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New Kid on the Staking Block

by Dave Shoelace |  Published: Dec 31, 2008

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Geoff.ccStaking other people to play poker and splitting the profits has been part of the game almost as long as the chip and wearing sunglasses at the table. But only in the last few years has staking online players moved into the mainstream, and like most things online, it has done so at an alarming rate. The name that is synonymous with online poker staking is of course Badbeat, the original online poker trading company that has been staking players for more than two years.
It was only natural that others would throw their hat into the ring in the potentially endlessly lucrative world of online poker staking; step forward Geoff.cc. With a $5 million bankroll, this new kid on the block is sponsoring online players in the UK to play with its money and is splitting the profits 50/50. The company is the brainchild of former Badbeat trader and well-known figure in the UK poker scene, Russell "Ariston" Cawley.

"I was approached by some private investors who wanted to set up their own poker site," explained Cawley. "I mentioned what we did at Badbeat and suggested it might be a more profitable venture to stake online poker players."

Online poker trading is where an investor provides a bankroll to online players to play with every day in a similar fashion to traditional stock trading. Every morning a player will wake up with a specific amount in his poker account - for example, £1,000. This amount is his "stop loss" and is the maximum he can lose for the day. At the end of the day, the money is "swept" from the accounts and restored back to the original stop loss. At the end of the month, 50 percent of the player's profits and rakeback are paid to him, and the investors keep the rest. In the case of Geoff.cc, three-fifths of the player's monthly share is paid to him at the end of the month and the other two-fifths at the end of the following month, and so on (whereas Badbeat retains a percentage of the player's share till the end of the year).

Cawley outlined the concept. "The players can never go over their daily stop loss because the money is never in their account to do that; if we agree someone has £1,000 to play with, that's what's in their account every day when they log on. If at the end of the day they have £4,000, we sweep the £3,000 and leave the £1,000 for the next day. This means there is never much of an issue with tilt, which is a problem most online players have. Most losing players probably have more winning sessions than losing sessions; the problem is, they can win six days in a row, take a few bad beats, then wipe out a week of profit in one go. The stop-loss method prevents all that.

"When you have a losing day with us, it doesn't sting as much; if you've been stringing together some good results, then you see the overall plus rather than the recent loss, and it doesn't affect you as badly. When you are playing on your own and you wipe out a few days' profits, it can really affect you as a player; the winning days take care of themselves, it's a case of controlling the losing days."

Not only does Geoff.cc provide a bankroll for you, it manages your bankroll, which really helps some of the players with bankroll management issues. Some players don't like the idea of having only 50 percent of their action, but Cawley points out that getting only half of your profits doesn't necessarily mean lowering your earn rate: "We review our players every week, and if they are doing well, we up their limit. They could go from £500 a day to £3,000 a day in a number of weeks, so they can get to levels they never would have on their own quite quickly."

The other great benefit of being a poker trader is the mentoring you get. Cawley was one of the first mentors at Badbeat and is the lead mentor at Geoff.cc.

"I do most of my mentoring from my laptop on MSN or Skype, a mobile phone call - whatever the player prefers," he said. "A standard mentoring session would start with me watch them play for a while and I see if I can spot any issues, and then they would sit and watch me play at the same tables. If someone plays SNGs, I'll observe them for a while then play some SNGs myself and talk about scenarios as they happen; it's much easier than just telling them what they are doing wrong. You can't teach someone how to play poker, because there isn't a right or wrong way to play it; you can only watch their game and suggest improvements they might not have thought of, and that's how they move up the stop-loss limits."

It's by no means an easy task mentoring so many poker egos, and Cawley is quick to point this out.

"One thing you notice as a mentor is that there are not many players who admit they played badly. They'll say they got horrifically unlucky, but when you look through the hand histories, you'll notice they caused their own bad luck. That's why we are there as mentors, to show them how they could have played the hand differently and not gotten "unlucky." Defining your hand, position play, when to c-bet, when not to c-bet, and so on. There are so many good online players out there who don't seem to understand the basics of online play."

When someone is offering online players a portion of a $5 million bankroll to play with, it does make one wonder about the endless possibilities to abuse this opportunity. Players could jump into a single game with their entire stop loss, they could collude with other players or chip dump the money to another account. What measures are in place to stop traders from messing with Geoff.cc's money?

"It's certainly a concern, but we have every hand history available to us, and various systems in place to prevent things like collusion and report suspicious activity. Our players cannot sit together at the same table. The poker rooms we use also have their own preventions in place to do the same. We work closely with the poker sites we play on, we have a large number of players and there is a lot of rake involved, so they want to protect us too. It's not in the player's interest to chip dump, because that's an instant dismissal and forfeit of any profits, as per our terms and conditions."

John TabatabaiAfter several years of successful business, Badbeat now has a stable of formidable high-stakes players, and also produced big names like John Tabatabai. If that sounds intimidating, don't worry, because Geoff.cc is aimed at all levels of player: "We currently have about 30 full-time players at the moment, and we are looking to expand that. I don't want to go to more than 50 or 60 players, because we would need to get more mentors in. The majority of our players are playing between £100 to a few thousand pounds a day. Even if we take on an experienced player, we tend to start him small until he proves himself, and then he can move on to the upper limits. Our players are not necessarily the highest-stakes players, we have a lot of small-stakes players; we have plenty who don't mind playing 50¢-$1 and SNGs."

But they also have plenty of potential high-stakes stars in the making: "We do have one young lad who is only 18; his father has been with us for quite a while and he is probably our biggest winner. He started off watching his dad a lot. When we took him on, he was on $100 a day ... he is now our biggest winner, definitely a star in the making; he is doing things that take most of us five or six years to learn. His father is keeping him grounded, even sweeping his account for him if he gets really far in front one day. He isn't even playing that high stakes; he is playing only the mid-stakes, but is absolutely crucifying them."

Unlike a lot of companies in direct competition with each other, Ariston is very quick to point out his admiration and respect for his business rival, the Badbeat trading programme: "If the Badbeat model wasn't successful, we wouldn't be doing this. When McDonald's started up, Burger King followed soon afterward because it was a successful model. I left Badbeat on good terms; we won't nick their players or tinker with the percentages we offer players to undercut them. Obviously, there are loads of online players out there, so there is no need to try to steal each other's players, because there are plenty to choose from."

There certainly seems to be a profitable future in companies backing online players to win money and generate rakeback with their money; does Geoff.cc expect to be seeing even more competition in the near future?

"Individuals staking players online isn't new; it's happening more on poker forums everywhere (there are even websites for online players to stake each other). I'm not sure how that is going to work because staking between friends leads to arguments. I've had friends join
Geoff.cc, but I've made it clear from the start that if they don't perform, they get sacked; it's nothing personal.

"We've heard a rumour of a Scandinavian site offering money to Scandie players, only offering a much higher percentage of the profits; if they do that, I think they'll do their money in. I'm sure there will be more companies cropping up, and hopefully they learn from the mistakes that have already been made. Player selection and player management is key."

For more information on poker trading, go to www.geoff.cc.