The Staking Conundrum: Do Other Players Have the Right to Know?

Adam Pliska touched on how the WPT handles backing arrangements. (Photo by Thomas Keeling)

Adam Pliska touched on how the WPT handles backing arrangements. (Photo by Thomas Keeling)

Backing arrangements, staking and swapping are as much of a part of poker as chips, chairs and rake. Money swaps hands between players and backers on handshake deals and as poker grew more people understood is was part of the game. Poker is a game of many circles and shared financial interests and when a backer and their horse are at the same table should they disclose that information to the rest of the table?

“That’s a good question. I feel like if it’s a big percentage it should be,” said Ryan Riess. “If one person’s backing another person and has 50% of their action and say they’re $100k in makeup and it’s a 50/50 stake, then he has a huge vested interest in that other person. But if two people swap 1% that’s really not that big of a deal. But if It was like 50%, it should be disclosed.”

Matt Glantz echoed Riess’ call for disclosure. “Well, most of the poker community knows each other, so when we get down to a final table or something, pretty much everyone that I know let each other know if we have a piece of someone else in swaps or backing.”

“I think it’s pretty out in the open. If there’s somebody else at the table who’s an amateur and if it was me and had a piece of someone else at the final table, I would let them know,” Glantz said. “I would expect the other person that I had a piece of would also let them know. I think it’s better to just be out in the open, so there are no worries.”

Should tournament organizers ask players to disclose that information? World Poker Tour President Adam Pliska addressed the issue, “Historically backing has shown up throughout elements of this, in fact we’ve covered a bit of it on Alpha8 because it becomes a little more extreme when you’re talking about $100,000 buy-ins. For us, we’ll continue to be part of the dialogue. We realize that the issues have been raised, and we continue to monitor it. We’re not immune to be able to change those things.”

“Right now it really has been a private matter, it’s not been a matter for us,” Pliska added. “A lot of the time there’s backing and we would have no idea unless a player happens to be mic’d. Naturally our position is we’ll be a part of the dialogue and see how we address these things.”

Tristan Wade felt that type of information is knowledge of a larger part of the game. “If two people are friends, their strategies might adjust against each other. The same holds true if they have swapped percentages,” Wade said. “Poker players use information to strategize how to play against an opponent. It could be history from a year ago, either way there is always something. If we are trying to disclose some information, it wouldn’t be fair unless we disclosed all knowledge, which isn’t possible. If you aren’t focused on maximizing your potential in a tournament, you’re already losing money.”

“I think it’s completely their business. People are backed for so many reasons and some people need that. If it’s public knowledge, it kind of affects how the game is played, and I don’t think it should a part of the game at all,” Daniel Weinman said.

Matt Salsberg preferred a more subtle approach. “I think it’s people’s own business. I wouldn’t require to disclose how much you’re playing for,” he said. “I think that’s a little unfair, and I think everybody reserves the right to disclose it, but I don’t think it should be forced or anything like that.”

Final tables usually have steep pay increases and with shared financial interests, the question arose if any players felt they had been in a situation where the game was compromised.

“That’s an interesting situation, when I final tabled the WPT in Paris, Phil Gruissem and Fabian Quoss were both in the final six,” Salsberg said. “They both have big pieces of each other a lot, but Phil busted Fabian so there was no collusion or soft play. Phil was very upfront about it, and like I said, he busted Fabian. Otherwise, I haven’t encountered spots like that.”

“When there are hole cards exposed I don’t think it’s problematic because for any kind of collusion would be obvious. But situations happen where two people have the same backers, but they’re still playing for their selves,” Salsberg added. “It’s not like you’re not playing for your own money,  It’s kind of an interesting situation,” said Salsberg.

“It’s never happened to me in a tournament. I’ve had it happen to me in cash games where I knew one guy was backing another and they’re both playing in the game,” Glantz said. “I really hated them. There’s nothing worse than that. It makes me feel very uncomfortable. It usually makes me quit the game if that’s the case. In a tournament you’re stuck. There’s nothing really that anybody could do, it’s just part of the game.”

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Paul Oresteen

Senior Writer: Paul Oresteen originally joined BLUFF in 2008 as an intern. He covered two World Series of Poker’s before leaving to join PokerNews.com. After a two year hiatus Oresteen returned to BLUFF in November 2012. Since starting as a poker journalist Oresteen has covered the World Series of Poker, WSOP Circuit, World Poker Tour and European Poker Tour. He graduated from Georgia State University with a B.A. in Communications in 2008.
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