There is a small ecosystem within the poker world of which many players today may have never heard; prop playing. It has been going on in the brick and mortar casinos for a very long time, and is present today in the virtual world of online poker playing as well. What is it? That question is being answered today by the master of a great poker site, PartTimePoker.com (www.parttimepoker.com), who goes by Chris. Chris's site not only contains content related to strategy in both limit and no-limit games, a humor section to which I am partial, and an interview with Daniel Negreanu, but PartTimePoker.com is also a third-party contractor, connecting their team of prop players to online poker rooms every day. The following is an interview with Chris:
Pokernews: First off, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your site, PartTimePoker.com?
Chris: Part Time Poker started off as a hobby site, and by and large it still is. I just got frustrated with the abundance of ad-riddled poker sites with no real content and saw an opportunity to get some unique content out there in a form that I knew I would appreciate. I play poker online as sort of a second job, and I'm always looking for other players at my level to share ideas with; building a site with my ideas seemed like a good way to meet other, similarly minded folk.
PN: Are you a prop player online?
C: Yes, I actually started off playing as a prop at the now-defunct pyramid poker. I still prop for several sites, but my day job keeps from playing as much as I'd like.
PN: When people hear that a prop player is compensated by the casino, many will fear collusion or something to that effect, especially after watching TV dramas, even though that is certainly not the case. Could you explain what it is that prop players do, exactly?
C: Sure. The job of an online prop, or any prop for that matter, is to start and save games. That's it, really. Say there's a game that's about to break - it's a prop's job to sit in and try to keep the game going, or if a site has a few tables open at a given limit, or a waiting list for a certain game, it's our job to sit and start a new game. Collusion doesn't even come into it - I have no more way of contacting a prop to share info than I would any regular player in a regular game, and we certainly get no help from the house. If anything, the house pays MORE critical attention to props because those players are getting paid. Props almost always play with their own money and generally just get their rake back from the site.
I'm not really sure where the myth of props somehow being "plugged in" with the site came from. B&M casinos often have props, especially during the early hours, and I've never heard anyone ever say a suspicious word about them. I guess the online element makes people more wary.
PN: The dramas have also alluded to the idea that a casino will stake a player. Are prop players provided with a bankroll?
C: All of our props play on their own bankroll. I'm sure some of them would prefer that they were banked by a site, but since prop players don't tend to be a whole lot better than any given regular player, sites wisely don't back props.
PN: Most online players prefer to play Texas Holdem, usually the No Limit variety. Does that mean that prop players are not needed at those tables? Are good Razz, Stud, and Omaha players more likely to get a prop job than Texas Holdem players?
C: This depends on the level of action at a given site. Some major sites still support a prop team [at one time or another, I'd wager that just about every major site out there has employed props] - for major sites you're obviously in a situation where your job is to round out the action at a site. So in that case, the less mainstream games would be necessary skills for a prop. At smaller sites, the goal is to just generate traffic for the main games until the base gets steady enough to support itself, so for those sites, props primarily are playing Texas Holdem.
PN: Low limit and buy-in tables seem more popular as well. Would a prop player need a substantial bankroll to get hired, since they may be needed at upper limit games more-so than the micros?
C: Again, this goes site by site. With smaller sites, they just want to build a base, so the upper limits aren't the primary concern. Larger sites want to develop the high-rake games, so the bigger limits are the focus there. We don't ask about a player's bankroll before they come on board - that's pretty much their responsibility. Players who can't manage their own bank rarely turn out to be good props, so that one sort of works itself out.
PN: I would tend to assume that the most popular poker sites would not need prop players, since so many of their games are often times full. Is that the case, or do you know otherwise?
C: It's my understanding that just about every major site you can think of has employed props within the last year. Again, the larger sites usually have a more focused reason for using props -trying to develop a solid 20-40 game or fill out their stud games. Obviously major sites don't advertise this fact, since there's still a bit of an unreasonable stigma surrounding propping, but from what I hear, you're running into prop players at far more places than you might think.
PN: Should an aspiring prop player just shoot a bunch of emails to a bunch of online poker rooms, or do most of them ignore those emails and hire through another company?
C: Most rooms contract out their prop teams to a 3rd party, like us at PTP. It's just easier from the day-to-day perspective in terms of managing a team and also easier in that we already come with a built-in team, so you don't have to grow one from the ground up. If you search "prop player" via Google, you'll find a number of 3rd party contractors.
PN: Let's say this: I have $50 after paying all my bills, and have shown a profit on the .50/$1 tables for the past few weeks. Can I be a prop player?
C: Sure. I'm actually tremendously grateful for my first prop job. Everyone loses a little money playing at first, and having prop pay was a nice equalizer that prevented me from losing so much that I had to quit when I first started. I don't think I ever would've been able to build my bankroll without that first job, and continuing to prop has helped me step up a couple of levels even thought I don't get to put in the hours I normally would have to in order to keep my bankroll growing healthily.
Thank you very much, Chris, for the lesson in prop playing today, and for your ad-less site at <a href=""http://www.PartTimePoker.com"" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">PartTimePoker.com</a>!
Good luck and good odds!