Wednesday, April 09, 2014
The Hidden Game Behind Professional Poker
Whether it's played face-to-face among steely-eyed pros, or online where each person may be participating in many games at once, professional poker has developed its own economy. That economy is based on players not only betting with their own money but also getting "staked," or financially backed by former and current players. Many players also agree to invest in each other and swap a small part of their earnings. Such deal-making isn't new to the game, but veteran players and analysts agree that the amount of money—and level of sophistication—involved in the arrangements has risen considerably since the World Series of Poker championship began in 1970. According to players, agents and other experts in poker interviewed by WSJ.Money, at least half of the estimated 6,600 contestants in this summer's Main Event championship in Las Vegas, the game's biggest annual competition, are likely to receive financial support from past and current players, family members and other poker investors. The event last year collected $64 million in entry fees, which means the backing could've been in the vicinity of $30 million.