Over the last five or six years, Chris Hunichen and Chance Kornuth have each bought dozens upon dozens of pieces of players in the World Series of Poker Main Event. This year the pair have teamed up, not only to be able to put more money to work, but to bring some sort of organization and professionalism to a process that quite often lacks both.
For the uninitiated, players entering the WSOP Main Event will sometimes look to other players to buy pieces of their Main Event entry in exchange for an equal percentage of any potential winnings. For example, before the tournament begins Player A sells Player B 10% of his Main Event winnings for $1,400.
For investors, the Main Event is a very unique tournament given the overall size and makeup of the field. Hunichen sees it as an opportunity to get a decent return on an investment with a real chance at picking up a big score.
“It’s not often you get to chase prize pools with $8.8 million for first place. Also, this is kind of a tournament where there’s just so many rec players where almost anybody has a shot to go deep,” said Hunichen. “It’s so easy to get a lot of cashes in this tournament, and if you can get just one or two or three people to break through and have one or two them final table, then a lot of big things can happen.”
The deals are usually consummated via text message, a direct message or maybe sometimes a handshake and often has players running around to collect $500 or $1,000 from various players all over Las Vegas.
“Usually I just buy a few of my own pieces or I have a friend that will buy a bunch and I’ll buy a piece of that. But over the years, it’s pretty unorganized, it’s kind of a pain dispersing the money and then chasing all your horses around and collecting the money when it’s all done,” said Hunichen.
So Hunichen teamed up with Kornuth to get aggressive in investing some money in players. They spread the word that they were buying pieces and as players reached out, Hunichen and Kornuth started doing their homework. In cases where they didn’t know the player, Hunichen would look for friends they had in common and do a bit of a reference check.
“I’d go on Facebook and look what mutual contacts I had and I would message those people and ask ‘Is this guy trustworthy? Can you vouch for him?’. I know most of the poker world, but there’s also people that offer Main Event action that I’ve never heard of before,” said Hunichen. “We would also look for Hendon Mob links. People would send in their Hendon Mob links so we could see how much live success they’ve had.”
Hunichen and Kornuth each took 33.3% of the action with Chip Leader Capital, a fund set up by Kornuth for his Chip Leader Coaching business, taking the remainder. They invested a total of $230,000.
“We got contracts and we posted up at a certain spot here (at the Rio) for a couple of days in a row so that everyone could have easy access to us,” said Hunichen. “So we sat down, had them show their ID and then the contract basically just says you were paid X amount of money and we get X percentage of this tournament.”
The contracts became a bit of necessity after some of Kornuth’s investors who come from outside the poker world started asking questions and showing some discomfort with the idea of investing in people without some level of legal protection built in.
“A lot of the business people and the non-poker demographic had a lot of concerns about that area, so we decided to do contracts,” said Kornuth. “It was basically just trying to reassure our investors that their money was safe.”
As much as the contracts should serve as a natural deterrent for players doing something unethical, there was one player, who tried to pull a fast one on Kornuth and Hunichen. Austin Bursavich sold $1,100 worth of action to the pair but never entered the Main Event.
“He degened it off and then went home, but we have him under contract and we’ve already been in touch with the lawyers,” said Hunichen. Realizing he could be facing legal action, Bursavich reached out to Hunichen to figure out a way to settle up.
“We’ve already been paid $500 and we’re told we’re being paid the rest, while everyone else without contracts hasn’t even been responded to,” said Kornuth. “I think that will be the future for buying action and in fact for next year when we do this again, I’ll have my own Chip Leader Capital contracts in addition to a basic blank contract that other purchasers can use as well.”
Players were required to send a picture of their buy-in receipt from the table as well. Kornuth expected some resistance from players at such a formal process, but that wasn’t the case at all.
“I think we got a lot more appreciation for professionalism than the opposite,” said Kornuth. Along with the investment, which was the only way some of the players would have been able to get into the event, the pair also plan on providing coaching to any of their pieces that continue to run deep into Day 5, 6, 7 and beyond.
“It’s going to be a combination of Huni and I and maybe other coaches that are part of CLC, but there’s going to be livestreams for days and days of coverage and I will definitely go over all the tape if somebody makes a final table, give them all the live reads if they get deep enough,” said Kornuth. “We definitely plan on helping people that go deep, we’re looking forward to it.”