Stud: Staking

by Adam "STUDstood" Roberts

This week, I want to continue the topic of staking.

Staking occurs both in cash games and tournaments. In both areas there should be strict guidelines followed to ensure that there is trust, as well as a fun and relaxed atmosphere for both people -- that's imperative. Game results may not pan out the way you anticipate, so there should be no hard feelings either way if that happens.

First, let's discuss cash ring games.

In this area, trust is most important, especially in live casinos, because there are no "official" records. At least in online cash games, a player can request per session records directly from the site, as well as hand histories, to back up his records. I like that idea, because there can be no discrepancies.

"Taking a piece" is also an option, and can often be better than full staking.
Before I got fully staked, I was playing $75/$150 Stud with my own bankroll. I noticed that there was a potentially more profitable daily $300/$600 half Stud, half Stud Hi/Lo game, which I wanted to play in. However, I neither had the adequate bankroll, nor had yet developed enough of a reputation as a winning, trustworthy player, so I did not have anyone to ask for full staking. I estimated that I would need $240,000 to play in this game. Although I was hoping to have gotten the full $240K up front, I soon realized that was not going to happen.

But there were people who were interested in taking a piece of my action at that limit. So, I put up 25%, $60K, which was the same amount as I would bankroll for playing $75/$150. I was able to raise the other 75%, $180K, from a handful of poker players who had competed against me in the $75/$150 games. I took my backers on their honor, and accepted $60K of that amount to get started, with a guarantee of the additional $120K if needed.

If I had lost at the start, and my backers did not keep their word, this would have meant that I would have actually put up 50% of the working bankroll, and $120K would have been too low an amount for me to have had a legitimate shot of winning at that limit. This scenario can happen whether you are being fully staked, or pieced out. That is why it is important to try and get backers who will keep their word, especially in the face of losing, which tends to make people lose confidence in your ability (and sometimes honesty).
Luckily, I was able to win right away, which assuaged my backers and gave me a reputation of being an honest, hard working poker player. This in turn enabled me to get full backing at a later date.

I would not be hesitant to ask people you trust to either take a piece of you, or fully stake you. If you are winning player, there are people, usually the poker players whom you're competed against, or sometimes people who do not play poker at all, who enjoy investing in other players. But I do not think you will be able to achieve this unless you have already proven yourself as a winning, hard working, and honest player. This will take time, but will usually happen at some point along the road.

This is one reason I like playing in the same game, limit and (if possible) time of day -- to get to know some of the other players. Some may end up wanting to back you in a higher limit game.

Continuing on the concept of "piecing out," if you are respected enough you may also be able to play for a bigger piece than you are putting up. For example, you invest 50%, and are only responsible for 40% of the losses, but get 60% of the profits.
I think it's important to make clear than you should not let your ego get involved in wanting to play in games higher than your own personal bankroll. Your investment in playing bigger games should still be within your means; the "risk of ruin" still goes up if you overextend yourself. While it may seem like a nice accolade to say that you are being "pieced out," I see no reason to do this unless you are considering playing in higher limit game which is potentially more profitable than the lower one which you are playing on your own. Don't let your ego push you into a bigger, less profitable game.
Again, I would come up with a game plan, decide what bankroll you feel is necessary, and try to secure as much of that amount up front from your backer(s). Only if you feel that you can trust your backers to come up with the remaining balance (if necessary) of their promised bankroll, would I play with the lower amount of money that they had already given to you.

I would also put all the terms and conditions of your deal with your backers in writing, and, if necessary notarize it. This contract should include a number of items, including:

  • The amount each of you are agreeing to invest and in what increments.
  • The type of game and limit you are going to play.
  • The percentage deal you are both agreeing to.
  • The minimum amount of hours you are going to play per week, month or year.
  • The money management guidelines you are going to adhere to.
  • The time frame or dollar amount of when you are going to split, if there is profit.
  • When you will be getting any additional stake money (if applicable or necessary).
  • Guidelines as to when you have to present your playing results to your backer.
  • Guidelines as to how involved your backer will be (watching you play, offering advice, etc.).
  • Consequences on both parties if the contract is breached. As a player, with a notarized contract which cannot be discharged with a bankruptcy, you may be able to take your backer to court if he/she does not fulfill his/her monetary obligations. As a backer, this can sometimes also be done.
  • If you are getting fully staked, as opposed to getting pieced out, what the working bankroll can be used for other than poker playing. (Expenses,for example.)
  • Getting fully staked should be your ultimate goal, and we will discuss that next week.
    In the meantime, you can find me in the $10/$20 and $30/$60 limit games in our Stud section, as well as in our weekend $215 buy-in tournaments for Stud games. Please check the starting times of each of those events under Tourney > Special in the PokerStars lobby.

    Feel free to contact me with any questions, suggestions or thoughts at See you at the tables!

    Brad Willis
    @BradWillis in Strategy