Poker Bankroll: Every player’s nightmare?
I have been doing quite the balancing act with trying to subsidize my start-up with my poker efforts, and the journey has been interesting to say the least. I have recently been introduced to the concept of ‘staking’ to play higher buy-in tourneys and still on the fence of whether this is the right way to go for me or not. The cool thing about being a poker player while also pursuing a business the social casino gaming space is that I get to truly see both sides of the coin. Today we focus on the player side… You need money to play more games, so what to do? and is it worth it?
I got the fork, knife, and A-1 sauce but no “stake.”
Sound familiar? An abbreviated quote from arguably the most popular poker film of all time and probably the reason for the poker boom and busto of countless players across the globe. If there’s a single historical moment that led to the explosion of America’s favorite past time it was the opening liner of the film Rounders. “Listen, here’s the thing. If you can’t spot the sucker in your first half hour at the table, then you are the sucker. Guys around here will tell ya, you play for a living, it’s like any other job. You don’t gamble, you grind it out. Your goal is to win one big bet an hour, that’s it. Get your money in when you have the best of it. Protect it when you don’t. Don’t give anything away. That’s how I paid my way through half of law school. A true grinder. You see, I learned how to win a little at a time. But finally I’ve learned this: if you’re too careful, your whole life can become a fuckin’ grind.”
After going through the roller coaster of poker one starts to mind fuck themselves. Is my life really a grind? It’s almost a gimme that poker is easy if you know how to play the game and more importantly the player. Would you rather work a 9-5 job in a cubicle (think Dunder Mifflin) or make a fortune playing poker experiencing the intoxicating highs and dizzying lows! So goes the greatest inadvertent marketing machine ever for the sport of poker accounting for millions of rags to riches and more likely back to rags stories sadly. Are you one of em? Hard assessment to make, but if you’re on the losing spectrum of things then one has to take a hard look in the mirror to see what’s going wrong. Why am I running so bad? Should I cut my losses and find a job to recoup. How do I get out of this hole? Many times players have been on the outs only to be saved by a backer. We’re going to go over what exactly a stake is, why one should get staked, and how to get staked.
A common misnomer is that a stake is the same as a loan. It’s not. In fact it’s more of an investment from one individual(s) to another. Stakes usually come from other players, colleagues, friends, and family who get a piece of your action. In other words they’re expecting a ROI (return of investment) on their stake in you. No different than investing in a business plan or stock. Except the ROI is usually very high seeing that the recipient really isn’t in a position to negotiate. It ranges from 1 – 100% depending on the situation, arrangement and really how much stake is at stake. But from a player standpoint it’s almost not even worth it to sell that much of yourself. Otherwise what’s the point of playing for free, stake or not. The only advantage to be staked is one does not have to pay back the investment as opposed to a loan. Of course every staking arrangement is different, but that is the gist of it. The most frequent staking arrangements come in the WSOP main event or in large scale tournaments with substantial payouts. This makes it more attractive for the staker and stakee.One of the most famous examples was when Mike Matusow staked Scotty Nguyen for the 1998 World Series Of Poker for 1/3 of the buy in. He went on to win the 1998 World Series of Poker and split 1/3 of the winnings ($333,333) with Mike Matusow. On the final hand of the 1998 World Series of Poker’s Main Event, a full house was dealt on the table (8♣ 9♦ 9♥ 8♥ 8♠). Nguyen made the memorable quote to his opponent Kevin McBride: “You call, it’s gonna be all over baby!” McBride called, saying “I call. I play the board.” Nguyen beat McBride with a better full house by holding 9♣ J♦.
Here’s the Youtube video of Nguyen winning the final hand at the 1998 WSOP main.
If you watch closely at the 2:39 mark you can see Matusow cheering and high fiving in the sidelines repeating what Scotty said, “we did it man!” They sure did! Scotty went on to become a multi-millionaire with the backing of Mike Matusow.
Now, the question is why should anyone stake someone or be staked.
There’s probably more than a dozen answers to this, but it’s usually pretty plain and simple. The stakee or lets call em the horse is low on resources. The horse might be playing beyond their means going busto in the process, allocated funds for bills, or simply hit a rough patch. Whether they lost their money in bad investments, got juiced in a divorce settlement, or got robbed it all points to a common denominator…they’re on the rail. In poker terms they’re stuck in the abyss, time out corner, the penalty box, whatever it is they’re not in action. While it’s true that most horses are being backed for those aforementioned reasons there are some who can easily afford the tournament buy ins. Why then would they be staked? The key being variance. Even expert professional gamers go through long stretches without cashing and this can amount to extensive losses in the negative six to seven or even eight figures. If you’re losing more than that then you’re probably on your way of jumping off the Lion’s Gate bridge. Point being pros and amateurs get staked all the time.
Now the flip side is why should one stake someone.
The bottomline is the bottomline. Usually it’s done out of friendship, past favours, backer sees potential or knows the horse is a strong player who can convert it to winnings! There’s usually some sort of mutually beneficial arrangement; profit sharing being the primary reason. There’s also buying action where it consists of a short term deal for one tournament or series of tournaments where a player sells some of his action at a mark-up. Mark-up being the cost to the backer to buy the players action and varies depending on the skill level of player and their expected return of investment in the tournament. Many if not all current poker pros are staking another fellow player or have been staked in the past at one point in time or another. The list is long. There are also many unsavory characters in the poker world with the likes of David “Chino” Rheem where the term “chino” was coined to those who are welchers. If you’ve been “chinoed” you just got scammed. After winning the Epic poker league title for $1,000,000 he was forced to pay back his bad debts as part of the etiquette agreement. Up til then he had a sordid history on welching on bets and deals. Interestingly even he was able to turn it around, recently winning the 2013 WPT Championship event for $1,150,297 beating out the next player on our list. The latest to fall into this category is shockingly a well known poker player, Eric Lindgren. While he may not openly be known as a welcher he got stuck millions not in poker, but playing fantasy sports. Winning a wsop bracelet, millions with 25 cashes, huge sponsorship deal with Full Tilt, then everything came crashing down on Black Friday. With his sponsorship gone, mounting debt in sports wagers, long stretch without cashing in a big tournament, the writing was on the wall. After being aired out by Haralabos Voulgaris on the 2+2 forums Eric Lindgren opened up about his staggering sports betting losses in Bluff Magazine. For more on that story read the Fantasy Sports blog with the Bluff article link. It’s a fascinating read. Shows it can happen to anyone including famous poker pros. Now, he’s most likely being staked in games. Sports betting might not be his forte, but he certainly has a proven track record in poker. As mentioned above Lindgren came in second against David “Chino” Rheem netting $650,275 in the 2013 WPT $25,000 main event. Even players who are down and out will win eventually. All they need is confidence and a backer who believes in them. Pick your horses carefully and you’ll ride the money train! This leads to the final part.
How to get staked in poker?
To get staked usually means you have a strong relationship with the backer and equally importantly you have a stellar game. Another key ingredient is the horse has ability to pay off in case it reaches the make-up stage which means they’re operating at a loss. Whether it’s working a 9-5 job, selling assets, or simply binking a tourney! Nobody is going to invest in a bad stock. The same applies here. One should have a proven track record in cash games or tournies whether it’s local, or online. Of course having the ability to pay off the stake/make-up is always an assurance for the backer. Rule of thumb is to always leave yourself outs. At the end of the day money is money. It can be replaced, relationships can not. So if you find yourself in the position of being backed make sure you do everything humanly possible to win or show that you’re more than good for it. Not only is it good sound business it’s also good Karma. Pros often tweet to their large following for offers, post on 2+2 forums, solicit funds from wealthy financial backers (think Guy Laliberte), or simply get backing from the fellow poker colleagues. Players do it all the time. The most recent success story is Antonio Esfandiari for Big One for One Drop tournament with a cool $1,000,000 buy-in live event. After beating 47 other players, he earned $18,346,673, the biggest cash prize in poker history. It’s common knowledge that he was staked most likely a large percentage at face value. You can bet that all backers involved were partying like rock stars! The biggest point is one has to believe in their own game and skills subjectively. If one believes in him or herself they will win. It’s not a question of how, it’s a question of when. Stories were outlined in this article of players who experienced mounting odds against them, living on the brink of disaster only to find the light in the tunnel through a generous backer. Staking and being staked is as integral as buying and selling in the stock market. It’s the only way the poker economy can continue. Perhaps Rheem said it best on his thoughts about going heads-up against Erick Lindgren.
“I want the public to realize: Don’t judge unless you really understand or you know. Erick’s a great guy. Yeah he’s had his ups and downs, but who hasn’t? Who hasn’t made mistakes?” said Rheem. “He’s just trying to make better with his life doing what he’s very good at doing.”
So there you have it. The art of staking and being staked with the meteoric rise and fall of famous poker players. Then the redemption. Everybody deserves a second chance right…
Worm:I know you know this feeling… You know this feeling very well… I mean, you got your table all set up, your fork, your knife, your A1 sauce…
Mike and Worm: All you need is the steak.