reviews

More Vlogs Revealed

If someone doesn’t like what you are doing, you just ignore them! It’s a novel approach to life, positivity, really. So new, in fact, that the word itself doesn’t even register in the secondary dictionary which red-lines for this word processor.

However, it would be a mistake to read much into this- I don’t think the software I write in has ever liked a single post I’ve created. It’s the whole “write for 8th graders” thing, I suspect. Stay on point. Be the brand. Don’t use a compelling word when a dull one will do.

So then, it only makes sense that the common humanity that binds us together – our all too similar dreams and crosses, don’t generally matter until someone needs what they need. If you have a thought I don’t like, keep it to yourself. Oh, I now need that thought; where are you now?

The word we have for people of this type is an old-fashioned one that doesn’t do nearly as much work as it used to: fool. An old, old word it seems, one going back to the French and Latin for follie, perhaps follis, but possibly also to something, apparently, for bag. What did they mean, I wonder: there are usually no coincidences.

A lot of bags out there.

For those who remember it, quality is usually complex. It can be frustrating, and certainly even dark. There are things behind it you don’t understand and don’t even know to question. It isn’t what you came for, but keeps you there anyway. For instance, when I think of a Martin Amis novel, I have to feel bad for the editor – who is even capable of offering a critique? “Well maybe a comma here would really change everything…”

Nevertheless, if we really do care too much about what people think, our common tie with them really can become an inhibition. So where is the balancing point? Got a GIF for that?

Let’s look at some goddamn poker vlogs.

Johnnie Vibes

Possibly the most well-rounded vlog of the entire circle is that of Johnnie Vibes. Johnnie is not the best at any one aspect of the video blog medium, nor is he the most popular, but overall, Vibes delivers on point after point.

Firstly, and perhaps more of interest to those who read this blog than the average player, Johnnie is one of the best if not actual best player among the current vloggers. Of course, I’m not talking about such made men or women as Dorian Negreanu, big names who have personal “brands” that need no expansion; these types are basically taking up space. The Negreanus have no presently compelling story, given that they are gathering rather than building. The amateur aspect of the vlog lends itself to the low stakes, not the high. That’s coherence of theme and medium in action, and a powerful clue as to why some vlogs succeed and others, no matter how good, fail to capture attention.

In other words, Vibes still cares and so we care, because there is something at stake. That matters. In fact, while he is presently sucking it up through a 2/5 challenge, it’s not a total novelty for him. As in real poker, when you’re not bought in by your sponsor, you tend to humbly find that every dollar counts more than you imagined. You can see Johnnie’s disappointment and agitation at not bringing home the bacon in games he freely admitted he thought he would destroy.

Vibes starts the vlog at what he describes as a “crossroads.” He’s trying to move into some poker fashion sales, and admits up front he’s losing money. It’s not just a lark, either: he describes his games “drying up.” This is something many of us have dealt with, a universal human theme, not to mention entirely relevant in poker circa 2019. For those who still play in berry patches, that experience should still be of converse interest. So, the stage is set: yes, he’s doing the vlog basically to sell clothes, but he will go on to deliver everything one wants, including worthy play, tourism, real effort at the editing, decent narration, a hint of a story line and an amenable protagonist.

Over and over again, Vibes reveals poker strategy decisions that are a cut above the genre’s field. He’s frank enough to talk about tells and honest enough to use racial profiling, as a seasoned live player might. While he shares many examples of good play over now sixty plus episodes, one simple hand in vlog 3 should get a viewer’s attention: compare his reasoning for checking flop as PFR, against the usual commentary from the faithful but dull value hound Neeme, bag-eyed king of the vloggers. What’s interesting of course is that the viewer can tell that Vibes understands he could continue for value and protection, but takes the deviation confidently, sure of how his opponent will respond. Right or wrong is not really the important thing here; rather, the ability to take the different line, to think beyond poker tropes, to be present in the game, and to publish in his video diary how it didn’t work out, all help one see that Johnnie really can handle the cards. This ability is, of course, contrasted against the natural state of the low-stakes player and his love of the game which brought this genre to conception. In other words, we should see a lot of bad play in the vlogosphere and no one should have a problem with it – so it’s odd and interesting to have that expectation disappointed here.

Vibes does many other favors for the vlog fan. Johnnie mercifully spares everyone, at least from what I’ve seen, footage of his sedan ripping through traffic at 25 mph to the beat of faux excitement. Instead, he uses his allotted sped-up footage time to zip us along through some of his familiar walks and hangs, including along the strip and inside the casino complexes the poker grinder community is chained to, rather than march slowly through the reminders of its hellishness. Johnnie is both young and aloof enough to carry off his musical choices, separating himself from the copycat impression even if it could be a meaningless coincidence. He introduces loved ones without awkwardness or fanfare and takes the eye of the camera everywhere he seems to go. Key to a solid presentation, most of his episodes feature only a very brief opening sequence, moving things along deftly. (At some point later he explains he does get some professional video help, so there is that…)

In sum, despite the goofy name, and the potential for the vlog to travel down some insincere lanes, Vibes instead normalizes both poker and himself, winning the viewer over to both. While it’s actually not necessary to like someone in order to find them engaging, Johnnie negotiates this particular path well. Overall, seems like a big success to me – but is he selling them hoodies?

Detroit Poker

It’s rough when the most exciting part of your vlog is the copied-for-the-millionth-time-roll-up-to-the-casino-with-the-canned-dance-music. Unfortunately for the Detroit Poker Vlog, that’s about the most thrilling thing that happens in my first encounter, because whatever studio track Youtube borrowed for this one and lent to DPV, it moves. Don’t overpromise, though: unfortunately, there’s more.

Brian, the host of DPV, arrives in the parking lot of the Jack in Cincinnati, narrating in what is no less than a dying voice, the last horn of the soldier shorn of life. It’s possible that he might be ill or circling the drain.; my apologies if this is the case. However, if these are his final months, it’s clear Brian wants to spend his remaining days discussing poker hands. Brian is very, very serious about hand histories, even naming how many there will be in his vlog subtitles, which makes me wonder: is that him or his audience? Troubling.

In this particular episode, we see him make some dubious choices. Immediately, Brian “waits for a better spot.” Ok, fair, but let’s keep an eye on that. He then grasps that the game is loose and asserts a plan to slow it down. So of course he immediately isolates out of the small with [ax][9x]. He three-bets [qd][9d] for no clear reason and has to fold to a four bet; a little much to take if he is going to be labeling another player a “spazoid,” in a curiously astronomical description that keeps my attention while the vlog goes deeper and deeper into black space. In closing the session, Brian claims to have played seventy-five percent of his hands! Clearly he’s not actually counting. This is what we call unreliable narration – seventy-five percent of hands would mean he’s vpiping every combination of [jx][2x] – a wonderful tool in the right hands but just strange here.

In fact, it would certainly be fun if this vlog were a joke or a bit of a send up of itself, like the Old Man Coffee Vlog. Indeed, somehow the DPV, whose market is true live low-stakes players, has surpassed the confrontational (and now disappeared) Mark Ari and several other competitor aspirants by nearly a thousand subscribers. Many seem to like Brian and specifically, his poker advice, but I’m not sure why he would be so inspiring. He demonstrates positional cluelessness by limping [js][9s] and trapping himself into a call against the blinds and the straddle. He creates a low-SPR pot which he tries to solve by mashing, getting snapped off by ace high. Brutal, spazoid stuff, and that’s just the recap material. However, by examining Brian critically, it turns out I am on the wrong track.

Detroit Poker vlog is built around a series for absolute novice 1/2 players – this is where Brian finds himself as a vlogger and finds his audience as well. Now it all comes together: I have been too hard on him – this vlog is for beginning players.

With a better frame of reference, I try out episode 8, preflop raise sizing, and episode 5 as well. It’s not the worst stuff if we’re fair, as Brian offers sound tactics that a new or absolutely terrible player can start with in order not to go broke. All of a sudden, Brian is the 7th grade teacher many need, unintimidating, and that deathly pacing I complained about before is maybe just the right thing: kindly, slow, free(ish) of jargon. An approach that a newb may need in order to stay in the the game for a few hours.

Interestingly, while explaining that he will just open larger and larger until the bubble bursts, a light sort of goes on for Brian when he indicates that he “value owns” himself at some point – the intrusion of poker theory into his Poker for Dummies breakdown keeps me awake. It’s a little uneven in the sense that players at this level don’t know what a “LAG” and such will be, but for the most part Brian doesn’t lose his audience.

Well, good luck to Detroit Poker, I’m not going further, for good or bad. “What separates the winners from the losers is the downswings,” Brian announces in some curious wording in the later mental game video. Seems fair, but I am far too much of a sumbitch to handle this channel.

Adam Rude

It’s amusing that Adam Rude actually picks his nose to kick off this vlog, and humor is the theme of this fun dude’s work. “Big chick” he calls out in a tone, and a well-told hand history rolls from there. Adam, a round, well-adjusted dude you’ll see at the game, the bar, and the poker table, doesn’t denigrate his opponents and seems to have a great attitude. He mixes it up in what might have become a purely formulaic vlog (ratty music, intro, black hand history template to explore some donkery) by doing visual, live hand histories over some music.  In one example, (half) country music is a good touch and shows, at the very least, a little independence. If one were to imagine a great vlog, as with any filmic experience, that work would certainly match the manifold musics of the world better with the visual pattern of the moving images; we’re far away from that skill here in the vloggerverse.

As important as that might be, there are more essential things for the poker vlogger. The real issue and problem for all in vlogging and beyond, even in streaming or for-profit television poker coverage, of course, is that the game actually takes place in the mind, not on the table. There is, in a sense, no difference between what a vlogger with a camera phone and Mori Eskandari with a studio set must do. The successful vlogger, in other words, must provide either compelling thought or substitute it with some distracting interest – every single successful vlog wrestles and overcomes this. Adam’s novelties seem to help, but can he carry through to the other side?

Underneath the device of carrying interest through music, Adam strikes some good notes. He starts by choosing a very wide screen format which works better with the on-the-table camera angle. Then in the latest episodes, he changes to an excellent presentation style for his narration-less hands, right down to the very fonts, and a transparent background for them which emphasizes the wide angle. Compellingly, the blur of the lights coming from the ring alongside the checkered speed cloth of his private games’ unique table is a strong and compelling image, a far more persuasive tableau than almost any I have seen captured in the genre. (This could just be the luck of the draw, I’ll have to watch more episodes to know – photography is an opportunistic art form.) Overall, in a genre replete with ugly hand history templates and pointless imagery, Adam is a relief.

More good news: Adam isn’t done offering new looks for vloggers. His introduction to the vlog in episode 1 promises to include his family, listing them as characters. Later on, in episode 8, Mr. Rude makes good, taking his family traveling with him, helping us depart from the lonely loser trope many vloggers want to be a part of. The poker strategy asides aren’t particularly interesting, but that probably can’t be helped to much. In fact, there may be something of a lesson here for other vloggers, who probably should heed the old adage about when to keep your mouth shut. Overall, this vlog is easy watching and should gain subscribers as Adam becomes even better at providing visual interest while finding ways to engage the audience a bit more.

 

Much Revealed

About persuadeo

Poker player and low stakes coach. persuadeo@gmail... etc.

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