STILL MORE − From Out of the Mouths of Professional Poker Players


The player in seat one definitely had a glow about him, a confidence. So I wasn’t too surprised to hear the player in seat seven say to the player in seat one:

“Didn’t you just win a bracelet?”

“Yeah,” he said.

“You won the $1,000 buy-in NLHE event, right?”

“Yep, I did. Someone had to.”

We got the joke. He was referring to the huge player pool in the 1K event − 3000 entrants − brought on by the relatively small buy-in. And he was humbly implying that luck played a big part in his win. The “We” who got the joke was me and eight other poker players sitting around a poker table playing poker. Is there a better state of existence on earth? Not for we.

The player in seat five, who had hardly spoken for an hour, then said something hilarious. But before I tell you what he said, let me do some splaining…

The word “makeup” in the tournament world is used to describe the accumulated losses in a staking arrangement in which past buyins must be recouped before profits are split. A typical tournament backing deal might be outlined as “50/50 with makeup.” What this means is that the backer − an investor who puts up the money for the backee’s buyins − agrees to split 50% of the backee’s tournament profits, but only after previous buyins have been recouped. The amount that needs to be recouped is makeup.

For example, if you and I have a “50/50 with makeup” arrangement, and you back me in three $1,000 tournaments, and I don’t make the money in any of them, then our partnership now has a $3,000 “makeup figure.” If, in the fourth tournament, I win, say, $10,000, then $4,000 gets paid to you, to make up for the $4,000 you already invested, and we would split the remaining $6,000.

Next, a word about bankroll…

It’s all about zeros. If you have too many zeros between the amount you have, and the amount you play for, then the stakes become insignificant, relative to your bankroll. For example, if your bankroll is $1,000, you probably would not want to play for pennies.

Now back to the table.

The game we were playing was $5-10 no-limit hold’em. It wasn’t a tournament. It was a regular old poker game, where you put your money on the table and you quit when you please. Yesterday, the player in seat one won $464,464 in a tournament. And today he was playing $5-10. That’s like having a $1,000 bankroll and playing for fractions of pennies per bet. The sheer irrationality of this imbalance created an instant mystery.

The player in seat seven asked the bracelet winner the obvious question:

“So why are you playing $5-10?”

And that’s when the player in seat five quickly quipped:

“He must have had a shitload of makeup.”