Should staked players reveal who backed them?

Should it be standard etiquette for players to reveal when they have sold action to other players in the same tournament field?

Igor Kurganov wins PokerStars Championship
Igor Kurganov

Once again Igor Kurganov finds himself taking down a seven figure score in a Super High Roller. Nothing new there, but one interesting aspect this time around was in his winner interview he revealed that he declared at the start of the final table who he had sold action to (One of those people was Daniel Colman, who made the money, and whom he busted). This is something Ben Lamb also did at the start of this year’s WSOP final table.

Interestingly, not everyone at Kurganov's final table wanted to do the same.

In most major tournaments this is probably not a necessary thing to do, simply because the field sizes are so big that it is a rarity anyone would be sharing a table with somebody whom they are also sharing action. However, in nosebleed games, this seems almost a necessity.

Small player pools, big concerns

PokerStars championship high roller final table
Trust is important when you play the same players regularly

Super high stakes games are confined to very small player pools, so it is almost guaranteed two players sharing action will come face to face quite often. Not only that, at this point the cat is out of the bag and we are all well aware that the vast majority of professionals in Super High Roller tournaments and many cash games have sold a lot of their action. In fact, it’s quite common for players to play for a tiny fraction of themselves because a min cash still becomes a big score for them.

So it naturally makes sense that collusion is a real concern in these events. Not even deliberate collusion, it is hard to play your A-Game against a player you have a vested interest in seeing make the money. Without even realising it, there is a huge potential for taking lower variance lines against them and justifying it to yourself afterwards.

A savvy player might like to not reveal any information at all about who they have shared pieces with, after all knowledge is power in this game and the edges are small at the nosebleeds. I could even imagine a shrewd player playing for 100% of himself (or with no backers in attendance) might want to cast a seed of doubt just to mess with people's heads. However, I would argue this is a short term gain at the expense of a much more important long term benefit, which is maintaining the integrity of the game and making the (in this case, wealthy) recreational players feel safe.

Transparency is never a mistake

Ben Lamb 2017 wsop
Ben Lamb

I’ve seen more controversial staking arrangements than I can remember over the years and without exception, even the best intended ones became horror shows when there was a lack of transparency around the terms of the deal. This usually is in the case of deciding who owes who money, but I really think it should extend to transparency at the table too.

I don’t think it should be up to the tournament organisers to police this, that would be a hell of an admin undertaking and it is not their job to do. I do think it should be incumbent on the players themselves to declare to their peers whom they have sold action to when it becomes likely that they may share a table. So deep in a tournament, a small field tournament or of course if a random table draw brings them together.

I applaud Ben Lamb, Igor Kurganov and anyone else who does this already, and suggest it’s something we should encourage in others.

Should staked players let their opponents know who is backing them? Let us know in the comments:

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Comments (3)

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  • DonQuishove


    I feel like this should be just good ethic. It's like letting your opponent know when you see one of his hole cards. You don't have to do it, but it's good demeaner.
  • BarryCarter


    Yes, I actually think it should be mandatory to tell people you saw their cards, I always do.

    Funny aside, it's amazing how often people will say "You shouldnt be looking at my cards" when I tell them I have seen their cards, like I hadn't just demonstrated how honest I was
  • zyvy


    i would treat it as a business and as such would not disclose it but im not not looking at it from perspective what is good for poker , im from perspective im a 'company' that someone invest in i wont disclose names of my investors, but i can see different points of view and i'm not dismissing them