If money is burning a hole in your pockets, or you have a backer willing to gamble for a good cause, the $1 million buy-in Big One for One Drop charity tournament is returning to the World Series of Poker next summer, for the first time since 2014.
WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart announced the return of the largest buy-in tournament in North American history at WSOP Europe, which is currently taking place at King’s Casino in Rozvadov, Czech Republic.
Guy Laliberte, founder of the One Drop Foundation, a charity focused on ensuring people all over the world have access to clean water, hosted the €1 million Big One for One Drop at Casino de Monte Carlo in Monaco in 2016, making it the most expensive tournament buy-in in poker history. (The euro is and was then worth slightly more than a US dollar.)
The 2016 version of the event, which wasn’t part of the WSOP, was only open to amateur players. The WSOP version will be open to anyone who has the loot, but the tournament will be capped at 48 entries.
The fourth edition of the Big One for One Drop will take place June 15-17 at the Rio in Las Vegas. The One Drop Foundation will receive $111,111 from each buy-in.
In 2012, Antonio Esfandiari won the inaugural Big One for what is still a record prize, $18,346,673. He defeated a field of 48 players, including Sam Trickett heads-up for the title. Phil Hellmuth finished in 4th and Laliberte, the tournament host, was the 5th place finisher.
Esfandiari said after winning that prior to the tournament he had a dream that he won. He claimed it was his destiny. When the final card hit the felt, he jumped for joy and then his friends hoisted him up like he was a Super Bowl winning coach. Though it probably would’ve been inappropriate to douse him with a Gatorade cooler considering the cause.
Two years later, Dan Colman had the exact opposite reaction after finishing off Daniel Negreanu in an intense heads-up battle to win $15,306,558. If you didn’t know any better, judging by his stoic reaction, you may have figured he wasn’t aware the tournament had ended.
Colman received some backlash for refusing to smile after winning. The Daily Mail, a mainstream British news publication, wrote a harsh headline that read, “You can drop the poker face, you won! Card player REFUSES to smile after historic $15.3m win.”
The Las Vegas Sun, in an editorial, questioned if the champ was just a “reserved” person or a “rich scrub.” Colman, in a recent podcast interview with Joe Ingram, defended his decision to avoid the media and refusal to promote the game of poker following his big win in 2014.
“I have played poker long enough to see the ugly side of this world,” he said. “The losers lose way more money at this game than winners are winning. A lot of this is money they can’t afford to lose.”
Colman believes poker is detrimental to many people’s lives and therefore doesn’t think it’s right to encourage others to play. He also told Ingram that he was already wealthy when he won, so the money wasn’t life-changing for him.
With or Without the WSOP
The million-dollar/euro tournament returned in 2016, but this time it was a non-WSOP event in Spain, and only open to amateurs. The decision to exclude pros was met with some criticism from people in the high stakes poker community who apparently were jonesing for the opportunity to donate money while playing against some of the biggest potential whales on Earth.
Only 28 players, mostly businessmen, entered, but the One Drop Foundation still raised €3.1 million, so it wasn’t pointless.
Chinese-Canadian entrepreneur Elton Tsang won the event for €11,111,111. Rick Salomon of Paris Hilton sex tape infamy finished in 3rd. Cary Katz, the founder of Poker Central, was the 5th place finisher.