Wednesday, June 04, 2008

2008 WSOP Day 5: Stakes and Shakes

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

"Neither a borrower nor a lender be." - Polonius to Laertes in Hamlet, Act 1 scene 3
I first met Tony "Bond18" Dunst at the PokerNews Cup at the Crown Casino in Melbourne, Australia. He was friends with Jules ad Graham and although we had never met, we sort of knew each other by reputation. He was a frequent 2+2 contributor and he had been reading Tao of Poker for years. During two trips to Australia (October and January), Bond18 and I discussed poker and writing, but mostly about writing.

With the exception of Shaniac (who finally updated his blog by the way), Bond18 is one of most articulate writers to contribute to the 2+2 forums. In addition, Bond18 and his girlfirend also wrote He said/She said columns at Poker News, which are some of my favorite articles to read along with Tom Sexton's regular column.

Bond18 stopped by the press box the other day. We caught up on the last few months, specifically where we both had been traveling. He's in the middle of an around the world in ninety days trip and his last stop was in Europe. He it up Las Vegas and the WSOP as he makes his way back down under.

Bond18 pointed out a post on 2+2 called Official Staking Thread: Ask for/Offer Stakes. It's a must read for anyone who is considering any similar deals for the WSOP or other ventures. Bond18 is very frank and open about his experiences in being stake and his current deal with Timex.

In the post, Bond18 expounds upon a "list of qualities and steps towards getting backed" which includes...
1. Honesty
2. Communication
3. Quality of play
4. Be easy going and accommodating
5. Keep good records
6. Approach a backer
The post also includes a sample backer/backee contract which is a necessary read as well.

With that post in mind, read this post written by Bond 18 called Very Strange Staking Situation. Here's a bit...
A friend of mine of about 4 years in Australia... been a winning tournament player at low stakes online and w/e stakes live for sometime, and to help him out I arranged a stake ... and told him whenever he wanted/needed help with his game to send me HH and I'd look over them.

For the first couple months of our arrangement everything went fine and he turned 9k into roughly 13k. We were operating on the standard 60 me ... 40 to him deal with make up.

Then one day all the money but $900 had been cashed out of the two accounts and he no longer returned emails. A mutual friend told me he'd ran off to Macau with the money and degen'd all the money away at the tables. I did a little investigating and it turns out he was in considerably worse shape financially than I'd originally though, being in debt to a number of people.

Now then, my last email told him he could either use the 900 dollars in the account to grind microstakes and make something of himself or just tell me what he'd done. He never replied.

Fast forward to this weekend, where I find out he's won the mansion 1k tournament for roughly $190,000. Now then, as his backer whom the relationship was never dissolved with, and in some manner of speaking he was using my money, to what am I entitled in this very odd situation?
Wow. So Bond18 is in a tough spot here. The kid he backed cashed out the staked roll, ran off to Macau and donked it off there on who knows what, then proceeded to win almost 200K. Definitely check out some of the comments on that thread.

Bond18's recent headache is not uncommon for pros on the rise and pros on the decline and pros on the top who are staking these deals. The bottom line is this, a significant percentage of broke players would not be in the games without the assistance of some of the richest and most successful players in the world.

There are a lot of staking deals that are out in the open and everyone knows about like the ponies in Erick Lindgren's stable which included currently or at one time Chris Bell, Josh Arieh, Bill Edler, Gavin Smith, Nordberg, and Carlos Mortensen. Or the Vegas guys that Phil Ivey backs or the Scandis that Patrik Antonius puts into play. One media rep joked last year that 75% of the 50K HORSE field was either backed by Lindgren or Antonius.

Timex is a Canadian pro who turned 18 last September. Gobboboy introduced me to the quiet and shy Timex in London during the WSOP-Europe. He had just turned 18 and was finally able to enter a casino for the first time. Since he couldn't play in live tournaments, he staked a slew of online players. Bond18 was among Timex's armada of online wunderkinds. And Timex wasn't the only one. For a lot of these kids who were under-21 the only way they could make money at the WSOP was by staking their friends who were of gambling age.

You would be amazed how much of their money has been in play the last couple of years at the WSOP and on the EPT and at other online tournaments such as WCOOP and FTOPS.

Of course, with staking deals come a whole set of other problems. I've been staked and staked players in the past and it all comes down to a trust issue. Greed always fucks stuff up and that's what staking deals get a little hairy.

During the first weekend of the WSOP, one somewhat popular bracelet winner owed another bracelet a six-figure make up. The guy who was stuck had a huge score at one of the PokerStars Sunday tournaments. He used some of his winnings to buy a new car and a trip to Hawaii with his girlfriend. The backer found out and was furious, while the slippery eel avoided him for three days until he got cornered in the hallway.

Remember that Vinnie Vinh awkwardness from last year? And the Eskimo Clark almost dying and pissing himself at the final table fiasco? Both incidents involved money owed to backers. Vinh skipped town to avoid making his backers more money than they deserved, while Eskimo had to keep playing because the juice was running on his debts.

So many evil things can arise from staking. Even one of my favorite sports writers Steve Rosenbloom wrote about the subject in an ESPN article from December 2005...
Erik Seidel and John Juanda staked Mike Matusow all the way to a million-dollar payday at the final table of the WSOP main event this year. Erick Lindgren backed Josh Arieh to a $2.5 million bonanza for third place in the 2004 big one. Billy Baxter put Stu Ungar into the 1997 WSOP championship and saw his man win it all...

Question is, is this OK? Is this legal? Is this ethical? Is this a festering conflict of interest that is the biggest threat to the public embracing poker's new smiley face instead of the game's outlaw image?...

The issues are numerous. Perhaps the biggest and most obvious is backers playing in the same events as players they have staked, and maybe even at the same table, could lead to suspicions of soft playing and collusion...

"The biggest issue is this," WSOP tournament director Johnny Grooms says. "Collusion is the hardest thing in the world to prove. We can tell guys they can't make deals. We can tell guys they can't sell percentages of themselves. But once they leave this area and there's no surveillance, who's to say that a month down the road they won't pay off each other? There's no way to enforce collusion 100 percent. It can't be done."...
Random side note... I miss both Johnny Grooms and Steve Rosenbloom.

* * * * *

Congrats to Brandon Schaefer for 11th place in Event #3. I know that he really wanted to make a WSOP final table and I have a feeling he's gonna do it this year. I made a prop bet that either Schaefer, Gobboboy, or Carl Olson will make a WSOP final table this year (including WSOP-E). It's nothing like Ivey's 600K bet that either Allen Cunningham or himself will win a bracelet this year.

After a long Day 2 that last almost until 6am, the Final Table of Event #2 was finally played. Jesus was the biggest name at the final table and he finished in third place.

Event #4 $5K Mixed Hold'em's final table is set and includes David Williams,Justin Bonomo, Erick Lindgren, Howard Lederer, Roland de Wolfe, Isaac Haxton. David Rheem, Andrew Robl and Pat Pezzin.

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Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

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