More coverage from 888Live Barcelona as Lee Davy sits down with 888Poker ambassador, Parker “Tonkaaaap” Talbot, to talk about Chris “I am eternally sorry” Ferguson, why all people are pricks and much more.
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*Note: what follows is an abridged version of the audio interview
Parker “Tonkaaaap” Talbot is sitting on the chez lounge surrounded by people. A wooden box rests on the table in front of him. It looks like the game from Jumanji.
Talbot doesn’t budge.
The box opens. Dice spill out. People come and go. Laughter leaves the lungs and lifts into the artificial light as the stars look disapprovingly on.
Talbot doesn’t budge.
Talbot has an energy that attracts people like men in suits attract briefcases. Teeth are worn down with all the chatter; cheeks tired through constant smiling and laughter.
The box closes.
Silence for a second.
I drag him over to a quiet corner, promising his crowd he will return in 20-minutes.
We leave behind a vacuum of silence.
Voices that hold their instruments in the air waiting patiently for their conductor to return.
Where did the name come from?
I played hockey from 5-17 and my coach in high school used to play contact hockey. He named me Tonka like the Tonka Truck. I used to be small and stocky, and always hit the hardest. A few of the kids in hockey started calling me it, and then in high school, it became my nickname. At 18, it became my Stars account name and later on all the other sites.
What’s it like being around all these stars? Coz’ you’ve got a pretty good team here
Yeah, I don’t know man, I’ve never been star struck by anyone, to be honest. I’ve never wanted an autograph, or to shake the hand of someone famous. I never really got that. I don’t want to sound like a dick or anything, I never really understood that. I would be super excited to have a drink with them and talk to them, but I’ve never wanted an autograph from anyone, except forMats Sundin. He was like a God when I was young. I would have taken an autograph off Mats Sundin.
Is it a hierarchical thing?
Fame, money and power are attributes that make us awful.
Let’s talk about Fame, money and being awful for a moment, what do you think of the Chris Ferguson’s apology?
I don’t know man; I feel like I’ve been pretty vocal, like harsh about Ferguson in the past. This apology was very obviously quite pathetic. I don’t even know what he was saying? It was like he was saying he wasn’t the bad guy in the equation and he got caught in the middle. I’m not a big fan of the guy. I’m not a big fan of what happened. I wasn’t directly affected by it, but other people were. I’m over it at this point. I hope he comes out at a future date and says that he didn’t have anything to do with it, but I guess I will always feel like he could have taken a different path and not been such an arsehole. I think everyone can agree that the apology was God damn pathetic.
I remember watching something on PokerNews about Ferguson winning the Player of the Year. Everyone was giving politically correct answers, and then you came on and gave an unfiltered account. It was refreshing.
Everybody was just like, ‘Oh, isn’t it great for him to win the Player of the Year.’ I still think it’s bad, even if it comes out that he did just get caught up in the middle of something because it’s still not good for poker. The public image of poker is clearly better if somebody, anybody, just not him, won Player of the Year.
When did you learn to remove your filter?
I just don’t like fake people. I don’t like most of the world, trust me I’m not a fan of people. That’s not true, I do love people, especially after hanging out with an old friend of mine. He fucking loves people. He lives his whole life loving people, and I’ve always been pretty negative of people. People are pricks. People are dicks. Everyone’s a fucking arsehole. Everyone is out for number 1! Almost everyone in the world is just a fucking dickhead looking out for number 1, but he still loves everybody. He always finds the good in people, so he kind of shapes me better, but I don’t know, I just don’t like fake people, and I vowed never to be fake.
Have you been spanked by the 888 hierarchy yet?
I have been told to calm down a few times, maybe once or twice I have been told, maybe don’t do this again and I’m like yeah you know what, that’s alright. The points raised have never involved anything that would question my integrity.
Did the thought of having to tow a party line enter your head during negotiations, and how did it feel?
Yeah, I feel like I still have the integrity I set out to have. I don’t think that I have changed much at all. I am more of a shill now, whether it’s for 888, whether it’s for Upswing, whether it’s for my brand. I’m cool with it. I enjoy streaming and making content for YouTube. I enjoy sharing my knowledge and giving back to the community, but at the same time, if you do this, you need to have some goal in mind. You’ve got to get something out of it right? I don’t love it that much, that I would do it for zero money, if there were no money involved, if there were no benefit to me, I probably wouldn’t do it, I would find something else to do, but at the same time, I do love what I do. However, you do have to think about yourself in some way, in some capacity and I do want to better my life, make some money for myself in some way. I think everything that I represent and everything I push, I believe in. I would never represent something I thought was awful, terrible, not worthy of what I’m pushing, so I would never do that, yeah I don’t think I’ve lost integrity in something I’ve believed in since the beginning.
My 17-year-old son told me about Ninja earning $500,000 a month streaming.
A month? No, he’s earning more than that. He’s been making about 1.5 – 2 million for the last four months.
What advice would you give to someone if they wanted to become the next Ninja?
Nothing, you will never be that good! It’s like winning the lottery, and most people don’t even meet the prerequisite for being that good because he’s really funny and cool and unbelievably good at the game that he plays. He’s incredibly good at any game he plays. He’s been playing video games for 20 years for 9 hours a day. You have 1 of 2 things, you are either funny and charismatic and cool, and people like to get down with that, or you’re really fucking good at what you do. The perfect streamer is both – awesome at the main game you play or whatever game you play if you’re a variety streamer, and you’re cool and relatable and fun to talk to and get along with. So already by even just meeting one of those categories, you’ve eliminated, not to be rude or anything but the vast majority of the population because there’s a difference in being fun to talk to and get along with and a difference in being charismatic enough to carry yourself in front of thousands of people. It’s a lot more work than people realise. Or you’re really fucking good at something and in video game terms, I’m not talking about kinda good, I’m talking really fucking good ok! First of all, he’s got both of those things he’s charismatic, he’s fun, he’s enjoyable, he’s relatable, and I would guess he’s top 5 in the world at the game currently, if not the top 2, top 1. So yeah you have to fit all the prerequisites, and then you have to get insanely lucky as well and be insanely dedicated.
Lucky, that your stream gets picked up. That you get the right coverage, the right people like you, you get the right hosts. Right place, right time kinda thing, get it on YouTube, right place, right time, know the right people, get the right stars kinda thing.
When you look at those two things you mentioned, what areas do you feel you need to work on?
I’ve been working hard on my poker game for the last six months or so, not just because I’m being pushed, but I want to make money you know. Secondly I want to be very confident in my decisions because most other streamers do act convinced in their choices and I see a lot of them are incorrect because I think I’m the best poker player who plays on Twitch regularly. I think other people make some mistakes sometimes, not everybody and not only just the more prominent names but I know a lot of plays that people make are incorrect sometimes. Getting very real for a second here, a lot of people just no matter what decision they make, they’re like, ‘No this is the right decision.’ Not especially in poker, but I know this is the right decision, kinda smart from a business perspective because the problem is your poker games suffers if you do that, but your stream is good because if I make a play and I say I’m not sure if that was the right play that could have gone either way, I could have made the wrong decision there. 30% of people in the chat who are awful humans will be like, ‘You made the wrong fucking play, you fucked that up’, now they are validated because I said I could have made the wrong play so now they are 100% right. Whereas if you just say ‘What I did was 100% correct, if you don’t agree with me you’re wrong’, you’re only going to get the people that come out of the woodwork that says, ‘You’re right, you made the right decision’ and even if people disagree with you, you can go ‘No, you’re wrong’, so I feel like I’m more straight forward and real and when I fuck something up and I make a mistake, or I make a play I’m not 100% sure on, I’m like I’m not really sure guys that could have gone either way, and then I get trolled for that. So yeah I have been working on my poker game personally so I can avoid that. There are still going to be situations in poker where I am like shit man; I don’t know if that was the right decision. It’s so fucking hard to be 100% correct in all your decisions and don’t get me wrong some people do that, but those people for sure is shit aren’t streaming 30 hours a week, those people are not making YouTube videos, they focus solely on poker.
Is there anyone that you’ve played with
Who you thought could kill it on Twitch?
Genuinely no, because the problem of being on Twitch and being good at poker is unless you are super committed; unless you enjoy streaming, you’re not going to be successful. It’s about consistency. Twitch as a platform is all about consistency. It’s the most important thing about the platform. You have to be there three, four, five times a week, that’s the only way you are going to grow. Yeah, you can do less and get 100 viewers or whatever, but if you want to be one of the top guys and have 1000+ viewers, you have to be unbelievably consistent.
Unibet made a great move hiring Alan Widmann because instead of trying to turn a poker player into a streamer, they hired a streamer who can learn to play poker, talk about that.
I know Alan a little bit, I’ve played some video games with him, he’s a cool guy, he’s a nice guy, but yeah if they’re super interested playing poker and very interested in transitioning, start working with a coach or something, then start making money from poker. Then 100% that would be huge, I can definitely see that kinda thing taking off, but I don’t see the model of trying to turn a poker player into a Twitch streamer or YouTuber. Like I said, I think it is 100% possible but at the end-of-the-day, whoever is doing it, has to want to do it. Don’t approach it as, ok I’m going to be paid this. You need to approach it as; I like the community, the involvement, I like this and I want to do it because otherwise you’re never going to grow a community and you are never going to be committed enough to do it 4-5 times a week.