Backing in Poker: A Double-Edged Sword
Over the past few years staking has become big business in poker; moreover, it has provided many aspiring players with the opportunity to climb the ladder faster than they would normally. While it may seem glamorous to play in tournaments with someone elseís money, there are a few things you need to consider before you go seeking a poker sugar daddy. This month dragthebar.comís tournament expert Jeremy Menard discusses the pros and cons of becoming a staked player.
When I first started making serious money playing poker I was bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and completely naÔve of just how complex the business of poker can become. After all I was simply playing a card game that parents teach their kids at a young age: how crazy could it get? It wasnít until I made my first trip to a $5k buy-in tournament with some fellow online players that I got a glance into the dark side of the staking business. I quickly discovered that a vast majority of my friends, who were extremely profitable online, were not playing on their own dime. I was dumbfounded. At that time it didnít make sense to me why these people would be willing to give up such a large percentage of their profits when it seemed like they were crushing the game online. However, soon after this trip, I went on a major downswing and it became painfully obvious why backing might be a good option.
For those who arenít aware, staking is becoming more prevalent, to the point where a large number of online and live pros have some kind of backing arrangement. Basically, the idea behind backing is that if a player canít afford to put themselves in tournaments they believe they have an edge in, they can choose to get, essentially, an extended loan from someone to cover their buy-ins. In return the player agrees to give up a percentage of their profits (usually 50%) in every tournament they cash in. For the player, this seems like a great idea because they can now play a tournament they wouldnít have been able to normally without risking a penny. However, as the old saying goes, when something seems too good to be true it usually is. There is one major caveat when it comes to backing and itís a word that strikes fear into the heart of any stacked player: "make-up."
Learning the Hard Way
That awful downswing, years ago, taught me a rough lesson about just how swingy the poker can be and since I had no intention of quitting poker I became a backed poker player. When I was first introduced to backing I could only see the negatives, but I quickly found out that there were a lot of benefits. The most obvious positive was that I could continue to play poker and make a steady profit without danger of going busto. Even players who are very financially comfortable seek backers because of the expense associated with the range of tournaments on offer today. On top of that, there is a certain amount of comfort that comes with the fact that you arenít playing with little Susieís college fund. This safety net helped me expand my game and experiment with plays that I wouldnít have normally because of the risk involved. I was also lucky in that my backers were very experienced players and this allowed me to discuss poker with them and further progress in my game.
Backers also serve as a form of bankroll management as they make sure that you are only playing the tournaments that have been agreed upon, and there are strict repercussions if you decide to say take a shot at the Ivey Thunderdome. This is a huge plus, as bankroll management, or lack thereof, is one of the main reasons winning players decide to get backed in the first place.
Backing Isnít Always the Way Forward
With all this upside itís hard to imagine why a player wouldnít consider the idea of being backed. Well, from experience, being backed isnít all itís cracked up to be. For me, being backed meant I could basically play any online tournament I wanted, which seemed great, except for the fact that I didnít realize how fast the buy-ins would add up. Make-up creates a vicious cycle that Iím almost certain is designed to keep players with their backer. For every tournament in which you donít cash, that buy-in is added to a playerís make-up which must be cleared before any money can be cashed out. Whatever profit is then left over is split between the player and the backer. Like I said, buy-ins can add up really quickly, and because I was no longer using my own funds the money seemed almost like play money to me. That resulted in me entering tough tournaments that I had no business playing in skill-wise. It was almost like I was handed the keys to a Ferrari when I should have been driving an Accord.
This is often the case with players who are backed, as they no longer are paying attention to how much of an edge they have in tournaments. I could tell you horror stories about friends of mine that are great at poker, but have ended up buried in a mountain of make-up easily totaling over $100k, so even when they hit a big score they didnít make any profit. This is incredibly discouraging, especially when you havenít seen a profit in months and there seems like no end in sight.
Going it Alone
I remember having dreams of someday being able to go on my own again, but the cycle of dropping into make-up, clearing some profit then dropping into make-up again kept repeating. This went on for 3 years, and it got to the point where it felt like I had to hit a high six-figure score to even consider making it out. Luckily for me Iíve had a breakout year, however, even though Iíve made a decent amount from poker, Iím still not sure if I am appropriately rolled to go on my own.
I hope you can see that there are some definite positive and negatives involved when considering staking. The best advice I can provide for someone looking for backing is to make sure you have enough life expenses saved up for at least one year, and try to stay disciplined despite the fact that you are no longer playing with your own money.