Monday, July 30, 2007


Back Me Or Sack Me

I posted a response on 2+2 to Bryan Devonshire's article about backing. Unfortunately I suck at starting threads on 2+2 and don't seem to have the knack of generating a lot of responses, but we'll see if any discussion kicks off. Probably the one line that kicked me into posting was where he says that backing a good player is "free money", which I thought was irresponsible. You're sharing the risk (and sharing the rewards), you're not making it disappear.

Outside of what I said in the response, there seems to be a common view that backing/sponsorship is something to be sought after, a higher state than playing off your own money. I take the opposite view, that having to be backed is a fallback position if you can't manage on your own.

I suppose in the end it's like the Shaw quote ; everyone knows what we are, and we're just negotiating. If someone said they'd put me in every tournament and I could write off all losses at any time and just pay back the buyins when I was ahead, of course I'd take it. If someone offered me a full makeup deal where I get 20% if I'm winning and my legs broken if I lose and try to quit, then I wouldn't. In between, it depends what your personal price is. Even so, I can't see anything better than being properly bankrolled to play any event I want to, and keeping all the profit. I can live without playing the EPT this year because it's out of bankroll. No big deal. If you can't live without being seen at the big events, then you have a problem.

I still think I have a different attitude to most people though. When Skalie posted on the Mob Forum post-WSOP he said something that I thought was odd. Something along the lines of "maybe now I can get that sponsorship deal that we all dream of". I'd be the other way round. I'd be like "phew, now I can play on my own money and not have to answer to anyone". Depends what you want I suppose.

Hey Mr Ward,

I have come to your blog after rading comments on Paul Phillips'live journal.

I always read blogs from their conception to the present and having just read your first few posts from waaaay back i am gonna stick around. I have been waiting to find a blog from a knowledgable player that i can learn from.

See you in a bit when i catch you up and keep up the good work and the poker success

Would you have said the same if you had not cashed in the Shootout? Would you say the same if you went on a continuing bad run? Would you have said the same a year ago?


I take your point Dave, that winners can chirp about not needing to be backed, but I think I can answer yes to all of those.

The thing is that I've been playing for 10 years, I've been going to Vegas since 2001, and this year was the first time I ever played a bracelet event. I waited until I had the bankroll to withstand losing $30-40K. So by the time I did play, I was experienced enough both in terms of poker technique and dealing with losses to do well. For sure it might have gone the other way, but I could have dealt with it. And I'd have preferred that to being $30K in the hole to someone, because I hate being in debt.

One of the attractions of playing poker for a living is personal freedom, swapping the tyranny of employment for the tyranny of the "make up" doesn’t look like freedom to me.

If I was playing for a living (I'd would be going hungry at the moment) I would view cash games and on line poker to be my bread and butter. I would take the occasional shot at live tourneys just for the chance of a big score but I would never jeopardize a substantial part of my bankroll on tournament entries. I wouldn’t consider going professional if I was just a tourney player, the variance will kill even the best of players.

Of the legions of Brits who were out in Vegas for the WSOP how many returned as winners and how many tried to nip you for the airfare back to the UK? I suspect that those who were winners did well in the side games plus 1 or 2 lucky fish who made big scores in tournaments
Standaman, I'm sure you realise that Andy is one of those lucky fish :) And he is almost entirely a tournment specialist too.


I'm not sure how much you want to get into this. I find the topic and your response really quite interesting, but I also know that most folk don't like being hassled/contradicted/disagreed with on their blog. Feel free to disregard.

I've known you in an internet sense since our days on THM. I'm sure I'm right, and hopefully not being rude, to say that the last 8-10 months have been the most profitable you have ever had, by a huge margin. I expect to the extent that you have made more than your entire poker career in this timeframe by a considerable multiple. Well done! SFW you might say. The point is, you haven't really had a bad run yet. By a bad run I mean when the -ve numbers are considerable and may hugely impact all aspects of your poker playing and non-playing life. The WSOP trip came close, but you played a get-out-of-jail card and made a great profit. Most times that won't happen. In fact in an alternate universe there is an AW who still did his bollox in Vegas and is still sliding down the slopes back home. The fact that you are a tourney specialist makes such a run much more likely. There is a tsunami with your name on it. You don't know how you will cope with it until the waves come crashing down. This probably sounds patronising, but its true. I think that any tournament specialist, especially if they play live, should welcome a backing deal, especially at the poker sites where it is rumoured there is no makeup.


Hi Dave,

I'm always happy to be contradicted by someone who explains his POV and gets me thinking, as is the case here.

There's no doubt that I've probably had a 2-sigma year since quitting work, and possibly a 3-sigma 2007 to date. I've had three huge results (Tunica $70K, Party $60K, WSOP $120K) and the more I think about it, that's off two US trips and about 15 "Sunday night specials" online. Anyone for 4-sigma ? :-)

What's under the covers here is that I have been steadily churning out $5K a month online in the meantime. It's not hard to do, you know that. And it's not as though I'm playing big games. $55 SNGs this month ! Regular nightly $100 tournaments. I don't even play the $100 rebuy on Stars.

A tournament player who "can't win online", like you do hear a lot of them say, simply must have big technical weaknesses in his game. If you are that person, and you can only beat live MTTs (where the general standard does seem to get worse every year), then what with your expenses and the single-tabling and the risk of ruin, being backed might be preferable to not. But neither is anywhere near as good as knuckling down, fixing your leaks and grinding up your roll online. Take six months off the circuit. Hell, a year. Build your roll and then go live again, tournaments aren't going away.

But a lot of people can't do that, because of ego problems or the aforementioned technical weaknesses or both. So they just moan that internet poker is rigged and work on their nipping. They might be "better off" getting backed. But they'd be much better off shaping up (their game) or shipping out (get a job).


If it was that easy, why didnt you do it before? Are you that much more a better player than say 2005, when you made something like $17k for the whole year? If anything the games were easier then. I'm terribly aware that this seems like the usual bitter envy, which it (mostly) is not. I've probably won about $200k over the last 3 years and that has been completely part time. I can't grumble. But one of the dangers of being in a rush is that sometimes you overestimate how good you are and underestimate how lucky you are being. I remember in 2006 having about $60k or so on various sites and chortling to a friend how impossible it would be for me to lose that. Within two months I had nearly lost it all. Or look at young Sherwood who when last I looked, is having a terrible run. WInning is not inevitable, no matter how much it now feels like it is.


"If it was that easy, why didnt you do it before?"

Now _that_ is a good question. I will have a think about this and start a new post.

I always find it funny when you read a report from a backed player (usually published on the backer's website!!) along the lines of..."well I didn't fancy it much but I'm backed so it made it an easy call. He had the hand I thought he had and I missed my 3-outer. Ho-hum"

Whilst the mentality exists that playing with backers money makes decisions easier than if it was your own, then it makes backing players an even more frighteningly bad proposition, unless there are some back-door benefits in doing so alongside the actual $ tourny results.

To back a player profitably, you somehow need to find a player that has a massive overlay in said tourny+is runnning ok+is legit & trustworthy and yet somehow can't/won't buy themselves in. Probably a better proposition just to put yourself in as an inferior player than it is to take a shot with a better player albeit one with some sort of fundamental flaw from the list above.

I have played in a tourny where a sponsored player arrived late, introduced himself with "this shouldn't take too long, my bed beckons" and then massacred his hand asap and skipped off looking happier than when he arrived...
(Simon G.)
"Whilst the mentality exists that playing with backers money makes decisions easier than if it was your own, then it makes backing players an even more frighteningly bad proposition"

strongly disagree - I'd much rather play someone who was self-stacked than backed or on a freeroll. Sure there are noted exceptions, but I'd want them faced with losing 'their' money at each decision.
err... aren't we saying the same thing??

Simon G.
Apparently not. You said

"Whilst the mentality exists that playing with backers money makes decisions easier than if it was your own, then it makes backing players an even more frighteningly bad proposition"

Implying they play worse when backed, which should mean I'd prefer them all to be backed, and I'd certainly not.
ok - fair enough. I do think some of them factor being backed into making tough calls far too readily. That means you might be getting called when you don't want to be, but for the most part I am happy that I know who they are (the sponsored clothing is a giveaway for this!) and can peddle the nuts into them or let them hang themselves firing 3 barrels on a bluff.

As for those self stacked, yes I would mostly play differently against them.

If they all had to be backed or self-stacked, then yes I would probably prefer people to be playing on "scared money" - but I prefer the usual reality where you can pick your spots against certain players with certain hands.

The hand I refered to earlier where a "name" went skint in 2 hands was Razz, where they were struggling to beat their opponent's board when the money went in.
yeah I didn't mean to sound cu*ntish, I know you're always a polite guy (I meant self-staked btw).

I suspect it rather depends on the tournament, though. If it is a proper buy-in then you want them playing scared; but if it's just another event then it's a bit closer, and the guy you mention well, he clearly had no interest so you'll love his sort. But in the smaller tournaments where they want to get chips or get-out, then I think you'd be right, at least in the early stages - the problems would still arrive playing a 'pressureless' backed-guy deep in the event.

Sponorship would for me still have pressures, for me the best way would be to win a place.

I reckon the best way to back is to buy a fair share in a guy (good player obv) who has qualified by a satellite or freeroll.
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