One of the more common non strategy based questions that I receive on twitter or via email has to do with cash game staking. Some people want to know the best way to go about getting staking while others, and I think more interestingly, ask if they should invest in a player and stake them in cash games.
Staking in tournaments, although extremely difficult to profit from, can at least be easily tracked. You invest in a horse or set of horses and as long as you confirm that they actually buy in to the tournaments your staking results are basically public record. You have to deal with makeup and the chance that you might have to cut your losses at some point but the same can be said about cash games.
Whenever there is money involved with anything there is always the chance that you will be cheated. Back in the infancy of online poker a lot of the young players thought that the game was pure because of the number of hands that were seen. They poopooed the older rounders when questions were raised as to possible cheating. The younger guys just thought that the older ones were not good enough to beat the games hence their hesitation to play in them. Now, of course, we know that cheating in different degrees has been rampant across many different sites. Towards the end of online offshore poker in the US it got to the point where most of the high stakes action was heads up.
We should learn from these lessons as poker players and realize that it is extremely risky to back players in cash games where the results are not fully transparent. It only takes forty or fifty dollars a day to get ripped off for thousands over the course of a year. I only ever backed one player in my career in cash games and he was a very dear friend of mine who I trusted fully. I also knew that he was fully capable of beating the game but his financial situation and bankroll could not take the variance of 5-10NL due to his college tuition. I also knew that he did not have any gambling or drug leaks—something very important to evaluate when thinking of staking. My horse was easily able to build his own roll within six months and he went off on his own—kind of the way it is supposed to work.
Of the stories that I have heard from others about cash staking however my result was by far in the minority. Long term friendships end and nasty disagreements arising from staking arrangements. Just like it is a tough racket to play poker professionally it is even tougher to stake for profit. The other thing you have to realize is that there usually is a reason as to why a winning, profitable player would need to be staked. A lot of times he is either not as profitable as he thinks or he has one of the above leaks. It takes a really special person, one that you know enough and fully trust and has a legitimate need to be cash game staked. Most of the time you would do a lot better by adding to your own bankroll and moving up or making more traditional outside investments. Be smart.