Playing for myself

Earlier this year I spent 45 days away from Argentina. Back in 2010 or 2011, that would have been one of my shorter trips. These days, 45 days seems like a long time to be on the road. It got me thinking about selling action and taking backing.

During my trip, I made five stops: Rio de Janeiro, the Bahamas, Miami, Panama and Deauville. I played poker at all of them. I played in this big PLO game that travels around to wherever the action players are. This game plays huge. Guys usually buy in for between $10,000 and $20,000, but you can rebuy for whatever you want. And it's PLO. It gets really, really big, really, really fast. Once a couple of people start rebuying, everybody goes crazy. I see people winning $200,000 to $500,000 all the time.

Thankfully, in this PLO game, I haven't taken any huge beats. I've never lost more than $30,000 - and that's pretty cheap. But I usually keep between 60 and 70% of my action and sell the rest. That way, if the game gets really big (as it often does), I have some protection. I don't want to snap-lose $150,000 and then it's, "Okay, bye."

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My point is that sometimes, when the stakes are so high, it makes sense to sell some action. But for tournaments, I try not to sell any action. Sometimes you just need to afford to play in them, but I just don't like the idea. Maybe I'm wrong or maybe I just feel more confident in my tournament play that in my cash game abilities, but if I go to play a tournament, I'd rather keep it all for myself, regardless of buy-in. I've always said that I probably would quit poker if I ever had to get backed. I'd quit and go try new ventures. I don't wanna sound arrogant with this at all. I understand for many players is the only option and a really good option because they can never go broke. It just doesn't fit me.

Beating poker is tough enough as it is. Getting in make-up or only getting to keep 40% or 50% or 60% of what you win would make things that much more complicated. In that situation, in order to make any real money you have to be insanely good.

Not everybody is like Dan Smith. Guys like Dan are strange, rare cases of talent and money-making ability. In general, the average player doesn't make that much money. The average player not only has to deal with expenses, but also buy-ins, variance, and everything else. And then he usually has to get out of make-up. Not many people can beat that.

When I think back, I realize I may have made some mistakes in the past. For two years in 2010 and 2011, I was travelling from tournament to tournament playing every High Roller event, every LAPT event, and many $10,000 events. In 2010 I binked a few of those tournaments and made lots of money. But in 2011 variance caught up to me. At one point I was down $500,000 for the year. I still lost overall for 2011, but a few big scores near the end of the year helped lower that loss to a more manageable amount.

That's why I was more chill about the tournaments I played in 2012, and 2013 will be the same. I'm not going to take as many crazy risks with my bankroll by playing in every tournament out there. Poker is still my priority. It's how I make money and, more important than that, it's what I love doing. But I want to make sure I never put myself in a position where I need backing. For me, that would be the beginning of the end.

Jose "Nacho" Barbero is a member of Team PokerStars Pro

Jose Barbero
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