The first person I discovered on Twitch was Lex Veldhuis and since then I’ve never looked back. As a poker enthusiast I was immediately gripped by his entertaining and knowledgeable streams. The community he has built really makes you feel part of a family. He is an incredibly funny character and one who keeps everyone fascinated.
I would like to thank Lex for taking the time out of his busy schedule to reply in such genuine detail to my questions. It means a real lot to get to speak to someone I consider a poker idol, and I hope you all enjoy learning a little more about him.

Lex Veldhuis

You recently celebrated your five-year anniversary on Twitch, and you’ve come a long way. What do you remember of those first days and weeks of Twitch?

One thing that really stands out to me from the first time is just how unprepared I was looking back on it. You know, I really thought, “I have my overlay, I have some sub badges, I think I’m ready to roll.” And I couldn’t have been more wrong. I really wish that I would have prepared a bit more. It’s also kind of like me to be a bit headstrong and just dive in because I was very familiar with the platform and I’ve always loved Twitch and I already thought because I watched it so often that I would know a lot about it.

I did have a clear vision of where I wanted to go, but it would have been really smart to talk to other streamers about things to look out for and some pitfalls that could have happened. But, mainly, I remember how intense it was, it was just a completely intense new experience, it was a lot happening at once, really. That’s what I remember of the first days and weeks, but I instantly fell in love with it and couldn’t wait to continue with it, so that was the biggest takeaway.

You already had notoriety in the poker world following your exploits at the 2009 WSOP Main Event bluffing everyone as well as those legendary experiences at High Stakes Poker. Do you feel this helped accelerate your progression on Twitch?

I think my past massively helped me accelerate on Twitch because people don’t understand how hard it is to go from zero viewers to five viewers and from five viewers to 20 viewers. For people that are completely self-made on Twitch, like earlier adapters like Fintan and Spraggy or people like Majin, GJ Reggie and PyeFace, they have come through the ranks and gathered people from zero viewers.

I started out at 100 to 150 viewers. I had some notoriety, which definitely helped. It also means that people view me as legitimate because I have a big poker past, and I think that throughout the years that has helped. On Twitch, as in any game, viewers love to point out what they think is wrong and I think sometimes I’m a little bit less of an easy target in that way, which makes for a little bit more of a chill chat.

I’ve kind of seen it all in poker, so I think that it helps viewership wise too, and it helps narrative wise and content wise, because I have stuff to talk about. I have all these experiences to talk about to people, like everybody wants to know what it is like to play with Negreanu, Ivey and Brunson, so I think it helped me a lot and still does actually, to be honest with you.

You’ve been a PokerStars Tam Pro member for a while and are now possibly the most recognizable face with the brand following Daniel Negreanu and Chris Moneymaker’s departure. How does it make you feel?

It makes me feel super proud. Honestly, just to read that question, it gives me that, you know, sense of like, “nah, you know”, that sort of feeling. I’m super proud of where my stream is at and what I’ve been able to achieve. I’m also just super happy that it’s been such a good long-lasting relationship with PokerStars.

I think that PokerStars, in terms of Twitch especially, is far and away ahead of the curve when it comes to ideas about Twitch, understanding the technology involved in communities, and all those things. So, I’m super happy with where I’m at and I can’t believe that this went from me playing online high stakes and then playing TV shows and playing live tournaments and EPTs, into just streaming on Twitch and back to my online roots.

I’m proud to wear the PokerStars badge and I’m really happy that the company recognizes the potential and how awesome Twitch is, so it’s cool to be at the forefront there, which is actually what I’m most excited about.

I’ll be very honest, it’s something that makes me proud, but if Fintan or Spraggy or whoever would pass me and be number one stream, then of course it’s going to trigger some competitiveness. But, you know, it’s not the goal for me to be a recognizable face or something. I think that we all share responsibility to grow the game that we love and I’m doing my part. But, at the same time, I’m also competitive to try and be the best version of myself that I can be while trying to stay true to myself.

Your Twitch streams are incredibly entertaining, how do you balance engaging with your audience and multi-tabling over eight tables all at once?

I think in terms of multitasking, there’s definitely a big part that comes from StarCraft. Playing that was really helpful and playing video games that required a lot of multitasking and mouse speed and being able to switch gears really helped. When I was grinding poker without streaming, I played 24 tables plus sometimes, so sometimes I would go up to 30 tables on a Sunday. I think that really helped me execute my strategy really quickly.

I have to say, I always thought that playing poker was super intensive, but streaming is like at least three times more intense. I feel if you want to do it right, if you want to engage the audience, I think you just have to find a sweet spot. The question is kind of the same as it is with people that start to play poker, they ask “Lex how many tables should I play?” The answer, as many as you can perform optimally and as long as you can still play your A game. I mean, it’s a given that you’re going to play less well on five tables as opposed to one table, but it could still maximize your profit by playing five instead of two or three.

And with streaming it’s the same thing. If you start missing important messages and chats or if somebody has a really nice message of, for instance, how the stream has helped them along the way or how the community has played into their personal life,  because you’re adding that $11 hyper that is requiring a lot more attention, then you need to cut down on tables.

That’s at least my vision for Twitch. I just know through experience where my sweet spot is at and sometimes I’ll notice I’m playing a bit too much and that I feel like rushed and that I feel like I’m not really looking at my tables enough, so it’s still a thing that I’m working on as well, and it varies. I mean, this is a real-life thing, sometimes I wake up and I’m tired. You know, if I haven’t slept well and I’m playing SCOOP, then I’m going to have a lot more trouble multi-tabling nine tables, playing three $2Ks, and trying to catch all the questions that come in from seven thousand people. So, every day is different, but it’s important to gauge that and adapt accordingly.

There’s nothing like a deep run or a day two to get the juices flowing, The chat will be exploding at the time. How do you keep yourself grounded without getting caught up too much in the moments?

That’s funny because I love being swept up by the chat in that hype and have my heart race. I have so much experience after 17 or maybe it’s almost 18 years of playing poker now of executing strategy through any type of situation that I find myself in, whether it’s playing high stakes cash on TV, playing deep in a tournament with cards up, playing online with people railing or friends of mine watching in real life. There are all these things that could happen where you could deviate from your strategy where I’m trained not to. So, I don’t really feel like emotions are in any way affecting my game, and emotions are a very powerful tool for me. I think sometimes emotions can throw people off their game. For me, emotions are very good because it keeps me competitive. It keeps me interested. It keeps me kind of feeling alive.

I have a lot of experience, so if I get mad when I’m playing, I’m releasing some negative energy and then I’m done with it and then I can move on. At the time where I’m releasing it, I could make the best fold of the session because I know that my execution strategy is still sound. I think people need to be careful when making decisions when they’re emotional, to ensure they’re still making sound strategic moves and not tilt decisions.

Lex Veldhuis

I always feel like this is a weird question, it’s a great question, but for me personally, if I give my take on, it is so personal to me and I have such a distinct way of going through the process. From an emotional point of view, I love being swept away by chat and I love the fact the community spams the chat with people saying that they had to walk out the room because it was so exciting and so tense or  they couldn’t watch the all-in, or there’s people closing their eyes and people waking up their neighbors by screaming, when I hit the river card. I mean, that hypes me up. You know, that makes me emotionally invested and I think that’s important. I like that.

That’s honestly how I play without an audience as well when I’m deep. I do get emotional. Luckily for me, that makes people more invested in it as well. But I have to be honest, if I would get swept up by the emotions and I would play worse because of it, I would change it. The fact that I can play my A-game while being like that just works for me, so no need in changing that necessarily.

Your Twitch stream showed your deep run in the SCOOP event in 2020 and reached a peak of approximately 58,000 concurrent viewers. You were the number one stream on Twitch at the time, do you feel a sense of accomplishment when it happened? Did it even matter that you just missed out on the final table?

Interesting question, because whatever I’m playing and whenever a special moment is happening, I’m always sitting there with a few hats on. On one hand I’m a poker pro, getting that deep and finishing 15th isn’t ideal. That’s the shot that has to work out so from a poker player’s perspective, it does matter. But as a general feeling, the way I experienced that day, it didn’t matter, it was such a huge win.

I’ve been watching Twitch since 2009, so I know exactly what it means to have big viewership and I remember so many moments where people broke records, were number one on Twitch, and were the channel that everyone flocked to, so to be in that position and to achieve that on the platform, that’s sensational.

I mean think about it, to be the global number one stream out of all those people streaming on a platform that I love was very special to me. Seeing that, I felt super emotional.

Going through the whole experience of going deep with Spraggy at the same time and having a stream sweating his cards, and the audience having both our tables up, it felt like that moment was lightning in a bottle. You just can’t orchestrate that. It just happened and it felt really special. I’ve been close to breaking the record a few times and I’m definitely kind of a milestone guy, I love breaking my biggest score, peak viewers, stuff like that is important. I think it gives you like a moment to step back and appreciate what has happened and to of step back and appreciate that moment. I love that. I absolutely love that.

Your brand-new set up at home shows that you’re incredibly dedicated to Twitch, you’ve invested thousands more into studying your love for the game and it has reached new bounds. Will this ultimately extend Your stay on Twitch even further?

Oh, for sure. This past year, I’ve made a huge investment in longevity for me because in my mind, streamers have expiration dates because it is very taxing. Your life is on camera. It can be mentally draining sometimes as you put a lot of time into it and people have a lot of expectations of you. So, it’s a very high ask, but huge reward as well.

I just thought to myself, “OK, how do I keep poker fun and how do I extend my life span in poker to where it piqued my interest?” Because that’s essential for me, that I’m interested and triggered by what I do. So that’s where studying comes around. I’ve invested a lot in studying. And then, how do you extend your work life? What is in your control to take care of yourself, think about your mental health, but also just think about your setup. What is your environment that you work in? And since I work at home, I have a lot of influence on my environment. When we moved, I decided to build a soundproof studio in the house, and it’s been magical.

During Blowout Series on PokerStars where I have a room at night where I can scream for an ace on the river while Myrthe is sleeping two rooms away and she can’t hear me is amazing. I think that, and this this is all guessing, I’ve always thought to myself,  “Well, you know, I’ve been on Twitch for five years now” and at first I would think, “I hope I have two or three years in me.” And now that I’m in this situation with the studio and  I’m loving poker, I just don’t see a situation where I’m not streaming in four years, so I think that my current investments in it has increased my streaming career by years at the very minimum.

So, I’m happy that it paid off because that’s exactly what my goal was. I feel like it’s very easy when you love doing something to kind of forget how much you love it and to keep investing in it to kind of keep that excitement level high is hard sometimes. It’s easy to get complacent or to take something for granted, so last year I had this moment like, “OK, I clearly love this, I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world, how do I keep doing this and how do I keep it interesting.” And that’s when those investments came up.

You’ve recently just become a father. Huge congrats. This will be new territory for you. Balancing a newborn with the rigorous hours of streaming, keeping up with your schedule and whatnot. How do you plan on balancing the two as well as having personal time with the family?

Throughout the years, I’ve definitely had some time balancing issues, with my relationship, family, friends, and streaming, because with streaming the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.

If I would stream seven days a week instead of four days a week, then I am going to have a much bigger viewership at the end of the year. But something has got to give, so you have to find a balance. For me, what really worked over the past few years is cutting outside projects, so if somebody wants to do a co-op, or if somebody wants to do a podcast, or they want to work on a project together, those are the things you kind of like have to scrape off if you want to make sure that the stream is solid.

At a certain point, I was having meetings and brainstorms in the evening and then working the next day and it just kind of burns you out. I learned to step away from that and I’ve also learned that the stream is the most important when work related. As long as I stream and I stream well, it will be OK.

So now with being a dad, I have reasonable working hours for a busy working dad. I stream like 40 to 50 hours a week, which is quite a lot. But one of those sessions is like 15 hours, so that already cuts it down. I definitely plan on spending tons of time with my family, so I want to make sure that I’m spending at least like two and a half days a week, committed to my son and my fiancée, and I keep evenings free. It actually looks like a pretty reasonable working week and  I know how to protect my time with my family, and most people that have kids have to work, so it should not be harder for me to plan around that because my time on stream is a healthy spot in my life.

I don’t think I will have any issues navigating through that with my kid as well. I’m just going to spend lots of time with him, be there, and make sure that if I have Saturdays off, then Saturdays are off. And if I stream on Sunday, that means that I’m going to have Monday off. So, in the end, I have a very healthy working week. And if I have to shave off anything, it’s going to be outside of the stream. You might see a little bit less of things like graphics updates or me appearing somewhere else or, cutting down on video game day or something. So, my schedule is already healthy and I’m just going to continue on, as I have been.

Lex Live, a great event to engage and meet up with your community, was unfortunately postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Will we be doing that again once the pandemic ends eventually?

The plan to do Lex live will always be there. I definitely want to make Lex Live 3 happen, but I don’t think with this current situation it’s the time to make any firm plans.

Lex Live is a poker festival, but most of all, it’s a community event. People treat it as their vacation; they save up for it. They actually spend their vacation money on it. When people travel to a poker tournament, usually the hotel and travel is the smallest part of their whole trip, compared to the buy-ins. But at my event, travel and hotel is definitely the biggest. So, I have no plans in terms of dates, I’m pretty much just monitoring what happens in the world, and I definitely won’t be the first poker/community event that’s going to be back. I really want to be responsible to my viewers, my fans and everyone involved with Lex Live, so I can guarantee you that it will be back, but when, I wouldn’t really be able to tell right now.

We’re in the same boat as everyone in the world, so we’re going to have to wait and see. But I’ll definitely be on the lookout for another Lex Live because I think that’s kind of one of the gems that came from streaming, meeting up with people and having a good time with  people that are like minded, have similar interests, share the same jokes, and share the same experiences online. It’s one of the most gratifying experiences that came from streaming for me.

Lastly, what is next for you on Twitch? Do you have any inside scoop you can reveal to us that may get your audience?

I think I’m kind of in an upswing in terms of quality, like my poker play is high quality, and that’s relative to me, right. I can 100 percent say that I’m playing the best poker now that I’ve almost ever been, especially in tournaments. I’m still continuing studying even on parental leave. I’ve been studying and getting coaching, so my poker is going to continue to get better. I have in-house graphics people, so the quality of the stream has been improving leaps and bounds. That will be no different. In terms of studio, I’ve still only used like 60 percent of what the studio can do, so there is a lot of cool stuff that we can start doing this year.

Last year my dad passed away and I took two months off, I have a baby now and we’re getting married this year, I feel like this has been such a huge transition year for me between two big periods in my life. Some sad, some super happy. But I think that, this really sets the groundwork for great continuity, and I just want to sit down and stream. I’ve had so many weeks where I couldn’t or when, you know, clearly, I was grieving for my dad, and because of those things happening, I haven’t had much time to just sit down and play a weekday schedule.

I really think that from this point on, you’re going to see kind of what the stream looked like a year ago and earlier than that. It’ll be stream, stream, stream, stream consistently and a lot of new stuff. If there’s one thing I want to try, it would be to do some cool collaborations, because I’ve got a lot of really good friends on Twitch that are doing awesome stuff with the stream, so I’ll be on the lookout for that and lots more poker. Just more of the same that I hope you guys have grown to know and love.