Matt Hunt: How to successfully sell action if you've never done it before

Matt Hunt playing at the 2023 WSOP
Professional poker player Matt Hunt at the WPT World Championship
Matt Hunt
Posted on: August 18, 2023 23:43 PDT

So, you’ve decided that you want to start playing bigger poker tournaments, but you don’t have a bankroll that can handle the variance – selling some action might be the way to go. But how do you actually go about it, if you’ve never done it before?

As a tournament pro, I’ve sold action many times and will no doubt do it many times more in future. It’s more or less essential for anyone who plays a large volume of live poker, especially in tournaments. The vast majority of players don’t have a big enough bankroll to handle the massive swings without incurring a significant risk of ruin.

By far the most important thing about the process of selling action is to start by making yourself a good investment. That doesn’t just mean getting good enough at poker to be a winning player at the level you want to play, it also means making yourself a hassle-free investment for anyone who might buy your action, from the beginning of your interaction with them.

It means being professional in how you communicate with any potential investors, keeping them up to date with any information they need to know, and clarifying any issues immediately once they arise. Anyone who’s buying action doesn’t want to have to worry about chasing you down for updates, or sifting through a bunch of info they don’t need – they just want to pay you money, have you play the event, and then hopefully receive a greater amount of money in return when it’s all done and dusted.

Be careful who you sell action to

It’s also crucial that the person you’re selling action to has clear and realistic expectations about how the variance in poker works, and how significant the swings in results can be. Anyone who’s ever sold action to non-poker-playing friends of family members “just for a fun sweat”, knows that it can be very difficult for anyone who hasn’t played much poker to truly understand that even the best player in the world is never going to have more than about a 25-30% chance of cashing a specific tournament – and it's usually much less than that.

Personally, these days I would never recommend selling any significant amount of action to anyone who isn’t actually a poker player themselves. Even if you have a rich friend who’s willing to put you in a bunch of WSOP events (lucky you), there’s a good chance that this person’s expectations are actually a lot higher than what they tell you they are, and that your friendship could be negatively affected if you end up getting unlucky in some big spots and dashing their hopes of big money.

Matt Hunt playing Event 28 at the 2023 WSOP Matt Hunt Melissa Haereiti

Once you’ve worked hard to make yourself a good investment, how do you actually attract some interest? Well, there are several platforms you might use. I first sold action to my live events on the TwoPlusTwo staking forum, maybe seven or eight years ago now.

If you’re active in the poker community, you might already know people within the game who would potentially be willing to buy action. This is probably the best way to do it, since there’s a pre-existing level of personal trust that ensures the process is likely to go a lot more smoothly. 

Get active in the poker community

If you’re not active within the community, I suggest rectifying that situation! There are tons of ways to get to know people in poker. Discord servers are probably the most fruitful platform right now, where a big portion of the most interesting strategy discussions and productive friendships are cultivated. I strongly recommend hunting around for a poker Discord server and diving into the conversation.

There are also a number of staking websites out there these days, like StakeKings, which can serve as a nice way to simplify the process. Again, though, it's going to be easier to sell if people know you, so once again we return to the idea that it’s important to be active in the community.

Many people get into poker because it initially seems to be an industry where a person truly can be ‘self-made’, and this isn’t necessarily incorrect, but in my experience it’s incredibly difficult to get to where you want to go in this game if you don’t have people around you that can share in your poker journey. 

Long-term success in poker often depends on your network, and the ones who stick around in this game the longest are the ones who use their network to not only get better at poker, but allow themselves access to opportunities they might not otherwise have. Ultimately, selling action is a lot more than just convincing people you’re a good poker player.

Matt Hunt is a pro player and  Solve For Why instructor, and writes a regular column on finances and variance in poker.

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