This past week, a website sprung up accusing another poker player of wrongdoing. The site, nickraineyisathief.com, was established after poker pro Nick Rainey solicited investors in the TwoPlusTwo forums, sold shares of his $10,000 World Series of Poker Main Event buy-in, and never played the tournament; instead, he allegedly ran off to Canada with thousands in investors’ money. While this is yet another ill-timed black eye for the poker community, it serves as a prime example of the risks associated with backing and buying pieces of action.
Before I offer you my thoughts on backing and buying pieces of a player’s action, I’ll satisfy your curiosity and explain the Rainey situation in a little more detail. For those who may not know Rainey, I can’t blame you. According to Hendon Mob, he has just seven cashes totaling $118,557, with the most notable coming from a 106th-place finish in the 2010 WSOP Main Event for $57,102. Regardless of his popularity, Rainey is well-known both online and on the live circuit.
On June 27, 2011, Rainey posted the following on TwoPlusTwo under the screen name “funnerwithbunner:” “Selling 60% and have 30% available at 1.25-1. Finished 106th place in the 2010 WSOP Main Event for ~$57,000 and sold pieces on the 2p2 Marketplace and had no problems with payouts . . . No reserves, your shares are booked when I receive cash in Las Vegas, I am at the Rio 24/7 grinding the satellites. PM me to setup meeting.” The post drew interest from TwoPlusTwoers, and he was able to sell plenty of action.
According to nickraineyisathief.com, when the Main Event rolled around, Rainey “informed his investors (via a now deleted twitter message) that he had a 'brutal day' and had busted out of the tournament” With a little digging, it turned out that Rainey hadn’t even registered for the Main Event and did not appear on any of the official WSOP Entrants’ lists. Needless to say, this did not sit well with his investors, who clamored for the return of their money.
On July 14, Rainey began posting classifieds on TwoPlusTwo selling many of his possessions in order to move to Canada. When confronted in the forum, Rainey was quick to reassure his potential buyers: “Contacted everyone who bought pieces via 2p2 and should have it taken care of next day or two.”
Fast forward two months, and the money has yet to be returned, prompting some of the investors to launch the aforementioned site, which also states: “When confronted, Nick lied, saying that the checks he sent must have gotten lost in the mail. After repeated inquiries, he disappeared and deleted his Facebook, Twitter and blog. Nick ignores all email, text and Skype messages, and has de-friended anyone from Facebook he ripped off.”
Danger of Backing or Buying Shares
I became aware of the Nick Rainey scandal when nickraineyisathief.com went live on Sept.15. I was disappointed to hear of another controversial story surfacing in the poker world, which is in a very fragile state; with that said, I wasn’t surprised about the turn of events. Backing and selling shares is common practice, and stories of profiteering and exploitation permeate the poker world.
For those who may not know, backing is when a person buys a player into a tournament in exchange for part of their prize. Each backing deal is different, and is typically determined by the player putting up the money. When selling a piece of action, a player offers shares in which someone can pay a predetermined amount for a certain percentage of the player’s winnings.
I can tell you from experience that backing/selling action is as common in poker tournaments as pinch-hitters are in baseball. It happens all the time, but often unnoticed and out of the spotlight. While the vast majority of players, myself included, are grateful to be backed or sell shares, a select few take advantage of the situation and shine a negative light on the practice. Rainey was the latest to do so, but he was not the first, nor will he be the last.
In fact, the most notorious cases of over-selling came two years ago and involved Constant Rijkenberg, who not only played in the event he overbooked, but went on to win it for $1,974,934. As it happened, Rijkenberg had sold somewhere between 130 to 160 percenet of himself in the 2009 European Poker Tour San Remo, meaning he actually owed hundreds of thousands of dollars for winning. Why someone who overbooks would want to cash, let alone win, is beyond me. It defeats the purpose of the scam, which is to oversell action, bust, and then keep the difference between the buy-in and what was actually sold. Had Rijkenberg simply busted early in the tournament, he would have secured a nice paycheck. Instead, he ruined his reputation and credibility, all the while earning the distinction as “Poker’s Dumbest Criminal.”
Just like in the real world, there are certain risks and rewards associated with investing and trusting others with your money. Most of the time, deals are completed flawlessly and without hassle, but every once in awhile, you’re bound to hear about stories like those mentioned above. Just remember, being trustworthy is one of the most important qualities someone can possess in the poker world. If you have a reputation as reliable, responsible, and honest, there will always be someone willing to lend, back, or buy, thus keeping you in the game for years to come. If you follow in Rainey’s footsteps, you’ll receive a one-time payday, but you’ll ruin both your reputation and credibility, putting an end to any possibility of ever being rescued when in need.
I believe backing and selling shares is great. It allows players with limited bankrolls, the opportunities to take some shots and play in bigger tournaments. However, if you’re going to venture into the backing or selling realm, you need to take it seriously and accept your responsibilities. To have the trust, faith, and support of your fellow poker pros is invaluable, but once it’s gone, it is impossible to get it back. With that said, here are a few of the rules I try to abide by when backing and buying or selling shares:
- Don’t buy shares from players you don’t know.
- If selling shares, make sure to get cash in hand (sometime people who buy shares don’t pay up after the fact). Likewise, if you buy shares, be sure to pay before the tournament (you don’t want them scoring big and then claiming it wasn’t official because you never paid up).
- Don’t back or buy pieces of players with sketchy pasts.
- Be diligent, check the tournament reports to ensure the back player registered for the tournament. On the flip side, if you’re backed, keep your investors updated through texts, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
- Keep thorough notes. Who did you back and for how much? When? Who owes you what?
- If in doubt, don’t be afraid to get something in writing, which would increase your chances of successful legal action as opposed to a verbal contract. Better safe than sorry.
If you have any backing stories or rules to share, please feel free to utilize our comments sections below.