The Guide to Poker Staking: What is Staking & Why You Should Care

Poker staking is a huge business where a lot of money can be made (or lost). In fact, a lot of guys involved in the poker scene don’t even play — they just stake other players. Staking can be part time, or full time job, and it’s a great way to diversify your investment portfolio.

But before I get too ahead of myself, you might be wondering what exactly poker staking is, and why you might want to know more about it. So let’s get into the ‘what’ first, then move into the ‘why.’

What is Poker Staking?

The simplest way to understand what poker staking is, is to think of it like a loan.

For example, say you want to play a $200 tournament. You have the skill set to play, just not the bankroll. So you come to me and ask me to give (stake) you the $200. In exchange for the loan, we agree that if you cash, I get my original investment back, plus a percentage of any profits made. If you don’t cash, neither of us make any money.

That’s all poker staking is. It does get more in-depth than this, though.

Length of Loan — The Number of Games Being Played

For one thing, most players who receive backing are staked for longer periods of time (not just one game). This can vary from 20 games to over 20,000 games. The shorter terms are often used for players who just need temporary backing for a special event, such as SCOOP or the WSOP. Shorter terms also used to try out ‘horses’ before backing them long term.

Horse is a term used to describe the player being given a stake.

From my experience, most long term staking deals (5k-20k games) are for players who are seeking coaching in addition to a bankroll. Staking deals are longer because coaches will lose money (time) upfront coaching, but over time will start to slowly recoup that money as the player gets better.

Interest or Cut — The Amount of Profit Paid to the Backer

Interest isn’t referred to as interest in staking — it’s referred to as the ‘cut.’

The cut is always a percentage from my experience, and will vary dramatically. A new player can earn as little as 15% of his profits (85% to the backer), while a semi good player can earn 50% and experienced player as much as 90%.

The cut is also determined by the amount of the staking agreement, as well as the number of games being played. The fewer games being played, the less likely that a profit will be made. This, of course, is only riskier the more money that is loaned out. So to offset some of the risk, a higher cut is given in favor of the backer.

One last thing that comes to mind about what affects the cut is whether or not makeup is apart of the deal or not.

Makeup is a clause in an agreement as to whether or not a horse is required to pay back the stake in the event it’s lost. In order for a backer to receive the makeup owed, they must invest in the horse again (if the horse even plays again).

If there is an agreement to makeup being owed, the cut will often be less in the favor of the backer, since there is a possibility to recoup losses. However, if there is no makeup in the agreement, then the cut is higher (in favor of the backer) because the risk of losing his investment is higher.

Why You Should Care About Poker Staking

As I mentioned earlier, poker staking is a huge business. There is a lot of money to be made, both as a backer and a horse. That’s why you should care about it.

To elaborate, say you’re interested in backing a player. You set him up with a bankroll of $300 to play $6 SNGs where he averages $1 a game. Your agreement is for 5,000 games, at a 50/50 cut with makeup.

Assuming he doesn’t improve (or gets worse), you’re going to see an average of $.50 per game, or $2,500 from your investment. Most players can knock out 5,000 games in two months, which means you’re earning $1,250 each month.

That doesn’t sound like a lot, does it? But think of it like this. What if you continued to take your profits and roll them over into new players at the same games and stakes. In other words, take that $1,250 each month and pickup 4 new horses that average $1 per game. That means the next month you’ll have 5 horses (instead of 1) making you $.50 per game for 2,500 games each. That’s $6,250** in one month — are you interested in staking players now?

Now, if you don’t have that much money to invest, you can grab a partner. The cuts will be determined by how much each person invests (time and/or money).

Becoming a Horse

But what if you’re interested in being staked; is it profitable?

You bet your ass it is.

The reason why is because you never have to have your own bankroll. All the profit you make you can keep and use to start your own staking business, build your bankroll so you can eventually play on your own dime, or withdraw and use as you wish.

The best part is that for most long term agreements, your bankroll is essentially bottomless. You don’t have to worry about losing it, because if you do, you just contact your backer and get a reload.

** One thing that I should point out, is that the amounts are only examples. If it were only as easy as taking a positive return and rolling it over, and then rinsing and repeating, everyone would be rich. You still run the risk of losing your money, whether partially or in full. With that being said, keep in mind that you will want to keep a reserve in addition to your bankroll so that you can reload players as needed.