Playing poker seems like the easiest way to make real money, real fast. All you need are your skills and a little bit of luck, right? Wrong. Winning big in poker takes some real investment. Players cannot simply take part in any tournament they wish. There are entry fees that need to be paid, and they are anything but cheap in professional tournaments.
It is quite normal for players to use backers to support them financially and help pay the applicable entry fees, in return for a cut of their action. This is exactly what Nick Marchington, a 21 year old Computer Science drop-out, did. Marchington placed 7th out of 8569 entries in the $80 million tournament after becoming a professional gambler a mere one year earlier. He won $1,525,00 million, and he might have been the youngest winner of the WSOP Main Event if it wasn’t for the lawsuit he now faces after attempting to refund his backer’s investment.
The WSOP tournament refers to World Series of Poker, which is a series of Poker tournaments that have been held every year since 2004. The 2019 WSOP started on the 28th of May until the 16th of July. The World Series of Poker is the most popular poker festival, with the winner set to take home at least $1 million. With stakes as high as these, who wouldn’t want to take part?
While Marchington might have been on cloud nine after his big win, it did not last long. The day after he won $1,525,000 in the main event, a lawsuit was filed against him by Colin Hartley and David Yee from C Biscuit, a poker staking company that backed him in the tournament. He was sued for breach of contract, as well as fraud.
Hartley and Yee claim to have bought 10% of Marchington’s winnings. According to them Marchington agreed on a 10% cut of the Main Event winnings in return for financial support amounting to $1,750 on May 29th. However, before the Main Event, Marchington decided to refund them as he doubted that he was going to play at the Main Event. He acknowledged that he owed them for their $1,750 stake. Later he also indicated that another backer was offering a better deal and on July 1st he told them that he might be playing the Main Event. While he refunded C Biscuit’s investment before the Main Event, the company proceeded to file a lawsuit on the day after he won the Main Event. As a result of the lawsuit a restraining order was issued, which prevents Marchington from being able to cash in his winnings until the case is resolved.
Poker staking simply means that a poker investor (the backer) bets money on behalf of the player in return for a cut of the winnings. In this scenario the investor has the most to lose. Any money that the players loses, is essentially a loss to the investor, however, if the player wins then the investor shares in the profit according to the agreed upon terms.
Using a backer to compete in tournaments is a reality in the gambling world. While many players have the skill, not many have the means to enter these high stake tournaments. Many players depend on backers to be able to participate.
If it is done right, poker staking can be a win-win, as the player gets the opportunity to play and the backer reaps some of the benefit when the player wins. However, if done wrong it can lead to the end of careers or public disputes, as is the case here. Players thus need to be very careful when entering into these types of agreements.