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It's Time to Make it Clean!

Tournament backers must be revealed

by Martin de Knijff |  Published: Sep 20, 2005


I have never been afraid of stating my opinion. The subject of this column is one that will likely upset some readers. I would call it the cancer of today's poker would and the ultimate threat to the continued growth of our game. This issue has to be addressed and investigated profoundly, and I know many players agree.

I myself am a sponsor of several players on Team Martinspoker through my website, The deal I give to my players is very simple. They get 40 percent of the gross winnings. There's no makeup deal and I set the schedule for the specific tournaments in which I want exposure. If seven players travel to a venue, they get 30 percent of the gross and 10 percent goes into a pool that's split between them and the other members of the team; that is, they swap 1.43 percent. None of my players can ever owe me any money, and they swap very tiny percentages. I will not tolerate any collusion or soft-playing. If any team members swap with players who are not on the team or with players who are on the team but for more than the pool split without bringing it up to me first, they will get fired.

In February, two of my players, Tobias Persson and William Thorson, ended up at the final table in a $2,500 no-limit hold'em tourney at the L.A Poker Classic. With a first prize of $300,000, I fully understood the other players' worries about how the two would play against each other. I was very proud when the report from pokerpages quoted Thor Hansen. "This is the way poker should be played," be said while watching the action. He emphasized that even though Persson and Thorson are friends and on the same team, they played very hard against each other. Persson actually knocked Thorson out in a monster pot.

I think it's time to make it clean! All of us who are sponsors or backers in one way or another have to take full responsibility. It is far from ideal when a player who owes his sponsor tons of money on a makeup list ends up at the same table with him. I am in no way questioning anyone's integrity in particular. However, the facts are clear.

Collusion and soft-playing occurs. Some incidents are minor and may be subconscious, but some occur with undisputed malice. I see no problem in people putting other players in tournaments. After all, the bankroll needed to play all of the high-profile $10,000 tournaments is so high that anyone could go broke due to the standard deviation.

A sound approach is to get a sponsor or backer if you have that opportunity. For this to work, though, the business has to be fully transparent. All pride has to be set aside for the health of the game. This is not a matter of secrecy, but a matter of morals and hygiene.

At registration for every tournament, should you have to reveal your sponsor/backer and the deal. "No f——— way," you might say. "It will never become a reality!" But remember, that is what we said about smoking, too. You can never get away from the fact that some players are good friends with each other outside of poker. As long as they don't have any economic interest in one another at the tables, this is something with which we have to live.

Getting exposure on national TV broadcasts is paramount for any Internet site today. Players receive almost ridiculous amounts of money for wearing a logo at a final table. Of course, speculation of hidden agendas is inevitable. Rumors of a player getting there "at any price" (including collusion) will not benefit the industry. If we at some point want sponsorships from major companies in poker, I think you understand how important this is.

Up until recently, you could argue that backers were crucial to many tournament organizers getting bigger fields. This most likely is also the reason that this issue has been somewhat overlooked. Today, we have a totally different situation.

You now know the terms by which my team members play, and I hope that many will follow. There is no doubt in my mind that it will be in poker's best interest.