gold standard, happy medium, the way to go.

You can obviously mess around with something like the webcam in your laptop, but the better quality of your stream is the higher chance you have at attracting viewers.

Below - Logitech 920C webcam




Microphone

Interacting with viewers is the whole point of streaming and you can't do that very well without a microphone. The mic that's built into the aforementioned Logitech 920C webcam might be a great temporary solution. If you want something that's extremely cheap you can consider Zalman Zm-Mic1.

For better or worse USB condenser microphones are basically the industry standard and while some audio enthusiasts might object most people who aren't into audio production etc. will be blown away by the sound quality of the ubiquitous Blue Yeti or something like Audio-Technica AT2020 USB and unless you see becoming and audiophile in your near future there's no need to look for other solutions like classic XLR mic + audio interface.




Internet Connection

This might sound a bit too obvious to even mention, but there are some things to keep in mind. First of all, if you are able to plug in your ethernet cable directly into your PC - do that. It's generally far more stable than Wi-Fi.

Also to stream on Twitch.tv you need a sufficient upload speed. Since streaming in a resolution below 720p is probably unacceptable in the age when some mobile phones come with 4k displays you need 2mb/s upload speed at a very minimum. Anything in between 5mb/s and 10mb/s will guarantee a great experience.

If you're not sure what's your upload speed (download is far more important for most people) you can check it out at Speedtest.net.




Twitch.tv Account

Another obvious element that's worth mentioning. The most important thing is being able to find your unique stream key (Dashboard -> Stream Key) and not showing it to anyone ever since that way you'd enable everyone who knows the key to stream on your account even if they don't know your password.

Other than that, familiarize yourself with the dashboard and settings. Fill out your profile with a short bio, schedule etc. Consider disabling/enabling language filters. Learn how to change the name of your broadcast and the game you're streaming.




Software

While there are multiple programs that allow you to stream let's continue with the theme of sticking with industry standard and discuss by far the most popular solution - Open Broadcaster Software. It's free, open source, powerful and might as well be your one stop shop.

Here's a quick and dirty guide on how to set up basic options in OBS so you can fire your test stream as soon as possible.

Below - Setting the OBS for streaming




- Download and install the program from Obsproject.com

- Open the Settings menu.

- In the General Settings tab set-up a new profile (type your desired profile name in Setting Profile box and click Add) so that the OBS remembers your configuration.

- In Broadcast Settings tab choose the Twitch from Streaming Service drop-down menu. Choose the server that's closest to your location from the FMS URL dropdown. Copy/paste the aforementioned Stream Key from your Twitch.tv account's Dashboard to the Stream Key box in OBS.

Another important thing specifically for poker players is to set-up a delay so that viewers can't see your cards in real time and therefore try to play super-user and take your hard earned money.

Anything between 1-3 minutes (for cash game players) and 3-5minutes (for SNG/Tournament players should work fine). Keep in mind that in OBS you're setting up the delay in seconds, not minutes! Remember to always click Apply after making changes.

- At this point, you'll most likely see some nasty looking red letters bellow all of the options in Broadcast Settings menu. Don't panic and follow the instructions.  Those might be slightly different for everybody, but you'll most likely have to tweak some settings in the Video and Advanced tabs to make your streaming settings optimized for Twitch.tv.

If you get stuck there are plenty of resources on the web. You can also ask me a specific question below this article.

Below - Setting the OBS for streaming


- In Encoding tab check the x264 Encoder and both CBR options. When it comes to the Max Bitrate (kb/s) the value you should input will be different for everyone, but fortunately, there's a general rule you can follow.

Open Speedtest.net website, go to the Settings and change Speed Measurement to kilobits. Use roughly 60% of your Upload Speed in kilobits as bitrate in OBS. Remember that going above 4000-5000kb/s might not be the best idea since it will exclude some potential viewers with slow internet connection from watching your stream. 

- In Video Settings choose the resolution you want to stream at and the number of frames per second.

Again this will be different for everyone, and it depends on your bitrate and monitor but 1280x720 and 1920x1080 and 30FPS will be the most popular options.

- If you have one of those powerful processors check the Use Multithreaded Optimizations in Advanced Settings tab. You can also consider setting x264 CPU Preset at Faster.

- Voila! Once the nasty red letters mentioned above disappear you're ready to fire off your first test stream. It might be a good idea to visit a Video and Audio tab to make sure you have your graphics card and microphone selected.

Once you get familiar with the software changing things up in Advanced settings might also be a good idea but for now, you are ready to go.

Below - Jason Somerville streaming his Ultimate Poker games




Setting-Up Scene in OBS

Now that you've dealt with the Settings menu you have to set up a basic scene in the main OBS window so that the program knows what do you want to broadcast. Simply add a new scene, add a source (Monitor Capture is the option you want for streaming poker) and in theory you can call it a day.

Viewers will be able to see what you see on your desktop and that might be enough at the beginning of your streaming journey. However, you can significantly increase the perceived quality of your stream just by adding a Video Capture Device (your webcam) and few overlay Images.

Setting up the scene is very simple, you can drag and drop or resize the elements in the preview window, just keep in mind that the Sources in your Scene are displayed in order from top to bottom so if you can't see your webcam video even if you added it to the scene it might be hiding behind your monitor capture etc.

Use Google image search to find some free overlay images and place them above the Monitor Capture in your OBS scene. Once you're happy with the look of your stream click Start Streaming and you're on your way to becoming internet-famous. Avoid getting caught up  in small details and don't try to make everything perfect before your first stream starts.

Once you get familiar with playing and talking to a small audience you can research additional stream improvements like chatbots, follower alerts, donations etc. etc.

Below - Setting the scene in OBS




Finding Your Voice

There's no air-tight recipe for a Twitch success but a recent example of Parker 'tonkaaaa' Talbot shows that overnight success is possible... if you're playing the high stakes tournaments. Those of us who are less fortunate have to build viewership on the combination of education and entertainment.

If you're a solid player and you enjoy talking strategy make it your main thing. If you don't like sharing your reasoning with the viewers try to be entertaining, engage in a conversation, acknowledge the regular members of your audience.

Being yourself is far easier to sustain in the long run than building up a persona but both approaches might be valid. Remember to have fun with it!

Below - Parker 'tonkaaaa' Talbot streams his game




After reading this guide you should be able to start your journey with streaming poker via Twitch.tv if you have any questions don't hesitate to ask either below this article or using PokerVIP forum. Good luck!




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Matt is predominantly a mental game and planning expert, with a terrific knowledge of science, meditation, practical methods of improvement and of course, a good level of poker skill! Look out for his strategy articles and follow him for hi ... Read More

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