Buying and selling pieces at the WSOP

28 June 2013

I knew that most of the professional poker players who planned on playing the $111,111 One Drop High Roller at the World Series of Poker were going to sell some of their action in the tournament.

I just didn't think I'd be one of the people buying. In fact, a week earlier, I was the one selling.

It wasn't for the One Drop High Roller, of course, but instead a $235 Daily Deepstack at the World Series of Poker. A handful of players from my home game threw in $20 each to buy a piece of me, which made the deep run I made even more exciting for me. When the money bubble burst, I happily informed everyone who had bought a piece of me that they were guaranteed an $11 profit. Silly, I know, but it was still nice to be able to say that I at least hadn't lost their money.

Playing in a tournament where winning would mean a $46,792 payday was fun, but dreaming about giving each of them nearly $4,000 if I won made it even more fun. Buying a piece of me let my home game regulars participate in my Vegas trip, even though they were still back in Massachusetts. The best part of my 33rd-place finish will be bringing everyone their $80 profit (or for some, the sportsbook futures tickets that they've been asking me to buy).

Believe it or not, poker pro Matt Glantz feels the same way. He sold 40 percent of his action in the 2009 £20,000 EPT High Roller event, an event he won for £542,000. Afterward, he got to distribute £216,800 to his friends who had pieces of him in the event.

"That's the best," he said, "when you can hand other people a check."

No one wants their horse to end up sitting to the right of Phil Ivey.

No one wants their horse to end up sitting to the right of Phil Ivey. (photo by Aaron Todd)

Matt normally doesn't sell any of his action unless he's playing in a tournament that's more than $25,000.

"I have responsibilities," Matt says. "I can't just risk my whole bankroll. If I lose $50,000 in a day in a cash game, it's not devastating. It happens. I'm willing to take that risk. But the variance is a lot higher in tournaments."

So when he announced on Twitter that he was looking to sell some of his action in the One Drop High Roller, I sent him an e-mail, telling him I'd like to buy 1/10th of 1 percent of him. I offered $120, a markup of about 8 percent for the hassle of dealing with such a small piece. He replied almost immediately, saying he'd be happy to do it with no markup at $111.

"GL to us!" he wrote.

I wasn't the only one buying. He sold 75 percent of himself in the event. And there were plenty of backers buying the action off other pros, too. Buying pieces of poker players allows people to feel like part of the action even if they can't or don't want to play in the event themselves. No one exemplifies this more than Dan Fleyshman, the former CEO of Victory Poker, which closed in response to Black Friday.

Fleyshman bought a piece of last year's $1 million Big One for One Drop winner Antonio Esfandiari. He also had pieces of four other players in the 48-player field, but it's safe to say that Esfandiari's $18.3 million score covered any of the losses incurred by the other players. (Fleyshman declined to say just how much of Esfandiari he bought.)

This year, Fleyshman and three of his friends teamed up to buy pieces of a whopping 16 players in the 166-player field.

"It kind of makes me feel like at least I'm involved in it when I don't have time (to play)," said Fleyshman, who has been busy lately hiring people for his tech startup MOpro. "I don't do it just for financial reasons, though. I don't just pick an Internet wizard that I don't know."

And to be honest, I felt the same way. If Andrew Licthenberger announced he was looking to sell some action (and was willing to allow someone to buy such a small piece), I would pass. Not that I don't think he's a great player. But meeting Matt a few months ago and chatting about how he came to the poker world gave me the sense that he was a guy I'd be happy to root for.

On Day 1 on Wednesday, I found Matt at his table with Phil Ivey on his left. Not what I was hoping for. But Ivey was soon moved and replaced by Sammy Farha. I wasn't so sure this was an improvement.

I talked to Matt at the dinner break on Day 1, and he'd already built his stack over 800,000 chips from a starting stack of 300,000.

"We're off to a good start," he said.

He cruised through the rest of Day 1, finishing the day seventh in chips with 854,000.

Thursday's Day 2 was a crazy roller coaster ride. His seat wasn't much better, with Shawn Deeb sitting on his left. I started watching him in earnest in level 13. One of the first hands I saw he took down a pot with a set of fives. I breathed a sigh of relief, watching him pull in the pot.

Near the end of level 15, with 60 players remaining in the field, Matt pushed Hyoung Chae all in when three clubs hit the flop and turned over 6-7 of clubs only to find Chae holding the nut flush. I've seen a lot of coolers watching poker at the WSOP, but this one felt like a sucker punch. I was having way too much fun for this to end. Matt was down to about 200,000 chips, barely more than 10 big blinds.

I was almost ready to give up hope, but clearly Matt wasn't. First, he doubled up with 7-7 vs. Deeb's king-queen, which failed to improve. He doubled up through Deeb again when his pocket fours held up against Deeb's ace-king. Ten minutes after that, he doubled up through Deeb a third time, this time dominating Deeb's ace-jack with ace-king. Later, he won a big pot when a river queen turned his ace-king into a Broadway straight, and he got maximum value with a 425,000 overbet.

From the brink of elimination, Matt chipped up to more than 2.5 million, increasing his stack size by a factor of 12 in just two hours of play.

He once again suffered a setback against Chae when his pocket jacks ran into Chae's kings, and it looked like Matt might be on the brink of elimination once again when Chae got all his chips in with pocket kings on a jack-high flop, with Matt holding ace-jack. With just 27 players left, I had resigned myself to having to hope for Matt to survive another series of flips to make it to the money, but an ace on the river gave Matt two pair to knock Chae out in 27th place.

Matt finished Day 2 fourth in chips with just over 3 million. With 26 players remaining and 24 making the money, WSOP officials decided to end play after 10 levels instead of continuing until the bubble burst – a decision Matt was clearly not enamored with (and to be honest, neither was I). Clearly tomorrow will be an interesting day for him, and by extension, me.

Poker tournaments are inherently individual events. And watching them in person isn't all that exciting, to be honest. But feeling like you're part of a team, even a 0.1 percent part of one, definitely makes it more exciting.

Of course, it helps when the person playing makes a deep run.

Related Links
World Series of Poker Gaming Vendor Information
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Nevada Gambling
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