My Vlogger In Paradise Experience
Updated: Oct 2, 2019
The PokerStars Players No Limit Holdem Championship (PSPC) is becoming a can’t-miss event taking place in the Bahamas in January 2019. PokerStars is adding $8 million to the prize pool, plus an extra $1 million to the first place prize! PokerStars is giving away more than 300 $30,000 Platinum Passes ($25k entry into the tournament and a trip to the Bahamas) via satellites, freerolls, and fun Platinum Pass Adventure challenges. One of which was the #VloggerInParadise challenge.
To win the Platinum Pass participants must complete 5 vlogging challenges over a 5 week period. Each vlog must be between 5-10 minutes in length and cover a specific theme/question for that week. The judges, Jeff Gross & Andrew Neeme, were to narrow the field down to five finalists and select a winner based on the following criteria:
Creativity Storytelling Humor Trying something outside your comfort zone Doing what you're passionate about in life
Of all the Platinum Pass Adventure challenges provided I felt that this was more my speed. Vlogging meshes well with my personality and I still felt a hint of regret from not launching my channel the previous year. This was my call to action, the spark I needed to get this puppy off the ground. LFG!
Week 1 - Tell us who you are and what poker means to you
Like most first steps in life, the first video was the hardest to make. It took so many takes that I lost count. I had the camera set up on a tripod in my dining room, it was very vanilla. I didn't like my content, it felt forced as if I was reading a script that was just handed to me. It was demoralizing, I sat on my couch and thought of all the excuses I could tell my wife as to why vlogging isn't for me. Then in a hopeless venting session of self-loathing, I turned on the camera and proceeded to talk shit to myself. In my mind I had quit. Then I looked at the playback, and it was my best content of the day, it looked natural, it flowed well, and most importantly it was me. There's potential here after all, my motivation was back! I took the camera with me to the kitchen, popped open a beer and started talking. The vlog was up and running! Hazah!
Week 2 - Film a home game or do a hand analysis
The problem with week 2 is that I am not a fan of hand histories in general.
HH Rant: I feel like studying hand histories is working harder, not smarter. In 2018, it's the most primitive way of describing hands. Hand histories are one moment in a vacuum, in which we are at the hero's mercy. We have to trust that the hero is not being bias, or incorrect about the current dynamic, player ranges, tone of the game, etc. Some players don't even give a background, or proper set up to the hand. Why should I rip my hair out over multiple HH's when other content can give me a bigger edge with a more complex understanding of the entire situation. For this reasoning, I'll usually pass on hand histories. Rant over.
Without being dull or boring, I wanted to showcase how many poker room options are available on the Las Vegas Strip. Just like in the video, I searched what was trending for inspiration. It was quickly apparent what I had to do. Floss my ass off! The flossing came out pretty good, if I could change anything, I'd edit each dancing bit a little tighter. Knowing what I know now, I could of easily made it a 40 second piece as opposed to its current 2 minute run time. We live and we learn.
Coordinating and filming the flossing took up most of my week, so at this point it was a race against time to get the hand history content shot and edited. I left myself one day to shoot and one day to edit, YIKES! The next 48 hours were going to have to be clutch.
Off to Harrahs Poker Room! I wanted to come off as an over confident know-it-all that clearly played ass backwards. I explained to the table that I was going to be playing like an idiot for the camera, they skeptically nodded in acknowledgment. I then proceed to shoot some nit folds and a spaz flop shove. My original idea for the theme of the HH was to express how information was more important than winning. Knowing I was going to cut the audio, I jammed all-in pre-flop while telling the table what I had, so they could call with better (in theory) and win. It didn't work out that way, they folded the first two times and when one of them called, not only was I ahead, I won the hand. Wut? Shortly after my phone's memory was full and couldn't function. I had to make due with what I had. I hurried home, muted all the audio, popped open my strongest IPA, and started my voice over adventure. The rest is poker comedy bliss.
Luckily, I already knew how I wanted to shoot the PIEsolver scene, and it went from mind to video almost seamlessly, there's no greater feeling as a creator than that.
*PioSOLVER (pronounced 'Pee-oh' solver) is one of the latest tools being used to analyse hands and break down game theory optimal solutions.
Week 3 - Interview a person who has accompanied you on your poker/life journey
Dan Goldman is the man! Previous to the start of the competition, I was recently house/dog sitting for him. We were hanging out at his house bar and he told Gibby and I a story that I've heard before, but it had been quite some time since I've enjoyed it. He told the story with his usual spirit and animation. It was like watching a quality stand up bit that I haven't seen in a couple years, it still hit the mark and touched the feels as if it was the first time I heard it. Dan qualified as the perfect interviewee.
Interview week! My goal was for the interview to feel like a fluent conversation, not just a gauntlet of predetermined questions. I've been a co-host on a few podcasts before and my best experience was with 3 -4 people involved, 3 people being the sweet spot for a fun dynamic. Brent Harrington had just moved back to Las Vegas a couple days ago, so the timing was perfect for him to be our third. The location had to be social, yet quiet. Dan's new bar was perfect! We set up the cameras, tried out a few angles until I fell in love with the long bar view. We started drinking and we nearly forgot we were recording until the camera yelled at me because the battery died. We had a lot of fun and Dan crushed it, I thanked him with a big hug that turned into a Chris Moneymaker spoof hug (caught on video). Perhaps, Dan was the lucky charm for Chris and the initial boom. Maybe, our hug could be the begging of another. Fun to think about, but first I have to win that Platinum Pass!
Week 4 - Reflect on your happiest poker moment
Up until this point I had not received any feedback from any of the top three influencers (Jeff Gross, Andrew Neeme, PokerStars) of the competition. The PokerStars Blog had already posted their early favorites. Jeff Gross recently had a live stream telling his viewers how impressed he was with Oliver Biles and how it was going to be very difficult for any other vlogger to top his content and win. My pride was shot, I put so much effort and thought into my content, and I wasn't even recognized on the smallest of levels. I understand why most vloggers quit at this point. It felt like an unbeatable uphill battle, but we keep grinding. My poker mindset is strong, but this vlogging life was new to me. I leaned on my own personal poker mantra. There's no such thing as "deserve" in poker, we put in the work, we prepare, we show up, we play, and we let the cards fall as they may.
Then on September 15th it happened, I got a comment from PokerStars.
Now that's the dopamine I needed! Recognition! I do exist. My pride was still shot, but maybe my content was just buried in the abyss of other vlogs. There's still work to do, let's finish this competition!
Week 5 - Tell us why you should come to The Bahamas to play the PSPC
My motivation was back, but there was a big problem. I had no idea what I was going to do this week. In every other instance I was thinking of next week's content while shooting the current weeks footage. This week, I had nothing. I kept thinking up ideas and eventually scrapping them. I tossed the idea around about Gibby being indifferent until I brought up The Bahamas and then she'd instantly be interested and show some of her attitude. She was game, but I still had no theme or direction for the rest of the vlog. I didn't want to sit in front of the camera like last week. I did nothing until Thursday, vlogs had to be submitted no later than Sunday, I was stuck. Then Gary Vaynerchuk's voice started playing over in my head, "Don't be a perfectionist, just create content". So we just started shooting everything as improv. The story created itself. It was natural, it was authentic, I had found my flow! My #VloggerInParadise progression was complete. But, the journey may have just begun.
Week 6 - Top 5 Finalist Announcement And Conclusion
It was an emotional roller coaster from day one, but a necessary experience overall. I'd like to thank Jeff Gross and Andrew Neeme for being extremely supportive when they eventually came across my content. :P But, the real MVP award goes to PokerStars for providing this tremendous opportunity and for hiring whoever is in charge of the PokerStars twitter account. They were my rock and my light when I needed them. After experiencing what it's like to be on the secluded island of content creation. I now know how important comments, likes, interactions, and positive feedback is to the community. Forever grateful.
I want to thank all my friends and family who were there for me throughout the process. Your support will not be overlooked. Especially to the small group that showed up to the watch party. You gave me a reason to laugh when I needed it. You are my heroes.
Thank you for reading. Run well.
So close to giving up
So close to going all the way
So close to taking off
So close to going nowhere