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Top-10 predictions for the One Drop High Roller

24 June 2013

The World Series of Poker's highest buy-in event is taking place this week with the $111,111 One Drop High Roller. Last year's $1 million event, which raised more than $5 million for One Drop, was a big success, hitting the 48-player cap and crowning Antonio Esfandiari as its champion.

The lower buy-in and uncapped field make this year's event even more intriguing, and I'm excited that I'll be at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino to report on the action.

Here are my top-10 predictions for this year's One Drop High Roller event.

10. Field size
Earlier this year I predicted that the One Drop High Roller would draw more than 200 players. While that would be an unprecedented field size in a six-digit buy-in poker tournament, I'm going to stick to that prediction.

The main reason? As WSOP Vice President of Corporate Communications Seth Palansky announced in a poorly-worded Tweet last week, the preregistered field already includes 20 non-poker pros, with quite a few more saying that they were planning on playing. Professional players are going to want to be all over that "dead money," and it won't be as difficult to raise the capital from backers this year, since the buy-in is just 1/9th the price.

Also, last year's event drew 11 percent of the buy-in out for the charity, and some poker pros were hesitant to play because they believed that losing so much of the buy-in to "rake" made the tournament unattractive. This year's event draws just 3 percent out for charity. Combined with the lower buy-in, this event becomes a no-brainer for any pros who can scratch together the cash.

9. Percentage of non-poker pros in the field
Twenty of the 28 players in last year's $1 million Big One for One Drop were categorized as non-poker pros, or 41.7 percent. I think the percentage will drop a bit this year, but not that much. If I were an oddsmaker forced to set an over/under line, I'd put it at 33.3 percent, or one-third of the field. The lower buy-in will attract some more poker pros to be sure, but also some more high-rolling successful businessmen who will find the event to be almost as prestigious and a lot more affordable.

8. Final table composition (pros vs. amateurs)
Last year, the amateurs outperformed the field slightly in terms of final table appearances, with four non-poker pros (David Einhorn, Guy Laliberte, Bobby Baldwin and Richard Yong) making the final table (44.4 percent while making up just 41.7 percent of the field). With a bigger field and a little more time to maneuver, I expect the poker pros to outperform the amateurs in this event. Since I'm expecting 1/3 of the field to be amateurs, I think just two of the nine players at the final table will be amateurs.

7. Winner will be a professional
While there were four amateurs at last year's final table, the pros clearly outperformed the amateurs once they got there, nailing down three of the top-four places and taking home more than 79 percent of the money. Mistakes made by amateurs will be magnified at the final table, and I expect that the professionals will once again dominate at the end of the tournament.

6. Number of nations represented
This is a difficult one to guess because it's really hard to know who is going to play. There are countries that are no-brainers, with the USA, Canada, Russia and England leading the way. You could have a wild card from Brazil or South Africa just show up and play. I'm going to throw out a complete guess and say that there will be players from a full dozen different countries playing in this event.

5. When will the first player be eliminated?
People were shocked last year when Justin Smith was nearly eliminated at the end of the second level of the Big One for One Drop, then was finished off early in level three. After all, players started with 500 big blinds, so to lose that many chips in just over two hours was a bit surprising. But to be honest, it wasn't really that surprising. When you have aggressive professionals pitted against amateurs who have no fear, funny things can happen.

This year's structure mirrors the structure from last year's event (with 10 percent as many chips, but blinds are 10 percent of what they were last year), so I won't be surprised if the first elimination happens on a similar timeline. And with more tables in play and more confrontations to be had, I'm betting the first elimination happens before the first break this year during level two.

4. What level will the tournament end?
Last year's event ended during level 22, a little earlier than most people expected it to. There were still 180 big blinds on the table when Antonio Esfandiari eliminated Sam Trickett to end the tournament. This year, I'm expecting the tournament to end with a more standard 100-120 big blinds left on the table. Given that I'm guessing there will be about 200 players, I think the tournament will end when the big blind reaches 500,000, or level 30.

3. More subdued final table
The introductions for last year's final table were really something. A crew of Cirque du Soleil performers played drums and danced as each player took their seat. But unfortunately, this tournament won't be broadcast by ESPN but instead will only be available via a web stream on a 30-minute delay. In my opinion, this is the most compelling tournament of the entire WSOP outside of the Main Event, so I'm sad that it won't be on TV because I think it would be great for poker, but also because we won't have a huge theatrical performance to usher in the final table.

2. The return of the butler!
One of the most entertaining parts of last year's Big One for One Drop was watching Richard Jong's tuxedo-clad butler race around the Rio getting whatever the billionaire businessman wanted. Jong's appearance in the Big One last year wasn't a one-off; he played (and cashed) in the WSOP Europe Super High Roller just three months later. I'm expecting Jong (and his butler) to be back again this year.

1. Largest live stream audience of the summer
As mentioned earlier, this event will not be broadcast by ESPN, meaning that in order to see what happens, fans will have to watch via the live stream offered by ESPN3 and This tournament is likely to have the most star-studded no-limit Hold'em final table of the summer (including the Main Event), and with a first prize likely to be bigger than all but the top two prizes in this year's Main Event, interest will be high. I don't think that ESPN or the WSOP will be announcing what the final numbers are in terms of streaming for the summer, but if they did, I think the One Drop High Roller would be a shoo-in for the top spot.
Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.

Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.