The Big One for One Drop Preview
Perhaps the most landmark event in poker since Benny Binion invited a handful of the world's best gamblers to Las Vegas in 1970 to determine who among them is best at poker, which later became an annual festivity known as the World Series of Poker, begins today in Las Vegas.
Forty-eight men have put up a $1,000,000 buy-in to compete in the Big One for One Drop, a special WSOP event organized by Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte. Eleven percent of the prize pool will be donated to One Drop, a charity that seeks to bring access to clean drinking water to the entirety of the world's population.
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Nine players will finish in the money of the event with payouts starting at $1.1 million. The winner will automatically become the winningest live tournament player in poker history thanks to the $18.6 million first-place prize. Erik Seidel is currently tops on the all-time money list with $16.9 million in winnings.
Let's touch briefly on a number of the interesting storylines worth taking note of regarding this three-day tournament:
There are a considerable number of players largely unknown to the poker world. Some are successful businessmen and for some there is little known about them altogether. It might seem at first that ESPN would be pulling for one of the usual suspects, like Phil Ivey or Daniel Negreanu, to win this tournament in order to boost TV ratings. But I don't think it really matters who wins. The tournament is by itself so prestigious that whoever wins will acquire enough fame just from winning it that no outside help is needed to create a more captivating storyline. Only a very small handful of men in this field have done anything in their lifetimes that already trumps what winning The Big One for One Drop would mean.
Those men whose achievements in life already clearly supercede the achievement that would be winning this tournament would be Cirque founder Laliberte, real estate moguls Paul Newey and Frederique Banjout, hedge fund manager David Einhorn, casino owner Phil Ruffin, and venture capitalist Bill Perkins. There are others like Bobby Baldwin who one could argue belongs on that list. But none of the pro poker players in the field, not even Seidel or Ivey, can one say without uncertainty that their careers already trump what it would mean to win this tournament.
Simply put, this is a completely captivating moment in poker history. It's poker's equivalent of the moon-landing. Just having participated in this tournament sets one apart from everyone else.
Notable absentees from the event include Phil Hellmuth, Doyle Brunson, and John Juanda who tweeted that he wanted to register for the tournament but was shutout. While it seems alarming that players are being shutout from registering for the event, organizers are under no fault; they announced weeks ago that the event would be capped at 48 players.
There are two "Macau businessmen" in the field, Paul Phua and Richard Yong.
Three Brits are in the field including poker pro Roland de Wolfe.
WPT commentator and Poker Hall of Fame member Mike Sexton will be playing after an unnamed L.A. businessmen bought him into the tournament on a 50% freeroll. (Merry Christmas, Mike Sexton!)
Two Germans will be playing: poker pro Tobias Reinkemeier and Alexander Gruissem who has $8,000 in lifetime career poker winnings and inexplicably no other known information about him.
There are five Canadians and at least two Russians in the field.
The youngest player in the field is Jens Kyllonen, a 22 year old pro from Finland. The oldest participant is likely John Morgan whose white hair and bald head appear to age him as at least 65. Morgan is a shareholder in Canterbury Park Casino in Minnesota. He'll be donating 10% of anything he cashes for to the prize pool of a $130 buy-in tournament to be held at that facility.
One starting table, dubbed "The Table of Death", features Phil Ivey, Erik Seidel, Ben Lamb, Nick Schulman, Vivek Rajkumar, Tom Marchese, and Antonio Esfandiari. There are $55 million in career tournament winnings shared among the men at this table.
Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier, Jason Mercier, and Noah Schwartz enjoy a much softer table draw that features five amateurs including David Einhorn who has been receiving coaching from Mike McDonald. Einhorn will donate 100% of his winnings to charity. If he wins, it would not make the first time Einhorn has parted with an eight-figure sum of money; earlier this year he was fined $11 million by the Financial Services Authority of Britain for insider trading.
NBA betting expert Haralabos Voulgaris and Reinkemeier also enjoy a nice table draw that features at least four clear amateurs.
High-stakes online players Tom "durrrr" Dwan and Phil Galfond, who we are obliged to root for since he is the only participant to have been interviewed by PokerTips, are in the field. Other yet-to-be-mentioned "young gun" participants include Andrew Robl, Brian Rast, Justin "BoostedJ" Smith, and Sam Trickett.
Michael Mizrachi, fresh off winning his second Player's Championship in three years, has a chance to cement a spot in the Poker Hall of Fame one day; he'll be playing.
Jonathan Duhamel (2010) and Bobby Baldwin (1978) are the only WSOP Main Event Champions in the field.
Chamath Palihapitiya, former Vice President of Growth for Facebook apparently made off well-enough when that company made their IPO a month ago. He'll be playing.
Finally, there's Rick Salomon. Yes, that Rick Salomon: film producer, enthusiast of high stakes underground poker games, and co-star of a 2003 Paris Hilton sex tape he later distributed under the title 1 Night in Paris. Sales of that DVD must have done pretty well as Salomon join those in this historic $1,000,000 buy-in tournament.