Oct. 30, 2011, Posted by Jeff.Kimber
As long as there’s been poker, people have sold action in themselves to allow them to play bigger games and speculators have bought into it, looking for horses to win them untold riches without playing themselves. There have been some high profile events won by staked players; Greg Raymer and Joe Cada both won the World Series of Poker Main Event having sold chunks of themselves to allow them to play. Selling action can be a tricky thing to get right. Rumour has it that Constant Rijkenberg won EPT San Remo a couple of years ago having accidentally sold more than 100% of himself, ending up winning the title and owing money!
Players sell action through various means. There are massive staking companies like Poker Farm who have teams of players backed into various events. There are individuals like Chris Moorman, who has his own staking operation and a stable of regular horses. Then there are individuals who sell action in one off events, either by using poker forums, Facebook and Twitter, or personal contacts.
When selling action, the first factor to consider for both buyer and seller is the price. Most players sell at a premium, whether to help pay expenses or to reflect their perceived edge over the field in general. This can often bring criticism – tournaments like EPTs don’t have many weak spots, so to say you’ve generally got an edge over a field that strong can see the seller shouted down.
During the recent EPT London there was a raft of players selling action in the £5250 main event that caught my eye, and with their offers of available shares came the usual barrage of digs and criticism as well as eager punters looking to get involved. Paul Foltyn offered shares in himself at cost price, so 1% of Pab, as he is known, would cost you £52.50. Hit Squadder Chaz Chattha offered shares at £70 for 1%, a mark-up of 33% (so he was selling at 1.33). Another selling action was Paul Zimbler, who offered to sell 10% of him at £85, a mark-up of 62% (1.62).
If you’re going to buy shares in someone, you want them to have a bit of form, so a quick look at the Hendon Mob database will tell you how good, experienced, and likely to provide you a return the seller is. Of the three examples I’ve mentioned, the immediate reaction, both personally and from others was Pab is selling cheaply, Chaz is selling at the going rate, and Paul is expensive at that price.
Looking at the Hendon Mob database shows the varying degrees of form of our three sellers, which confirms the initial reaction. Pab, mainly an online pro off some repute, had won over $607k live, including winning two GUKPT titles in the five years he’s played offline. Chaz had won $705k, again in five years of live play, and was coming off one of the biggest results of his career, shipping GUKPT Luton for over $96k just a few weeks before. Paul has won $320k over a career spanning 10 years and has never cashed for more than $50k in an event.
For me that was decision made. In my opinion Pab had the best chance of a return and as he was the cheapest, I bought 5%. As it turns out I was right, my £262.50 returning £650 after Pab netted £13,000 for his 47th place. Neither Chaz nor Paul Zimbler cashed.
What grates me about the whole thing though is the amount of opinions on the pricing of shares that come forward from all and sundry. Pab wanted to sell at £52.50 a share. I wanted to buy, so I bought. Paul Zimbler wanted to sell at £85 a share. I didn’t want to buy, so I didn’t and that was the end of my interest in Paul’s business.
Others, though, feel it’s their duty to tell the world how outrageous it is that Paul was selling at a mark-up of 1.62, how bad a deal that was and how outraged they were by his temerity. If someone wants to sell at £85 a share, good luck to them. If people want to buy, let them buy. If you don’t want to, don’t, but why get any further involved? On one of the staking threads for EPT London on Blonde Poker, James Dempsey tells the seller that his mark-up is “too high”. When pressed why, rather than just deciding not to buy, his response was thus:
“Say for example someone comes on offering tickets to an event but they are charging way over the correct price am I supposed to sit here and let my fellow forum users get done over or should I speak up as part of the community?”
In short, yes. Apart from the fact that a concert ticket will have a ‘correct price’ printed on it so you can see for a fact that you’re overpaying, underpaying or paying the cost price, it’s a big world out there and if someone wants to spend their money on what they presumably think is a fair punt, who is he or anyone else to tell them otherwise?
Presumably James, as well as all the others who like to state in matter of fact ways that this price or that price is ‘too high’ without anyone knowing for a fact that is the case or the player even having the chance to play enough events to work out a reasonable average, feel people so easily robbed of their money shouldn’t be allowed out of the house alone. When they pop into a supermarket and pick up a packet of Wotsits, perhaps they need someone behind them pointing out the shop’s own brand crisps are much the same and represent better value for money?
As ever with these things, it’s a case of caveat emptor, buyer beware. If you don’t know the player well enough and don’t fancy his chances after looking up their form, don’t buy. Going back to the Zimbler example, he’s worked very hard to build up a public profile, commentating and playing in TV games and making appearances on various shows and magazines.
If people who have seen him fancy a punt, the odd 1% or 5%, who would I be to put them off backing the nice guy they’ve seen on TV? I certainly wouldn’t want to be the one who explains why I put someone off when they’ve landed their once in a lifetime result, and as poker players we all know that that life changer might just be around the corner.
Jeff Kimber is a 36-year-old Grosvenor Casino sponsored professional poker player who has amassed well over $1.5million in career earnings, having given up a successful career as a sports journalist to forge a career at the poker tables. He has won the World Heads-up championship and a UK Poker Tour main event, as well as major final tables in $5,000-plus buy-in events at WPT and Asian Poker Tour events, the Ladbrokes Poker Cruise and the Johnny Chan Invitational in the Caribbean. Jeff has made three WSOP final tables, all in PLO events, including a second place to JC Tran in 2009. While his live exploits have continued, Jeff is still a very successful online player under the nickname JaffaCake, uncluding winning iPoker’s ECOOP $1k PLO rebuy in December 2008 for close to $50k.
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