In the Twitter-fueled, ego-charged, modern poker world of “heads-up-for-rolls” challenges, selling action might not be the sexiest topic on the table.
It should have a place, though.
There shouldn’t be any stigma around selling action. In fact, it can be a lot of fun and a great way to protect the bankroll.
Selling action, or “poker staking,” can take on many forms. In general, it refers to a player selling a percentage of his buy-in to at least one other person for an event. If he makes money, he then returns the agreed-upon percentage of his winnings to the buyer. The player can play in bigger games, give a sweat to fans and friends, and mitigate risk. The buyer can invest in players they like, have a sweat in games in which they can’t personally play, and hopefully make a return on their money.
In short, there are lots of good reasons to be staked, and to stake others, in poker. But, you don’t have to take my word for it.
I had the chance to speak with a couple of professional poker players, Faraz Jaka and Cedrric Trevino, on the topic. Their combined games represent a wide variety of buy-ins and experiences. Jaka has played in some of the biggest fields and events and runs his own successful poker training site, jakacoaching.com. Trevino, also known as “The Poker Traveler,” plays full-time, shares his poker adventures via social media, and frequently sells action.
They both graciously shared their thoughts on selling action for our benefit.
Poker staking from the pros: How, when, where, and why
If you sell action, why do you choose to do so?
Faraz: Choosing to sell action is basically a function of keeping my average buy-in at a certain target number based on money I have set aside as my “poker bankroll.” Sometimes I don’t even need to sell as my buy-ins average out to what my bankroll rule allows, but I have a few personal friends who are non-pros that get a lot of excitement following my tournaments, so it’s fun to share the experience and the winnings with your close friends. I also find that my students benefit a lot from the private WhatsApp group I post hand histories to, so it’s also turned into a good opportunity for my students to learn from as well.
Cedrric: Most of the folks that buy some of my action are long-time followers from my community,
I love being able to share my success with them. Also, I feel that I play better when other
people’s money is on the line, I don’t want to disappoint.
What percentage of yourself do you like to keep? Does it vary?
Faraz: I usually list out all the events I am planning on playing [in] the next 3 months into a spreadsheet and figure out the average buy-in. Now I compare that to my bankroll; let’s use $1,000,000 as an example of someone’s bankroll for live tournaments. If you are non-pro and can replenish your bankroll you might want to use a 30 -100 buy-in rule. If you are a pro you might want a 50 -100 buy-in rule. Factors like how tough the fields are and how large the fields are, if you rely on poker for income, etc. will dictate whether you want to be on the more liberal or conservative side of those ranges.
Cedrric: The amount I sell will definitely vary but it’s based on interest. Most times I will open up 10-15%
for sale and if it sells fast, then I’ll open additional percentages for folks. I’ll always keep 55%+ of
Have you ever regretted selling action or had problems because of doing so? What are the downsides (if any) to selling action?
Faraz: I’ve definitely had some of my larger scores come when I sold a lot more of myself than I usually do and that can definitely sting. But, there is always the flip side that maybe I would not be playing as comfortably if I kept too much of myself and that I should not even be in that tournament if I am not bankrolled for it. I haven’t had many issues selling action but I am very proactive when it comes to communicating in advance what to expect which helps reduce the chance of issues arising
Cedrric: No, I have never regretted selling. Some people regret selling when they score big, but if that’s
the case they really are selling for the wrong reason. I love being able to share profit with those
that believed in me. In my opinion, the downside of selling action is when you are having to
chase down funds from folks who are buying and managing tons of transactions back and forth.
What methods or websites have you used to sell action? What is your favorite way(s) to do so?
Faraz: I used to post action on Twitter and Instagram to sell packages. I always save anyone who is interested in a spreadsheet along with their email address. Now my list of investors is big enough that I simply send out an email to my list when I have action to sell. I recommend packaging together 10+ tournaments together so you don’t have to keep doing so many transactions and emails back and forth. I like to package together 3 months’ worth of events then I only have to do a package 4 times a year.
Cedrric: In the past, I have sold directly to friends that wanted a piece, but I shy away from that these
days and sell exclusively on StakeKings. With StakeKings I don’t have to worry about keeping
track of who bought what or collecting money and paying out.
Finally, do you ever swap action with other players?
Faraz: I swap action with the same group of players I talk strategy with. It’s great because assuming you swap with players with a similar skill level as you it will not reduce your ROI (return on investment) in the tournament, it just reduces your variance. Swapping with as many people as you can, even if their skill level might just be 1 notch less than yours is a good move, because picking up some extra payouts when you have a bad year can help keep your bankroll healthy so you can stay in the game. In MTTs it’s all about staying in the game because it’s so easy to go broke with how brutal the swings are.
Cedrric: I have but only a very small percentage and only once or twice. I also only do so if we are already in the money.
A recap of poker staking
As you can see, there are many good reasons to get involved in the staking scene. Whether you’re practicing proper bankroll management, letting your fans sweat your action, or ensuring a more profitable tournament season, the benefits are numerous. So, how can you be like Jaka and Trevino, and get it on the poker-staking fun?
- 1. Sell action to friends and family
- If your friends and family love and support your poker game, selling some action to them can be a great way to get them involved in the fun. Make sure and communicate well, make sure they know what they’re investing in, and don’t ask more of them than they’re comfortable spending. As Jaka recommends above, keep a detailed list of action sold and communicate well with all investors, both before and after events played.
- 2. Use reputable websites to manage your sold action
- If you’d rather not manage all of the details yourself, there are several poker-staking websites that will happily manage the transaction for you. The most popular on the market today are StakeKings, YouStake, and PokerStake. Each one has its own staking details, so refer to them for which one is the best fit for you. Be aware that they do charge fees for their services, either to the player, the staker, or both. However, if you’d rather not deal with all the transactions and worry about collecting and paying money, these options could be perfect for you. (Note: PokerORG is not affiliated with or sponsored by any of the staking websites mentioned.)
- 3. Swap action with other players
- As Jaka mentioned above, one great way to mitigate risk and increase potential earnings is to swap with players of similar skill levels. If variance doesn’t swing your way, your swap partner might make a deep run, and vice versa. A word of advice: swap with people you trust and get agreements down in writing. Some players have a lot of swaps in play at any given time, so keep good records for everyone’s sake.
If you want to open a business, you might need business partners. If you have a startup idea, you might reach out to potential investors. The poker-staking world operates very similarly. If you view playing as a business of sorts, you might need some investors or partners to get into events above your comfortable bankroll. Do it right, and it might make you even more money or even some friends. At the very least, it will help keep you in the game.
If you want to play only 100% of your own action, you’re not alone. Plenty of players feel that way and only play events within their personal bankroll. However, if you want to reap the benefits that Jaka and Trevino laid out, try dipping your feet into the poker-staking world.
See you on the felt…and in the staking spreadsheets.
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