Pete Hollands is one of the top Australian bridge players and teachers, and also the most popular bridge streamer in the world with almost 20 thousand followers on his YouTube Channel.
Our Stefan had the chance to interview Pete exclusively for the readers of the IntoBridge Blog...
Hey Pete, it’s amazing to see your success as the most popular streamer of bridge content worldwide. For those who may not be familiar, could you explain what streaming is and what a streamer does?
Thanks, Stefan, streaming is a way of sharing live content with an audience in real-time. As a bridge streamer, I go make videos on websites like YouTube and live on Twitch.tv, where I showcase my bridge gameplay, provide educational commentary, and engage with viewers through live chat.
During my streams, you’ll get to see me play bridge games, discuss various strategies, conventions, and techniques. I also answer questions from viewers, provide analysis of hands, and offer tips and insights to help improve your own bridge skills. It’s an exciting and interactive way to connect with fellow bridge tragics from around the world.
I’m curious, what inspired you to start streaming in the first place and how did it evolve into a full-time job?
Haha, well, here’s a funny story for you. I was actually in the middle of pursuing a PhD in Materials Engineering when the project suddenly ran out of money. Feeling a bit disheartened, I decided it was time for a break. I had already dipped my toes into the world of professional bridge play, albeit on a small scale. So, I thought to myself, “Why not give it a shot?”
But here’s the thing, I was determined not to follow the usual path. I wanted to do something different. And that’s when the idea of making videos struck me. You see, it all started when I realized how I learned to play other non-bridge games. I would hop onto YouTube, where I could find experts guiding me through their thought process and demonstrating how the game should be approached. It was like having a personal mentor right there on my screen. However, no one was really doing that for bridge! And that’s when it hit me, I could be the one to bridge the gap.
When I started it was just a little hobby on the side where I could be creative and try new things. I kept trying lots of different ideas to see what worked and what didn’t and it slowly grew until it was occupying more of my time.
Your audience is quite large and diverse, but who do you think can benefit most from your videos?
I have players joining me from all corners of the globe, ranging from those who are playing their very first hand to seasoned individuals who have proudly represented their respective countries. Despite their diverse backgrounds, they all share a common thread: the aspiration to improve their game. That’s what brings them together.
Now, let’s talk about the players who will truly benefit from my videos. It’s those who are willing to hit that pause button, take a moment to reflect, and compare their own moves with what I did in the video. They’re the ones who ask themselves, “Why didn’t I think the same way?” or even, “Wow, Pete really screwed that one up!” It’s this active engagement that will help you get the most out of it.
With the rise of COVID, many bridge players started streaming but didn’t quite manage to gain traction and eventually stopped. What advice would you give to those who are interested in streaming bridge, and what do you believe is the secret sauce of your success?
If you’re considering starting a streaming channel, it’s important to do it because you genuinely enjoy it. The biggest challenge lies in reaching your first 100 subscribers. Begin by creating videos and watching them yourself. If you find that you don’t enjoy watching them at all, chances are others won’t either. Once you feel satisfied with a video, reach out to platforms that can help highlight your content, such as the IntoBridge platform, your national bridge association, BridgeWinners, or get your mother to help with word of mouth. Try to be ambitious with your ideas and see what fails quickly and what people are attracted to that you can persevere with. I was very fortunate with being in the right place at the right time. Where I started making videos just before the cheating scandal that got heaps of attention that I could talk about and then a global pandemic that forced more people online. I would recommend getting good timing like that.
You recently started streaming the IntoBridge’s Ranked games and producing a new video every week. What do you like and dislike most about the Ranked games, and what improvements do you think can be made?
I’m thoroughly enjoying the Ranked games. It’s often been a challenge to answer questions like “Who is the best Bridge player?” or “How good are you?” But now, there is a decent way to gauge skill, and that is fantastic.
What I love about it is the flexibility—it allows you to jump in and play for just 5 minutes or get completely hooked and play all day. It caters to different schedules and preferences, which is a major plus.
However, there is one aspect of the current structure that I find limiting. When someone becomes really successful, they’re often disincentivized from playing more ranked games due to the fear of losing their rating points. To address this, I would like to see the implementation of a leaderboard that showcases the highest rankings among active players in the past week or day. It would be great to see who has made significant gains in ranking points in the last 24 hours. Even if someone went from 1400 to 1500, I believe their progress should be celebrated as well. Also, and probably the most obvious improvement would be a leaderboard for most beer cards.
Thanks for the honest feedback, we are working on a much-improved version coming out in July. Funnily, we didn’t think about the beer card leaderboard, despite the fact that the company owning IntoBridge is called 7 of D, we will look into that!
Do you play more or less in-person bridge these days?
It’s pretty evenly split for me. I tend to play more frequently online, but when I play in person I would play for longer.
I derive a great deal of enjoyment from both modes of playing bridge. When I play online, I appreciate the ability to delve deep into a hand without distractions. It provides a focused and immersive experience. However, playing in person has its own unique charm, especially when it comes to the social aspect.
Overall, whether online or in person, bridge continues to bring me a lot of enjoyment, and I appreciate the different dynamics and rewards that come with each style of play.
There’s been some talk about bridge dying. What are your thoughts on this, and what do you believe should be done to change the negative trend?
I believe the biggest challenge lies in recommending the best pathway for people who want to learn bridge. While traditional methods involve joining a bridge club and learning over the course of weeks, many individuals hesitate to make such a significant commitment. Finding a solution to this issue is crucial, but I’m unsure of the best approach to take.
Personally, I would love to see the introduction of tournaments or a playing format where players can engage without relying on conventions. Imagine a game where Stayman, Blackwood, and similar conventions are set aside, and players rely solely on their judgment and natural bids. This would provide an easier entry point into the game for newcomers and also offer an intriguing alternative for more experienced players.
One of bridge’s greatest advantages over other mind games is its social aspect. However, there seems to be a growing trend of cost saving measures and a shift towards a more clinical experience. I believe this trend needs to be reversed. It’s essential to find more ways to facilitate the sharing of bridge stories and the creation of unique bridge experiences while preserving a sense of community. Both in-person and online platforms can contribute to achieving this goal. A great example of this is the podcast “Sorry, Partner” which effectively captures the essence of bridge and community.
So there are challenges to change this but addressing the challenge of recommending the best learning pathway, introducing conventions-free playing options, and nurturing the social and communal aspects of bridge are key areas for keeping the game alive.
Lastly, we’re all excited to know what your next big event is. Could you give us a sneak peek?
Thanks for all the great questions. I’m excited to be going to the Summer NABC in Chicago in July. This will be my first American National so if you see me and want to come say “hi”, please do. Also while I’m not going I am looking forward to the Bridge world Championship in Marrakesh, Morrocco and doing recaps of each day’s play. If you want to follow along as well you can see all the videos on my YouTube page by searching for Pete Hollands Bridge.
Thank you for your detailed answers, Pete! IntoBridge is also going to Chicago, we look forward to seeing you there.