Staking Poker Players in Tournament Play / by kevin murray

Players love the big buy-in tournaments, so does TV, so does the media in general, and so do the fans.  Never have there been so many tournaments with such big buy-in amounts ranging from $10,000 to $100,000 and all the way up to $1 million.  What a lot of people do not know, but should know, is that a significant amount of the money being put up by tournament poker players is actually being put up by a consortium of other players, investors, or a combination thereof.  That is to say, that many players aren’t actually buying in with $100,000 of their own money, but have instead sold pieces or shares of themselves to other players and/or investors. 


The short reason why players do this is to cut down on variance, that is to say, to cut down on the inevitable ups and downs of tournament play in which the top prize money is extremely top heavy, in which if you aren’t finishing 1st , 2nd or 3rd than you aren’t making the really big money.  But just because you haven’t finished in the top three, doesn’t mean that there isn’t someone that you respect, that you know, that you play with that hasn’t accomplished that very goal in that particular tournament.  Consequently, if you imagine, that there are ten quality players, each taking 10% of each other, this will significantly cut down on each player's variance and will more easily allow these said players to participate in higher buy-in tournaments all over the world.


Having said this, this doesn’t mean that in a competitive sport such as poker, that this type of behavior, that this type of staking, or buying a piece of another player or players, doesn’t lend itself to a very valid charge that it compromises the game itself, on the basis that it follows that some players will not play as hard against other players that they have a stake in or have been staked to.  While, inevitably, these players will protest that they do not engage in such behavior, that they certainly don’t collide with each other, there isn’t any valid reason to threaten the very integrity of the game in order to accommodate this type of staking as there are a few ways to correct or ameliorate this situation.


By far the best solution, is to make it a firm rule, that players have to divulge at their buy-in, their financial backers and that each of these players must have at a minimum, at least a 50% stake in themselves, or a signed commitment from their backer or backers that these particular backer(s) are not participating in the tournament at large, in which case the player can have less than a 50% ownership in his own person.  In cases in which the player and his backer(s) are participating in the same tournament, no backer can have no more than 5% of any one player, and no player can have no less than 50% of himself.


The above would help the integrity of the sport, because it gives more of an incentive for a player to be true to himself, as opposed to psychologically being in a position in which he wants to be all things to all backers.  The integrity of the sport demands this modification, for the fairness of all involved.