Investors place their bets on Pennsylvania poker player By Mark Gruetze, Trib Total Media June 28, 2015 at 2:25 pm Stocks, bonds and real estate aren’t the only options for investors seeking big returns. Some are buying shares in professional poker players hoping to get a cut of a seven-figure jackpot. Jack Schanbacher of Reserve, who has won more than $45,000 at three tournaments in this month’s World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, raised money for an event with a $111,111 entry fee by offering to give up about 60 percent of the winnings before taxes. Eight to 10 investors put up $1,111 for each 1 percent share. One bought 2 percent; another took 20 percent. “It’s going to make me want it even more to win it for all my poker friends in Pittsburgh,” said Schanbacher, whose picture hangs on a wall in the Rivers Casino poker room. “I’m not just playing for myself; I’m playing for them.” The “High Roller for One Drop” tournament Sunday and Monday offers millions of dollars in prizes and raises money for One Drop, a nonprofit dedicated to providing safe drinking water in West Africa, India, Mali and Central America. A cardinal rule of investing is to put money in what you know. Those who bought into Schanbacher have seen their poker chips end up in his stack. “I don’t look at it as a gamble. It’s an investment opportunity,” said Jason Andrews of McCandless, who operates an oil and gas acquisition company. Andrews said he met Schanbacher about eight years ago at a high-stakes poker game. Schanbacher, then a recent graduate of La Roche College, told the group he played poker through school. “When he gets on a poker table, he’ll get most of the money,” Andrews said. The stock arrangement is a handshake deal. Investors sent Schanbacher the money and know he’ll pay if he wins. “We’ve known each other for a long time,” Schanbacher said. “They understand I’m not here to rip them off, and my word is as good as having it documented.” Investors David Eld¬ridge Loan of Pine and Jeff Palarino of South Side Flats, who each finished in the money at a World Series of Poker event this year, said players who make a living from tournaments often seek investors to protect against downturns. “It actually makes sense to play it safe,” Palarino said, because only 10 percent of entrants win money. The High Roller tournament alternates with the Big One, which has a $1 million entry fee and also benefits One Drop. The first High Roller, in 2013, had 166 entries, with first place paying $4.83 million. Since partnering with One Drop in 2012, the World Series has contributed more than $12 million to the charity, said Seth Palansky, spokesman for Caesars Interactive Entertainment, which runs the World Series of Poker. Five percent of each High Roller entry fee, or $5,555, goes to the charity. The rest goes into the prize pool. Each entrant starts with $300,000 in tournament chips. Participants play No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em until one wins all the chips, a gold bracelet and a big payout. The play will be live-streamed once the field dwindles to eight players. Schanbacher’s backers know the math behind a deep run. If he survives long enough to win a $1 million payout, each 1 percent share would be worth about $10,000 — a profit of almost $9,000. He can be followed on Twitter at @jackschanbacher. His investors hope his High Roller opponents experience what they’ve seen with Schanbacher. “Jack’s outplayed me so many times,” Andrews said. “I never beat Jack.” Mark Gruetze is administrative editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7838 or firstname.lastname@example.org.