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Messaggio  Corto Maltese il Mar Gen 22, 2008 3:17 pm

Primo mio intervento in questo forum e posto subito un articolo ... Very Happy

Top Poker Players Sometimes Short on Cash: Joe Saumarez-Smith

By Joe Saumarez-Smith

Jan. 14 (Bloomberg) -- The last time I was in Las Vegas, I stood outside the card room at the Bellagio casino, waiting for a friend to arrive. Along with a few other tourists I watched a poker game just to pass the time.

After a few minutes, one of the biggest names in the game, someone whose name you would recognize if you watched even a small amount of televised poker, came and greeted me like a long-lost friend.

This was somewhat odd. I had been introduced to him once, a couple of years earlier. He asked if he could borrow $200 because he was running short. This is someone who runs through tens of millions of dollars a year at the tables and for whom $200 is pretty much a rounding error. I politely declined and he went off to do a bit more ``nipping,'' as borrowing from fellow players is commonly termed.

The other people standing around were astounded. Could this player really have been asking for as little as $200? Surely it was some kind of a joke. To spare the player's blushes I assured them it was all done in jest but it set me pondering about how little the general public understands the poker economy.

When watching ``High Stakes Poker'' or the World Series of Poker on television it's easy to assume that all these people with mountains of chips in front of them are millionaires and living the American poker dream. The sad reality is that a reasonable number of them are broke or, even worse, deep in debt to their fellow players, banks and loan sharks.

Financial Backers

It is something poker players do not like to advertise. There are two good reasons for this. The first is that people are less likely to lend you money if they already know you are in hock.

The second is that the less money you have, the less likely you are to play a confident game. If people know their opponents are playing with their last dollars, they will be able to exert far more pressure on them at the tables.

Des Wilson, the author of two books on poker, says players privately admit that they have bad runs. ``If you're sitting having a drink with them, most of them will acknowledge that at some point they have gone broke and had to borrow money. But a hell of a lot is not seen by anyone apart from the top players.''

Many of the top players have financial backers or sell off a share in their action each tournament, Wilson says. ``Then there are players who will offer insurance deals to other players, so they won't lose all their cash if they finish out of the money.''

It is common for the household names of poker to find outside backers, if only to reduce the volatility caused by playing for tens of thousands of dollars a hand. When a bad run for a couple of months can cost a couple of million dollars, it is best to be playing partly with someone else's cash.


The other most common form of funding is sponsorship by the major online poker companies. They pay entry fees to the major tournaments, flights and hotel accommodation. Without this backing, several of the big players would have annual losses in excess of $200,000 each.

Nolan Dalla, media director of the World Series of Poker, and a former semiprofessional poker player and sports gambler, says nobody should be surprised if the top players lose everything. ``It is almost inevitable that if you play poker for many years, then variance will catch up with you,'' Dalla says.

``The scale of players being backed to play is now much bigger than it ever used to be,'' Dalla said. ``But you also have to think that poker economy is only so big, and it does not have enough money in it to sustain the number of players who aspire to be professionals.''

Poor Discipline

Don't feel too sorry for the big-name players. Wilson says most are highly skilled but lack discipline. ``What they tend to be bad at is either money management or other forms of gambling, so they lose all the money they have won at poker at the craps table or betting on sports.''

Of course not every top player is broke. Players such as Phil Ivey, Doyle Brunson and Howard Lederer earn seven-figure totals each year from playing poker. The very best will always be able to make a living from the game.

But the ones who tend to shout the loudest about how well they are doing tend, in my experience, to be the ones who disappear from the poker circuit after a couple of years when their funds run dry.

(Joe Saumarez-Smith is chief executive officer of Sports Gaming, a U.K. management consulting firm to the gaming industry. He also owns European online bingo companies and odds comparison Web sites. The opinions expressed are his own.)
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