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January 19, 2018

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Immediacy of Twitter a big hit in poker world


courtesy ian chan

Ian Chan plays during the 2012 World Series of Poker at the Rio in Las Vegas on July 3, 2012.

Ian Chan looked across the poker table and saw other players concentrating not on cards but on their smartphones. Then someone noticed the little blue bird logo on Chan's T-shirt.

"Look what you've done to our game," the player joked.

For the past two years, Chan has worked as a front-end software engineer for Twitter. But he's been playing poker for 10 years, since college. It was a hobby, until he won money this week at the World Series of Poker, while his friends from around the tech world followed his play on the social media engine he helps keep running.

Chan (@chanian) live tweeted his play for three days during the $1,000 buy-in tournament, where he finished 14th out of more than 3,200 players Tuesday.

"It's not like I have the most sophisticated play, I was just running pretty good," Chan said. "I was just having a good time and taking pictures at the table, which is what I think people enjoyed about the tweets. A lot of people who follow me are more casual about the game. They would rather see a picture of a huge stack of chips than my play-by-play."

Poker and Twitter have played well together since the social network emerged six years ago.

"There are a lot of tech-savvy, 20-something year-olds who play poker, and they picked up on Twitter almost immediately," said Seth Palansky, spokesman for the World Series of Poker (@WSOPRGuy). "The first time I saw an iPad was here, just a couple of months after it had come out (in 2010)."

The WSOP uses Twitter to answer questions about rules and registration. Family members and friends follow players they know mixed among the thousands shuffling through the Rio resort this summer.

β€œIt gives you deep coverage of a large tournament on the ground,” Chan said. β€œA lot of my friends have never played poker, but they got to sit around the table from my perspective.”

Palansky said Chan may have gone too far by tweeting a picture of his hand during play, something frowned upon by gaming officials. But Chan stopped doing that, as others began looking at his tweets to try to learn his strategy.

"At one point at the end of Day 2, I was the chip leader and I saw someone looking at my timeline, reading my tweets," Chan said. "So I stopped showing my hands."

While Chan didn't tweet how much money he picked up, he did say he may take a trip to Tokyo with part of his winnings. "Parlay my WSOP dreams into sushi dreams," he tweeted.

Chan's favorite poker tweeters are fellow Canadian Daniel Negreanu (@RealKidPoker), along with Phil Hellmuth (@phil_hellmuth) and Doyle Brunson (@TexDolly). Chan said he particularly likes Brunson's humor.

WSOP social media folks point to Erik Seidel (@Erik_Seidel), as using wit to build a following, commenting on his luck, as well as the news of the day in Las Vegas.

"The people who seem to be the most popular are not the ones who tweet most about poker," said Jessia Welman, managing editor of and one of the voices behind the tournament Twitter feed (@WSOP). "It's the ones who tweet about the funny things happening around the table."

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