Jeff Gross: enlightenment; high energy; the future of Twitch?

Jeff Gross: enlightenment; high energy; the future of Twitch?

Lee Davy sits down with Jeff Gross to talk about goals, silent meditation retreats, the importance of energy, and why Twitch is integral to the poker ecosystem. 

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I wouldn’t swim in the same sweat. Eventually, you will stink. People will turn elbows into spears in a bid to get away from you. As Charles Bukowski said before the drink sunk him:

Stay out of the clutches of mediocrity. 

I’m not sure if Jeff Gross is a Bukowski man. I doubt it. But he is a man doing everything in his power to avoid the death grip of sameness. He’s like a bee buzzing around trying to pollinate the next big thing. So what does the New Year mean to a man who’s unafraid to walk across the bridge and grip the hand of the unfamiliar?

Jeff Gross: enlightenment; high energy; the future of Twitch?“I do think that it’s pretty cool to have the Hendon Mob and Global Poker Index,” says Gross. “I grew up playing soccer and was very interested in stats and had spreadsheets containing all manner of information. I was into rankings and numbers, so I think it’s cool to have benchmarks and parameters to gauge success. I make goals for the year: for live cash games, tournaments, Twitch – how many streams I want to do. I reflect: where was I, how do I improve? 

“To be the best at one thing you have to focus on that one thing, but it’s never like that for me. I have poker, Twitch, a new wife – so I’m doing a little bit of everything. I end up doing everything instead of focusing on trying to win a Player of the Year, for example. 

“In 2013/2014/15, I can’t remember which, I was getting into tournaments and wondered if I did one year of grinding, playing all events: PCA, WPT, WSOP – could I be Top 10, how could I do in terms of being the best tournament player? Then Twitch came along, friends and family, I got married. But despite that, I do look forward to a New Year and setting my goals.” 

Self-limiting thoughts occupy most minds, but if you’re diving into various oceans looking for the treasure you’re going to have more of these ideas than most. As Gross invokes his Jack of All Trades Master of None style how does he quell anxiety? 

“My wife is really helpful in that respect,” says Gross. “We go to classes and events. I have a good balance between poker and courses for growth. We recently did a ten-day silent meditation retreat, and that was pretty intense. It takes me out of the everyday grind. Especially with 10-14 hr Twitch streams, coming to the PCA – you get into a vicious cycle of not getting your other things done like working out and being with your loved ones.” 

Hang on.

Stop the clock.

So, this busy little bee, who spends his time talking incessantly for 10-14 hours a day, fingers in more pies than Little Jack Horner, spent ten days with his mouth sealed shut like Neo in the why don’t I give you the finger scene.

Mr Anderson! 

“It was unbelievable,” says Gross. “Even after a day or two, waking up early and going to bed early your mind is racing. You’re not even sleeping. You can replay your entire life clearly. You have memories of your childhood so clearly. I got out and wrote 20+ pages the second I got my hands on my journal. It was right around the Super Bowl last year. I wrote out my ideas, poems, and this is how I decided to create a YouTube channel. I was so motivated. It kicked me into another gear. 

“I had been doing Twitch. I had some other stuff going on. But I came out high. It was like an outer body experience. It was a spiritual high. My wife and I looked at each other and thought, “Wow, this is crazy.” There was a male and female side. I didn’t see her other than across the room where we ate. 

“We went to a quantum physics course in Mexico recently. There is always a tournament going on, or I want to stream, and she’s very understanding. But I go out of my way to do things with my wife. It’s nice to share those experiences together. She comes with me on almost all of these stops and supports me, and I like to do things she likes to do.”   

My interview with Gross isn’t our first meeting at the PCA. A few days before, he was filming me interviewing Bill Perkins at The Cove. After my interview with Perkins, my son asked the multi-millionaire a few questions, but there was one question he forgot to ask, and so I pose it now to Gross.

“How does a youngster like my boy, who is 16-years-old, escape from a valley containing 3,000 people?” 

“There’s some element of luck as to where you’re born, what experiences you have or what resources you have access to,” says Gross. “So if you’re born in a small town, the people you surround yourself with may not have these things at their disposal. When you’re in your teens, you’re coming into your own. You can’t just say, “I’m leaving to go to LA and jump on a plane”. But it’s good to know what’s out there. What do you want to do? Realise that stuff works itself out. Go for it. Don’t be afraid. Be enlightened. Be aware. Take a chance. What’s the worse that can happen? 

“Bill {Perkins} was a limo driver. He was around and was listening and hearing stuff, gaining ideas. The next thing you know he’s on the floor and takes a chance. Luck is where preparation meets opportunity; I believe that. Be prepared, do your best and when opportunity comes knocking you will be ready.”  

One of the problems you have when living in a valley containing 3,000 people is a lack of people thinking as Gross suggests. With jobs at a premium and entrepreneurs as rare as Alzheimer survivors, it’s hard to surround yourself with successful people (If your definition of success equals a certain dollar worth). And when I look at Gross it’s apparent that some fantastic people surround him. How does he do it? 

“I don’t know? Great question,” says Gross. “I am a high energy person. When I was streaming with the likes of Kevin Martin and Jaime Staples people are asking, “Is this guy on coke?” I have never done coke in my life, by the way. I genuinely try to bring high energy, be happy, have a good time. You are the sum of the five people you surround yourself with. I want to be around successful people who have good goals, are upbeat, motivated, authentic and have good morals and believe in good things. My friends have had some great success. You need to put yourself in good spots. I don’t want to hang out with people who talk about bad beats and think the world is going to end.  

“I want to be around people who have high energy, are excited, have similar interests and goals. That’s something you should pay attention to. I try to gravitate towards people with good attitudes and good energy. Maybe my friends see the same in me? I met my friends within or because of poker. I met Michael Phelps through poker. We had similar interests, and it sprung from there. Poker is a level playing field that allows you to meet some wonderful people.” 

Gross is currently one of the top Twitch streamers in the business. More than 40k people follow his Poker Flow Show and over 13k followers on his new YouTube channel including my boy.

It seems like Twitch is the future of poker, right? 

“People see it and want to do it, and think that it’s as easy as turning on a camera,” says Gross. “The thing about Twitch is it’s a super grind. I would encourage people to try it. It takes a certain personality type to do it. I have so many friends in the poker world who send me messages asking how it works, and if I can help them out. It’s a misconception that you flick up your Macbook pro, flick on your PokerStars account and start streaming. 

“You need a lot of equipment. If you play in the US, then there aren’t many options to play. People want to see big fields; when you’re in the US, this is hard. It’s also a lot of hours. Imagine you’re starting out. Three people are watching. Now you are six hours into a stream; 12 people are watching; you lost a bit of money, and you think, “I just recorded this?” It can be frustrating.” 

I have been fortunate during the PCA to talk to Jaime Staples, Kevin Martin and Lex Veldhuis – three of the world’s top poker streamers. All of them work hard on personal branding. Gross is no different. 

“It’s tough. You have to find the right mix,” says Gross. “You can take the world #1 and they might be a terrible streamer, or you may have a great streamer who sucks at poker. I stream for 10-14 hrs straight. You’re talking all the time, with different people, playing multiple tables. I want to move to fewer tournaments, but it’s difficult. {Jason} Somerville hasn’t streamed in a while. But he was mainly one-tabling, super-engaged in the chat, and I think there is something to that. Now in Twitch, there are the top couple of guys, another level of solid streamers, but it’s hard to break through to the spot where you feel you are doing something worthwhile. 

“I am 31-years old, and I feel like I just got into it at the right time. I saw Somerville, Staples, and Kevin Martin doing it. If I am 21 and living in Europe and love poker, it makes sense. You have the recordings of your streams. If you bink a tournament early on you have a roll. You can make this a fun thing. I would encourage people to try it. See how it goes. Maybe you’re someone who streams once in a while, or when you have a deep run, you can switch it on so your family and friends can follow you. 

“I’m involved with Stake Kings and sell action on there. You can put up 10% so the fans can have a piece of you and it’s a fun sweat. It’s a different deal. I think that’s great for poker right now. I think Twitch is the future of poker. In the US Pennsylvania is coming online if New York gets through; Illinois; Michigan – Stars gets going, it could be a big boom. Twitch has been around for a while. I can’t tell you how many people have come up to me  saying, “Man you’re the guy who got me back into poker.” 

“This summer, I was vlogging, and someone said to me, “You know Doug Polk? I would love to meet him he got me into poker.” He’s polarising – you like him or don’t – but his YouTube channel and Twitch, they’re getting people into poker, and that’s huge. Poker needs that. Ultimately, these tournaments, these live events, if you want the ecosystem to work you need new people to come in. They need to see that the $250 Sunday Million is good entertainment. There was a guy here {at the PCA}, Kevin Hobbs, who was going to play the $100k as one of his first tournaments! The WSOP numbers last year showed a lack of young players. It’s crazy. This is something that we can fire up. Twitch is huge for poker.” 

And with that, I get up and leave, but not before Gross slips a business card into my top pocket.

Professional Poker Player 

Poker Content Provider 

A few days later, and Gross put both of those titles to good use when he defeated a field of 988 players competing in the $33+R Sunday Rebuy while streaming live on the PokerFlowShow for 14-hours, making it to three final tables.

He binked $13.3k for the win.

But that’s not where the value was.

We know that now.

Here is a clip of the winning hand:

And the celebration: