Is a Poker Player’s Financial Transparency a Good or Bad Thing?

TAGs: eSports, Jonathan Pan, Team Ember

After eSports Team Ember founder, Jonathan Pan, revealed his players salaries to the rest of the world, Lee Davy ponders the value of the same happening one day in poker.

People always ask me how much I get paid for writing about poker. I always tell them the truth. I tell them what my salaries are with a gentle caution that it’s not necessarily a benchmark for average earnings.

Is a Poker Player's Financial Transparency a Good or Bad Thing?This Christmas the eSports industry has been awash with blog posts and counter blog posts after Team Ember co-founder Jonathan Pan wrote on Medium revealing the wages of his playing staff. The highest of which was a gamer called Goldenglue who was paid a $65,000 base salary with $27,000 in bonuses. Pan believes the transparency of this information is paramount for his players because the flip side leaves eSports companies with greater leverage when negotiating player salaries.

It got me thinking about poker.

As an interviewer, I always feel compelled to ask questions about a player’s finances. I believe human beings are all voyeurs, and we love to know everything we can about a person. That’s why I want to ask those questions.

Former European Poker Tour (EPT) champion, Rupert Elder, shares my sentiments. If you check out Rupert’s personal blog, you will find intricate details about his financial situation including Rakeback, swaps, and pieces bought and sold.

“People are very voyeuristic about finance. They go to my Sharkscope, and it’s not accurate, so I decided just to publish my results, and people then know how I am doing financially.” Elder told me.

Daniel Negreanu is another professional player who is very transparent about his earnings. Although not as detailed as Elder, Negreanu also writes an update on his poker earnings on his personal blog. In 2015, Negreanu made a total profit of $969,354 playing live poker tournaments. In the past three years, he has made a profit of $10,061,058.

Poker and eSports are different beasts in as much as most poker players don’t receive a salary. I believe this will change in the future, and when it does, transparency will be an important leverage point for professional poker players when it comes to understanding their real market value.

The success or failure of the Global Poker League (GPL) will define how far away we are from professional poker players being paid a salary to compete, but Twitch has created an instant value for transparency.

Most poker players used to think very one-dimensionally when it came to earning income from sources other than playing. Seeking out a professional sponsorship deal was the only route. That’s changed thanks to the live streaming platform. Now players can think out of the box, and create their personal brands to switch to a revenue stream previously hidden underneath the arid land.

Rupert Elder sells his online action via the Global Poker Link Staking Marketplace and then streams his action live on Twitch. Yesterday, I wrote an article about a new eSports start-up called Matcherino – a platform that allows fans to pay to play against their favourite stars. Poker could also benefit from such a feature.

Elder understands the need to be trusted will become crucial in the future. It’s why he is so transparent. What you see is what you get. Yes, he can fudge the numbers. But I don’t think people who are willing to put this information out there are interested in such acts.

By being transparent and, trustworthy companies like Global Poker Link are happy to have him on their streaming team. By being transparent, his fans will trust him enough to back him feeling safe in the understanding that they will get their ROI when Elder wins.

Poker is an individual sport. Its makes it easier to divulge financial information. eSports is a different dynamic because if players are on different salaries, this could breed jealousy and resentment. The balance of the team could be upset as a result.

Alex Dreyfus and the Global Poker League plan to change the game. Individuals will become part of a team as they are in eSports. If the concept is successful, then it’s likely that team members will be paid different salaries depending on many factors that will include experience, titles won and even celebrity status.

Would Pierre Neuville be paid the same as Fedor Holz?

Would Liv Boeree be paid the same as Jake Cody?

All interesting questions.

Let’s hope that they become very relevant sooner rather than later.


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