The next few months are exciting times for poker enthusiasts and professionals, as the vibrant city that “never sleeps” swells with those looking for a title, wads of cash or both. Starting now, until late July, Las Vegas will be flooded with money and players from around the globe. Not everybody can make the trip though, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a shot at cashing it in or having a little fun from “the rail”.
“Staking” or “Buying a Piece”, often abbreviated “BAP” is quite popular during the thick of the action and while many are familiar with how it all works, there is always room to introduce new “players” into both sides of the poker tournament “stock market”. The concept is simple, but we thought it might be still be interesting to take a look at it what’s involved, right from the basics to the more in-depth considerations.
The first question many ask is why would one want to buy or sell action for a poker tournament? If the player is good or stands a chance wouldn’t they keep it all for themselves?
Let’s say you are a winning player, you keep books to be sure and if your going to spend money on poker, chances are you are going to invest it in yourself. But if you are “beating the game”, it is also very likely by now you have also accepted that there are many other good players out there, some that are exceptional. If your money makes you money, then in the hands of another, maybe even far better player, logic says it can do the same. You will also know that, regardless of skill, there is are always circumstances and an element of chance that effect the outcome of any tournament, or “variance” and that even the best in the world won’t win every time. For that reason, those that are serious about the game prefer and know to play more tournaments or not over invest in any single event, giving them the best balance needed to come out on top. On the other side of the coin, some players may have the skills, but are putting their dreams ahead of their bankroll and it’s a wise decision to put a bit of a buffer in place. That doesn’t mean they don’t have a shot though and it can be quite profitable to take on a bit of their “risk” for gain of your own.
“Staking” in poker is usually considered to be when one person covers another’s full entry fee in exchange for a certain percentage. Buying a stake in someone can mean much the same as buying a piece, but to keep things simple for this post, “staking” is purchasing all the available action of a player by covering the costs they are looking for. Usually, for a player that just isn’t bankrolled for the event, or taking a shot via “backers” who have faith in the players performance, 50% of any winnings will go to the backer who payed for 100% of the entry, maybe even slightly more if the buy-in is “high-risk” or money for travel and expenses has been thrown in. If the player, often nicknamed the “Horse” produces some decent return, while giving up a big chunk of cash hurts initially, it really isn’t gone entirely. Consistent players that prove they can make a person who has been staking them entries find the percentage they get to keep is negotiable in time and they will get backed in more events. Since probability says they won’t always cash, this saves the player money long term.
“Buying a Piece” is usually much cheaper in comparison, therefore less of an investment is required. Of course on a single event, the potential return will also be much lower. A player puts up a percentage of their potential winnings or “action” and sells off smaller chunks to multiple investors in return for money towards buy-ins or expenses as a whole. Much like “staking”, the better or more “consistent” players may “mark-up” percentages to compensate for expenses, or quite simply because they are a “favorite” and therefore are entitled to a better than average cut. For example, the WSOP Main Event has an entry fee of $10,000, so 1% would be worth $100. At a mark up of 1.25, each percent will cost $125, meaning the player will collect $6,250 for selling half of his or her action and pay $3,750 out of pocket to keep the other 50%. By that math, a $125 investment at a 1.25% in Jonathan Duhamel last year would have been worth $89,443.10, before taxes that is; this is where things can get a bit more tricky…
Value of the Dollar and Taxes are sometimes overlooked in initial agreements made at the “water cooler” and like lottery pools, can cause headaches later. If it’s just for fun, or just a small investment, it might not be worth the headaches of working out the math. Normally, however, since money is involved and it could end up being huge money, it’s always a good idea to do things properly. Entry fees in Vegas are in US Dollars, so the purchase price of any “shares” should be adjusted accordingly before hand, so no claims to a larger payout based on currency rates and share entitlement is argued later. What will happen with monies withheld for taxes by the IRS should also be discussed, as any significant cash is going to see 30% shaved off the top as quickly as the player goes to collect. While it’s true some if not all of this money can be recovered, the process can take up to a year and there is no guarantee just how much will be returned. To have the player pay out the full balance right away would be a bit unfair, but regardless, an agreement should be in place as to how this will be handled.
Records and Transparency are important. While usually people have a bit of a relationship with someone they would invest in, that isn’t always the case and there needs to be “transparency” in just how much action the player is selling and to who, especially if you are buying simply because the player has a proven track record or has action available. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes selling more than 100% can occur, which means the player simply has to play and bust before the money to come out ahead, especially if mark ups are involved. For example, if using our previous numbers, if a player was able to sell 200% of their action because nobody knows who is all buying and how much, they would collect $25,000 dollars. Even after siting in the 10k, they would be $15,000 ahead since there are no winnings to divide up, chances are the scam could be overlooked. Like the stock market, sometimes the shady are looking to just make a quick buck, so it’s best to know just how much is out there and that’s why this information should be reported. Honest players will provide spreadsheets or records and give updates on their progress. One common method also used as measure of good faith is a player will take a picture of the entry ticket with his or her name and a tournament chip on it, proving they both purchased and sat for the event. While it might not be necessary for close friends, it doesn’t hurt either, plans and bankrolls can change quickly when players are surrounded by plenty of opportunity to win or lose and parties are everywhere, swings can be devastating and leave some people desperate.
When things are legit, players also often “disclose” screen names and histories, offering the poker equivalent of “financial audit”, allowing players to see important data such as percentage of “in the money” finishes, final tables, return on investment, etc. Online poker records and databases are readily available and even more in-depth information can be purchased at small costs. Live cashes are a bit harder to be accurate with since it harder to track how many games they have played or much they have spent versus won, but profile pages by real name will give a pretty good idea at how deep they are capable of finishing and at what buy-in range.
Often times, “buying a piece” will include several events, as players budget for a trip that will include taking as many “shots” at big money as possible. These often include other popular tournament series available in Las Vegas over WSOP, and while maybe not as “prestigious”, can provide for ideal situations; many top players are tied up at the RIO making fields “softer” than normal and since everybody is in Vegas, prize pools swell to much larger than they normally would, offering huge pay days and many more spots paying that could normally be found at similar buy-ins. In these cases, players will total the costs and sell percentages that include all of the events, giving “investors” multiple opportunities to cash in.
There are many ways to make “staking” or “BAP” work. Often times, a group of players will play a satellite tournament to send the winner to an event, with a mutual agreement that the winner gives a “piece” of action to the players who “ponied up” to put the winner’s package together and participated. A backer may also agree to stake a player for a satellite or two, live or online, with the agreement that if the player does win a seat, then a certain percentage of the action for the main event is returned. This is a cheaper alternative with a much larger potential that requires more work by the player, but chances are that player wouldn’t be playing otherwise.
“Swapping Action” is another way that players can give themselves a bit of an edge on “variance”. If a couple or a handful of good players are playing the same event, trading a small percentage can really help the odds that you walk away some money for your efforts, or at least reduce any losses. It doesn’t have to be for the same event or WSOP at all either, maybe you can’t make the trip for work or age reasons but have several Canadian events scheduled. Trading equal value, or adjusted percentages just makes things fun and make watching your friends progress more exciting and if you are handing over large wads of cash, why not to a buddy.
What should the “investor” look for though ? It’s not an easy question to answer. Maybe the young kid at work that has been waiting to turn twenty one and looks like he has been doing well so far is willing to make a bargain, or it could be he has been asking around. Perhaps the old pro in your poker room is going down, just to change things up and he is looking to spread it around a little for the long haul ahead. Track record can be important, but knowing what you would like to see as far a “results” should be the biggest factor. Is the player a “rock” that is almost certain to cash, but final tables are long shot? Like picking a real “horse”, do you want small odds or the long shot? A high volume player that goes for the win every time is going to take more chances, but their likely hood of hitting a huge win are probably higher. Do you want to let your staking money ride on the tight player in one event, or the aggressive player that is going to play several? Is the mark-up warranted, is the player overvaluing his or her worth based on a few good results? Like any other investment, it can be interesting to shop around and see what is available and a little research can go along way in improving your chances. Or it can be a simple as taking a gamble, “cause you got a good feeling about this one.”.
Things get started for the World Series of Poker on May 31st with the Casino Employee Event, which will see many of your favorite poker dealers and staff from around the globe, including Canada, actually getting a chance to mix things up on the other side of the felt. Maybe one of them is a good place to get your first “piece” for WSOP? (Especially the one who dealt you the Bad Beat JackPot hand?) Perhaps you have your own action to sell, so why not start a thread in our forums and put your deal on the table? We look forward to seeing the progress of our players and Good Luck at this years WSOP from CanadaPoker.com!