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We All Want the Big Money

Updated: Sep 6, 2021

LATB was also wise to showcase Vanessa "Mamacita" Alvarez, as their viewer numbers show.

No one, I don’t think, doubts Ryan Feldman’s acumen. Certainly not his hustle. He’s the man who brought together the first million-dollar game in poker livestream history. It was a heroic effort for those of us visiting family at Christmastime a couple years ago and had nothing else to watch and nowhere to go.

Feldman, after relinquishing his co-ownership in Live at the Bike is now going head-to-head with his old comrades in the poker livestream racket with the launch of Hustler Casino Live.

Part of the allure of these poker productions is the idyllic constancy of the streams. Like baseball, it’s tremendous background chatter you can tune into and out of as your night demands. When the Yankees wrap up between 7 or 8 p.m. on the West Coast, it’s time to fire up YouTube to catch the last couple hours of high-stakes pots in the tens of thousands.

While Feldman’s business partner and on-felt avatar Nick Vertucci holds down a seat in the games like a gravel-voiced boxer dog in gradient sunglasses, the livestream has been brilliant so far. It’s a slick production with the kind of characters ESPN used to gleefully televise before tourno-bot Euros took over the World Series of Poker.

From a place of pure production, Hustler Casino Live has it going on. But from a content marketing standpoint, the more mature Live at the Bike still holds an edge while the upstart competitor finds its sea legs. (Though Hustler Casino Live hit on one thing it should build on that Live at the Bike doesn’t really do, but more on that later.)

Live at the Bike has one main component that makes it stand out: a playful voice that’s reflected in the thumbnail cards it creates for its hands of the day on YouTube and repurposes across channels. Yang’s Torture Chamber, $18,000 Pot Aces Cracked, Andy Stacks “I’m Baaack” might be hands that involve serious money, but they take it about as seriously as your average big-money player takes blowing through hundreds on hopeless golf course bets.

Contrast that with Hustler Casino Live’s approach that uses a fairly straight-ahead, templated house style, using easily identifiable brand colors. I tend to be ambivalent about this approach. It’s great when you’re scrolling through your full stream to be able to instantly identify posts from certain brands, but when you go to individual channel pages it’s so repetitive you go snowblind.

In general, Live at the Bike has a strong content mix on its channels, alternating previews for upcoming shows with teasers for hands of the day, photos from the action, and short video clips. So far, Hustler Casino Live has leaned mainly on promo cards for upcoming livestreams on Instagram, while it’s just starting to dabble in video clips on Twitter. Hustler Casino Live, curiously, also opts not to run out a Facebook page, which is one more place it could go toe-to-toe with its older brother.

(Both shows fall into the same trap of mostly reposting existing graphics instead of reworking them for individual sizes/shapes per channel. It’s less of an issue than it used to be now that IG allows alternate sizes on mobile, but on desktop you still end up with graphics that get clipped. It’s more work but it makes me insane when things aren’t optimized. Yes, yes I’m fun at parties, I know. Shut up.)

What the folks who run Hustler Casino Live’s channels should zoom in on is this post, with a player named Mikki who appeared on the first high stakes stream with Antonio Esfandiari. Set aside the 6,000-plus plays the video got, this is great stuff you’re not getting anywhere else. It gets viewers front-and-center with a dude who spent a large portion of the stream talking about his misadventures in trying to get his dick tattooed. Ain’t no Swedish GTO grinder gonna give you stories like that.

Live at the Bike is killing it, but if Hustler Casino Live hones in on the gold they’re sitting on, they could catch up in a right hurry.

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