What Are Poker Agents And What Can You Expect From Them?
We already know that sports agents handle business and legal deals for professionals. They take care of all the contracts, negotiations and sponsorships for the player. A poker agent has similar responsibilities. They help successful poker players to take their branding and business to the next level, improving and diversifying income streams and managing PR.
What does a poker agent do?
Unlike other sports stars, poker players are not usually part of a team. Therefore, poker agents don’t need to negotiate club contracts, but there are still plenty of deals and marketing to manage. Poker players can be huge celebrities, so managing their endorsements and public image is critical to take their career to the next level.
Here are some of the duties of a poker agent.
- Find and negotiate sponsorships and endorsements – One of the main roles of poker agents, like other sports agents, is to find sponsors and negotiate favorable contracts. Poker players are usually sponsored by online poker sites, but more recently, players are picking up deals with non-poker companies. Agents facilitate these deals in every way, from making the initial connection to signing the deal to chasing up money owed. Doing so brings in significant amounts of money for the player, balancing their usual.
- Marketing and managing image – Live players, and increasingly online poker players too are out in the public sphere. They are loved and followed by aspiring pros and beginners alike. As a result, they are a source of inspiration and entertainment. All this requires marketing and an awareness of public relations. Poker agents have more than a transactional relationship with their clients. They also help to tell the player’s story in a relatable way and craft their character to give them public appeal. Marketing may also involve advertising deals and the creation of online sites and content as well as scoping for TV and interview opportunities.
- Diversifying income – Marketing and TV appearances will bring in more diverse income streams for the player, but the poker agent can go even further with their promos. Live and online players with agents tend to follow a certain path. They publish online books, maybe DVDs or online poker streams, and then make appearances on poker shows. All this leads to more income and expands the client’s repertoire so that they become a poker star, rather than only a poker player.
- Offer career advice – Agents may offer live or online poker players career advice, and even give tips on health and fitness. They have a vested interest in the player’s success. Like golf agent Chris Armstrong describes, their duties can even involve recommending the yearly tournament schedule, based on balancing personal and professional commitments to keep up performance and publicity.
How to Get a Poker Agent
The poker community is divided on whether agents are needed, but this can often depend on the player’s circumstances. Agents can be invaluable to anyone who is breaching the surface of fame and fortune but may not be suitable for those who haven’t made it big yet. The reason for this is simple: poker agents usually work on commission.
Agents typically receive a percentage of sponsorships and marketing deals that they negotiate for players. It can sometimes be quite high, up to 20 percent for a decent agent, but it’s worth it if the agent can find valuable deals. Players have to keep in mind that the agent takes on a lot of risks.
After a poker agent signs a player, they can spend months making calls and emails before they secure the deals they need. Although they may take an initial sign-up fee (if they are big enough), they mostly profit from a commission. Therefore, taking on bad players, or even players who are not well-known, could result in zero sponsorships and profit.
Any successful poker player can find a poker agent, but finding a great one like the legendary Brian Balsbaugh is a different task. Well-established poker agents probably won’t recruit players unless they believe they can make enough money. Therefore, the players will not only have to be familiar enough with poker rules to attract an agent but also need a decent win rate, success in high-profile tournaments like the WSOP or be high in the live or online poker rankings.
Do all players need an agent?
Poker players without a sponsorship rely on income that they make from winning poker events. It can be lots, but it is inconsistent and unreliable. Poker players barely ever know when their next pay package will arrive. Thus, the key reason why players benefit from having an agent is to find endorsements that can guarantee a regular and sustained income between big wins. Agents often have existing relationships and more bargaining power with sponsors. They also take care of the admin.
Players will benefit from the skills that an agent brings to the table, which they often might not have, such as:
- Organization – Handling emails and exchanges with multiple sponsors and companies.
- Communication – Talking with sponsors and negotiating deals. Agents usually have more stopping power in this department.
- Time – Finding sponsors and keeping up with all the admin duties takes a lot of time; 10 hours a week or more if a player decides to go it alone.
There is at least one major potential drawback to having a poker agent. All the TV appearances, interviews and promos can distract players from the game itself, knocking their focus and decreasing their overall win rate. However, balanced by additional income from elsewhere, players must be careful to keep the win rate up in the long term to gain (and maintain) sponsors.
At the end of the day, each player has to decide for themselves. First, they must make it to a certain level, whether with live or online poker results. Then they must be scouted or approach by an agent. The poker agent should then take care of the rest.
Poker aside, here is some information on sports betting.