I was cruising through eBay a couple of days ago, wondering what useless knick-knacks to spend my latest paycheck on, when I came across what I believe to be a first in the world of eBay, not to mention the poker world.
Scott Neuman, a New Jersey man who has "been playing poker since lunch in middle school," has placed five mystery boxes up for auction, each for between $215 and $1,500. The winner of each box will pay Scott's entry fee and win "all items [Scott] receives as part of playing in [a 2006 World Series of Poker event] in Las Vegas including 50% of the cash winnings." The bracelet will stick with Scott; however, free clothing and promotional items, as well as a copy of the completed registration form, go to the lucky winner.
Now, buying a piece of someone to play in a World Series event is nothing new. Most poker players with any sort of skill whatsoever are playing at least partially on someone else's dime. But offering one's services or skills via online auction certainly strikes me as a new and novel approach to the concept, and up-and-comers with the skill and the resume, but not the reputation, might be well-served to copy Scott's approach.
The trouble with Scott's attempt is that it's hard to believe that anyone with a modicum of poker knowledge would ante up to sponsor him. For starter's the man's qualifications include a few final tables in some PartyPoker.com $20 sit-and-goes, handily copied onto the auction site for your convenience, as well as the claim that, "there is estimated to be 2,700 people in this tournament. I regularly play tournaments with up to 3500 people and frequently place in the top 10% or better." Fine, sir, but a $20 online tournament is no WSOP event.
As for concrete, tournament based results, Neuman's Web site lists a fist place finish in a Limit Hold'em tournament (no buy-in specified) at the Mandalay Bay in September 2004, as well as a first-day knockout at the Borgata Winter Classic Poker tournament this January (bankrolled by an online casino known for buying online oddities). Neuman's one finish of note was a final table at a WSOP circuit event in Atlantic City in 2005. Not exactly an investor's dream.
The other issue is that of the potential return on investment. For putting your confidence and your $1,500, Neuman offers you a chance to partake of a "prize pool worth up to $1.5 Million Dollars!!! I mean it," of which he will take half of his winnings and the investor will take half. Discarding all issues of Neuman's skill, precedent with the professionals whose investment deals I've learned of has the return on investment set on a more proportional rate.
Chris Moneymaker allowed his family and friends to buy half of his seat in the 2003 World Series; after he won, he paid out half of his winnings to those investors. Russ "Dutch" Boyd, after winning a bracelet this year, had to pay his backers a sum in proportion to the percentage of his seat they'd purchased. For paying 100% of his entry fee, Scott Neuman will pay out 50% of his earnings - but you get to keep his free clothing.
I don't know. On the one hand, I want to applaud Neuman for exploiting the explosive new power of internet marketplaces as a means of bankrolling his foray into the world of poker. On the other hand, based on his obvious pandering to those who want to get rich quick, and conspicuously avoiding those with much knowledge of the poker world, one might conclude that Neuman is not good enough to get backing along the usual lines, and that he's simply exploiting the investors whose money he's taking, capitalizing on the newfound popularity of poker and the millions of dollars to be won.
They say there's a sucker born every minute, and to me it seems like Scott Neuman's out to find them all. But Dutch Boyd, Chris Moneymaker, and all legitimate up-and-comers take note - even if your results start to fall off, you can always secure backing on eBay.