Monday, April 25, 2016

Making a Poker Minion Part 2: Who is Poker Monkey, What is a Minion, Investing

As I alluded in the last post, Steven is joining the coveted ranks this year as one of Monkey's Minions and will be playing the 2016 Main Event. For a few of you, this will be greek. So let me explain.

The World Series of Poker is a big deal. It is a necessary evil. I say evil because CET and the WSOP are not without major flaws. For industry professionals, literally any company in the world provides a better employee experience. For a player who wants the best tournament poker action in the world, the WSOP is the crown jewel. The WSOP is a large, well oiled machine that fuels our entire industry furiously during the summer, and maintains a constant buzz of excitement even in the downtime. Its like the parasitic anemone to the poker industry clownfish.

The expression on his face sums up my years as a dealer with the WSOP.
The price to compete for world renowned glory and life changing money is a measly $10,000. Chump change, right? For us, or rather for Steven, this was a distant goal. Buying into the main event would while we're in the "building" phase of our lives simply isn't an option. We had originally intended to invest a percentage of that into satellites in an attempt to win a seat. Maybe a $1,000 Father's Day shot at greatness from Carter and I.

Instead, I decided to take a chance and put in an application for him to participate as a Minion.

You can't beat the logo.

Monkey's Minions is an investment group curated by my friend Will "Poker Monkey" Souther. Before I explain what that means, I should explain who Will is. Or at least, who Will is to me. Plenty of you know him as Poker Monkey. Even more know him as some mythical beast of poker legend. Though I've known him the better part of a decade, I'm not immune to listening to the occasional Monk tale. "He once kicked a table after a bad beat at the Beau Rivage, broke his foot, went to the emergency room and returned in a cast several hours later and STILL won the tournament!" (That one isn't true, by the way). "Do you remember when he was kicked out of Horseshoe Tunica for winning too much money at black jack, and he then proceeded to dry hump a stop sign in front of an angry female dwarf security officer?" (Totally happened). The list of his larger than life conquests spans most of his time on this planet. There is an even larger trove of stories you haven't heard. Like when he drove 7 hours to help me sand bag the Tunica casinos when the levee was threatening to break and destroy the livelihood of tens of thousands of people. (We helped save the properties from damage). Or when tornados ravaged the south and he spent days collecting clothes for donation and helping with clean up efforts.

We bagged sand. We met a swamp boat captain. We offended a dwarf. We saved the town.

There are three of us really, Monk, Kai Landry and myself, that because of poker we were able to sort of find each other in the wilderness of life. I consider them both my intellectual soul mates and know that nothing is too sacred for us three to laugh at.

I love these two men. And I'm so happy now we can all use the same bathroom.

Through the years there has been plenty of scandal, drama and excitement. Ironically, it was just a few months after Will and his beautiful wife Cheryl had their daughter Carley that Steven and I found out we were having Carter. Things have settled down since we both entered parenthood, and our escapades as friends involve less casinos and red snappers and more parenting faux pass and Peppa Pig anecdotes.

It is for all of these reasons that I felt guilty submitting an application asking for Steven to be chosen as a minion. Will is sort of a mastermind when it comes to organizing investment pools. Its his craft, first and foremost. Regardless of how many love/hate stories are out there circulating about the legend of Poker Monkey, there is no one who questions his integrity when it comes to money. Because of this financial transparency and an impeccable track record, Monk is somewhat of a guru at getting people to give him money and somehow turning that into more money. Its a win-win for everyone. A few years ago, he had the idea of developing an investment pool for Main Even runners. Basically, he cultivates a group of perfect would-be world champions. A mixture of four to six "horses" to stake in the largest poker event in the world. He usually selects a nice mixture of amateur hopefuls, professionals, young, middle-aged, ambitious, stable and wild card. A smashing combination hoping to strike literal gold. These are affectionately referred to as the "Minions".

Like this, but less understated.

The deal he makes with them is that he'll pay their way into the main event ($10,000 each) and they get to keep 35% of anything they earn. They're responsible for their own travel, accommodation and expenses above and beyond the tournament seat. The remainder of the money (65%) is divided among the investors. Pretty straight forward, huh? Monk has never and will never take a fee for his troubles, but he is a large shareholder purchasing a huge chunk himself every year. The investors include anyone who wants to take a shot and gamble on a big score. A share costs $200 even. No more, no less. You can purchase as few or as many as you like. Where its a brilliant investment and different from most staking arrangements, is with one share you're purchasing equity in ALL of the runners. So you literally have 5 shots at a massive return on investment with one share. Last year was a poor year with all but one player getting eliminated early, and with a relatively minimal cash from one of the staked player (the equally awesome and legendary Bill Philips), each shared STILL returned $151 each. Not bad considering 90% of staking arrangements end in a big fat $0 return. Imagine how awesome it'll be if someone makes a deep run. Or if two of the runners go deep.

Everything is done with total transparency. Once you invest (or even if you just want to rail), there is a facebook group set up so you can watch the progress of the Minions. The Minions themselves post updates, and at any time there are always scouts on the ground at the Rio keeping up with our collective horses.

So for me, this was a no brainer to want to get Steven in on this. Where the guilt comes in is that I didn't want him to be chosen just because of my friendship with Will. I find it especially tacky to rely on friends for their "talents" or expect hookups because of someone else's position. So I mulled it over and put serious thought into it. We could spend $1,000 on two satellites to try to get Steven a seat, or I could buy shares in the Minion pool. The Minion pool just makes better sense. Always a fan of betting on the home field advantage, I put in the application. Why not bet on my guy to win it all?

He isn't a total newcomer. He just hasn't taken many shots. Yet.

I believed Steven would make a valuable addition to the Minion field because he's smart. He's steady and level headed. He is highly educated and yet still chose to build his career in poker, simply because he loves it. He's 31 years old and doesn't owe a soul money, has no enemies, no vices (aside from pizza) and he's passionate about the game. Every single thing he does, he aspires to be the best. Whether its the best floor in the best poker room (in my biased opinion, he is among them) or the best daddy he can be. He's a little bit of a wild card because he doesn't have the big tournament experience or professional experience some would probably prefer in a horse but what he lacks in those categories he makes up for with innate understanding of the game. He hasn't had the opportunity to develop the bad habits of jaded players or the cynicism of long time tournament veterans. To be clear though, he's not a complete rookie. He's played plenty of live/cash, spent his college years on FullTilt and takes regular shots in smaller tournaments now that we live in Vegas. He has the enthusiasm of a "young gun" along with a deep understanding of the value of this opportunity. Most importantly, this will be the realization of a dream for him and something he'll approach with proper respect.

So I wrote it all down and emailed it in, explaining clearly that I didn't want a "hook up" because of our friendship.

A few LONG weeks later, I got a welcome text, bright and early from Will welcoming us into the Minion family. I also agreed to chronicle Steven's experience in detail. As of today, the official roster hasn't been announced on his page but I expect that before May 30th. In the meantime, we are busy developing a coaching plan and putting together resources for Steven to study. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and he plans to maximize all avenues towards success.

In my next post I will go into detail about the coaching and preparatory resources we're using. Please message me directly or comment with any recommendations you have. Anyone who is interested in investing in the minion pool get in touch with me so I can point you in Monk's direction. If you'd just like to join the virtual rail, look up the group on facebook. Its going to be a wild ride, one way or the other.


  1. Nicely written post, and best of luck to Steven and your investment. In the interst of transparency, can you explain the reason behind the creation of Monkey's Minions, and the (personal) political message Will Suther wants to send to CET? Since you are inviting people to invest, this is an important part of what they are buying into. Will is very open and vocal about this, so it isn't any sort of secret.

    1. Because I work in the industry, I try very very hard to not get involved in the airing of dirty laundry. Monk is pretty open about this, so I'll leave this as a tale for his blog.

      I will say this.. Monk's animosity towards the WSOP and whatever spark may have inspired this investment group had significantly dimmed as a focal point for him. Fatherhood, being a great husband and enjoying life has replaced poker as "center stage". These days the investment group and Minions team really is about taking a gamble on a handful of players and hoping to strike gold. Its fun. The excitement is contagious. :)

  2. This is all very exciting and a great read. I'm glad you are back to posting and about something so rarely discussed openly (staking, albeit of a unique sort).

    1. Thanks! I'm excited about all this too. Poker sort of took a back seat and became redundant for me for awhile.. so I love that finally there is something to write about and look forward to again. Thanks for reading!

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