Buying and selling action at major poker tournaments

Business people

Not all of those who participate in a major poker series have the resources to pay the hefty buy-ins out-of-pocket. The most straightforward way is to gradually build your bankroll and when you can finally afford to participate in such a tournament, buy-in and hope for the best. Since very few have the time to wait and even poker professionals are so active that the financial burden is hard to bear, many resort to buying and selling action.

The process is relatively simple, with the one selling action being a player who tries to hedge against the risk of an untimely elimination. Established poker pros pay the buy-in out-of-pocket and if they make it to the higher stages of such events, start looking for investors. Those who give them credit are waiting for them to make a deep run, so that the return on investment will make the financial effort worthwhile.

This is only the tip of the iceberg, because the vast majority of participants don’t have the money to buy in, so they benefit from support from poker pros. Daniel Negreanu among others has invested in fellow poker players and sometimes he took a leap of faith with players he knew he will compete against. So far the numbers don’t look too good for the Canadian, but there are others out there who were luckier than him when choosing aspiring players to support.

These agreements are sometimes made official by a contract but in most cases, a simple verbal agreement and a handshake will do. The ones who benefit from such financial support have their own obligations, as they will return an amount that exceeds 50% of their winnings. Depending on the agreement, the players can give back as much as 70% of the sponsors, so it makes perfect sense for the latter to be on a constant search for talent.

The authorities and those organising poker tournaments are well aware of these practices, but they don’t have the interest, tools and regulations to interfere. The only concern for those behind major tournaments such as the World Series of Poker is to keep the game fair. Problems could arise when sponsors and beneficiaries meet at the same table, because the conflict of interest could lead to soft play.

For the untrained eye and especially to those who don’t know about the existence of any agreements, this sort of lenience can go unnoticed. Overall, one can only make an educated guess about who benefits more from buying and selling action as well as the practice of staking players. The only certainty is that these agreements have been around for a while, which means that someone definitely has something to win.