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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz

Big names dropping big cash for 2012 WSOP tournament

13 December 2011

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- A casino owner, the head of CityCenter Aria Resort & Casino , the founder of Cirque du Soleil and several top professional poker players will lead the field in what is expected to be the largest buy-in bracelet event in World Series of Poker history.

So far, 22 players have committed to each pay a $1 million entry fee to compete in the Big One for One Drop, a three-day tournament planned for July 1-3 as part of the 2012 World Series of Poker at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.

A portion of the entry will go toward One Drop, an initiative developed by Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté as a nongovernmental organization established to fight poverty by supporting access to water and raising awareness of water-related issues.

When the tournament was announced during the 2011 World Series of Poker, Laliberté, Treasure Island owner Phil Ruffin and CityCenter Chief Executive Officer Bobby Baldwin -- who is the 1978 World Series of Poker of champion -- committed to participate.

Since then, 10-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner and two-time World Series of Poker champion Johnny Chan, and noted poker professionals Patrik Antonius, Gus Hansen, Daniel Negreanu, Tom Dwan and Bertrand Grospellier all committed to participate.

During the final table at this year's Main Event, 2010 World Series of Poker champion Jonathan Duhamel, who also serves as a spokesman for One Drop, agreed to play and plans to donate 5 percent of his winning to the charity.

"$1 million is a lot of money but my participation comes naturally," Duhamel said. "The Big One for One Drop will definitely prove the poker community attachment."

Each player will contribute the largest entry fee ever for a poker tournament for a chance to win what likely will be the largest first-place prize ever awarded in a single event. From each entry fee, $111,111 will be donated to One Drop.

That will leave $888,889 of each entry fee going directly into the prize pool. The event will be rake-free. With 22 committed participants, the expected prize pool is already nearly $20 million. The event intends to take a maximum of 48 players.

The tournament, to be played as no-limit hold'em, is expected to pay out a record 20 percent of the field, double the typical poker tournament payout structure. For example, if 30 players enter, six will cash.

One Drop is headquartered in Montreal. Laliberté approached fellow Montreal resident and Caesars Interactive Entertainment CEO Mitch Garber earlier this year with an idea about the charitable tournament.

Laliberté thought the World Series of Poker, which is operated by Caesars Interactive, was the perfect stage to raise awareness of One Drop's efforts.

"Every gesture is important," Laliberté said. "The poker community is very generous and it is not only about the $1 million dollar buy-in event, there are other ways that poker players can make a difference."

Plans call for ESPN to televise the event. A specially designed World Series of Poker platinum bracelet will be awarded to the winner, along with what is expected to be an eight-figure first-place prize.
Big names dropping big cash for 2012 WSOP tournament is republished from