Raising the Stakes

Jamie Burland, Bear Hug Poker

By the time you read this, it will have been 12 months since I cashed in a game worthy of mention on the Hendon Mob. Fortunately, this was due to having played few live events rather than complete failure at the live tournament game. I have been focussed on other areas of my life, so much so that I haven’t had the inclination or time to pack my bags for a week and travel around the UK for poker.

In early 2014, I got married and moved house. Since August of this year, I have been working with my business partner, Henry Jacobson, on an exciting staking company, Bear Hug Poker. People say that professional poker players should treat playing the game like running a business and I used to like to think I tried my hardest to do so. It was only when I attempted to start my own business that it dawned on me how much more work and how many more hours are required.

Five months of 60-hour weeks has seen me evolve from being a staked MTT professional to a professional MTT and cash game backer who occasionally plays some cards on the side. I’m absolutely loving it! I have a renewed sense of team spirit in my professional life which I have missed since the glory days of Black Belt Poker. If I could psychoanalyze myself, I think I would find that it’s poker’s solitary nature that I enjoy least about the game. Always looking out for number one can be a lonely mindset to exist in.

These days, I’m getting up in the morning, checking the group’s results from the night before and performing my essential daily administrative tasks. I then spend my evenings either on the phone with my partner, chilling out with my wife, or playing some games myself. Every night is enjoyable and if the guys run deep in some tournaments, I can sweat the group’s results.

I’m really driven by the day-to-day managerial aspect of it all. We’ve got a great group who are all incredibly motivated, so they are a pleasure to manage. Even so, each day throws up its own little challenges. A player might call in sick for a few days or another player might have had a bad week and need a bit of a morale boost. Then there are applications to analyse. It’s really important to be as thorough and objective as possible when assessing a potential stake as the applicant is going to be playing with the company’s money. We have to put ourselves in the best position possible, while realistically managing each player’s expectations. The area I’ve found the toughest is turning down players who for one reason or another aren’t suitable. It is hard to break that sort of thing to players who under different circumstances would be extremely capable.

With these thoughts in mind, here are some tips from a backer to those of you who have a staking deal on your 2015 wish list:

• Motivation – Understand your reasons for seeking a stake. I have been a staked player for most of my professional career and in my experience, the chief reason most players are seeking a stake is because they are broke. While that might be the case, even with talented players, not having money to play shouldn’t be the main reason to look for a stake. Anyone who can rustle up $500 can lock themselves in a room and grind 180 man Sit-n-Gos on Pokerstars to build a bankroll for themselves. The question to ask yourself is quite clear. “What do I want from a staking deal that is worth giving up half my profit for?” That’s essentially what a 50/50 make-up deal is. If you take a deal, then you are halving your hourly rate in the games you’re playing, so will you feel more motivated to do well as part of a group? Are you looking for regular coaching and mentoring to get ahead of the curve? Would a staking deal motivate you to play more games every month? Having positive answers to these questions are what will make your potential backer’s eyes light up when reading an application, rather than simply appearing to state: “I haven’t got any money. Can I play with yours?”

• Track Record – Pretty much anyone who was playing poker regularly online in 2004 could beat the games. They really were that easy and as painful as it is to hear, those days are long gone. Even if you beat them back then, it doesn’t mean you can beat them now. A backer will pay far more attention to an applicant who can prove that they have been grinding hard during 2014, even at small stakes, than someone who is dusting off a big MTT score from the days when Chris Moneymaker was still an accountant who liked to sit down in a few online satellites in the evening. If your poker CV has a big 2013-2014 shaped gap in it, then I’d suggest grinding out a few thousand games, even at the lowest stakes, to establish that your graphs still go in the right direction. It shows dedication, even on a small scale and while players can convince backers to stake them, it says so much more about your character if you’re prepared to show them.

• Volume – Be prepared to put the hours in! Backers want to take on players that have the willingness and drive to sit in front of their computer screens most nights of the week. At Bear Hug, we fund our player’s account daily, so it’s really bad news if we take on a player who only plays a dozen sessions a month. If that is the case, then it means the money we’ve staked that player is sitting in an account doing nothing 65% of the time. Even winning players will struggle to keep a deal if they aren’t able to meet a minimum monthly volume commitment. Give this some thought when considering whether a staking deal is right for you.

If you think you can tick all these boxes, then drop an application through to us at www.bearhugpoker.com. We’d love to hear from you and just as every player can hopefully take something from the advice above, you should also take the message that we work just as hard on our staked players in return.

Hey, if things go really well, I might even find the time to appear at the odd live game or two this year too!

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