Buying and selling pieces of poker players has a long, storied history. While some of that history includes fantastic moments, like Joe Cada hugging his backer, Cliff Josephy, as the dealer dealt the river card sealing Cada’s 2009 WSOP Main Event victory, there’s also been horror stories of players overselling, taking a stake from a backer and then disappearing or flat out refusing to pay after a big score.
Over the last year though, an avid poker player and entrpreneur, has been working night and day with his partners to take the staking world from hand-written notes and handshakes to a more digital offering, with player protection and transaction transparency in mind.
“I had been playing poker and running a variety of staking related sites/small staking stables for quite awhile when I met two people who were looking to launch a poker staking app,” said Tyler Hancock. “A lot of things weirdly fell into place and the three of us hit it off as if we had been working together on this idea for years.”
And with that, StakeKings.com was born. Rather than build the product they thought players would want, Hancock and his partners actually reached out to a number of respected players and involved them in the development process.
“We were able to work together to launch the beta, and shortly after brought on board Dylan Hortin, Rupert Elder, and Jeff Gross to be the pros who tested out the beta platform by selling action to their fans/viewers on Twitch,” said Hancock. “I can honestly say that if someone had told us up front all of the initial hurdles and stress that would come with getting StakeKings off the ground, I don’t know if we would have even made the attempt.”
Over the last year Hancock says he’s learned a lot about himself and business as the company went from cool idea to company to market leader. What he’s most thankful for though is that the company has earned the trust of users – sellers and buyers – in a market that desperately required it.
“We have created incredible software that makes buying and selling action extremely simple and secure. Seeing that we only work with trusted players that are all under contract, there has never been a case of someone not paying in the nearly 10,000 packages that have been sold,” said Hancock. “We pride ourselves on having the most responsive customer service that I think you can find anywhere in the poker industry. If there is one thing that we are most proud of during our first year it is how accessible we are to our users and how responsive we have been to user feedback.”
The site is built on user feedback. Not just the standard websites of any website in any industry, but probably more importantly, the pricing of the product. Players selling packages on StakeKings are able to set their own prices.
“Pros are able to set their own markups, and if a pro happens to be selling their markups too high then the market usually lets them know that fairly quickly,” said Hancock. “We work with an incredible group of pros who are looking to engage with poker fans from around the world and give them a sweat, so this is rarely an issue that we personally need to step in and deal with.”
One of the biggest growth factors for StakeKings has been the popularity of poker on Twitch. Poker fans went from just watching their favorite players to having a rooting financial interest that always has the potential to pay off in a big way.
“The users on our site who are buying action range from low limit grinders to hedge fund managers and celebrities looking for a fun sweat,” said Hancock. “The majority of the users are looking to get a small piece of some of their favorites pros and Twitch streamers who sell action, which makes watching the tournaments much more exciting when you have a piece.”
Fans at home buying pieces of a player and then sweating along with them on Twitch is one thing, but last October the company hit a bit of a homerun when they partnered with one of the November Nine to sell action to the WSOP final table. Only problem was, in a table full of players with backgrounds in online poker, it was the unknown Qui Nguyen that they partnered with. Still, fans loved the idea and bought action and then watched as Nguyen took down the title, winning $8 million in the process.
Five Biggest Score from Pro Packages That Sold 1%+ on StakeKings
- Qui Nguyen – WSOP 2016 Main Event – $8,000,000
- Brian Rast – WSOP 2016 Event #55 PPC – $1,296,097.00
- Charlie Carrel – PSC Bahamas Super High Roller $100,000 – $1,191,900
- Brian Rast – Aria $100K High Roller – $971,000
- Antonio Esfandiari – WSOP One Drop High Roller – $263,312
While Nguyen’s hit was a one-time deal, there are a group of strong successful pros that have been most active on StakeKings including two former #1-ranked players on PocketFives, Bryan ‘bparis’ Paris and Chris ‘Gettin Daize’ Oliver, Twitch star and 888poker ambassador Parker ‘Tonkaaaa’ Talbot, as well as Gross and Carrel.