One. Million. Dollars.
John Jacob Astor, a German-born immigrant, is said to have been the first millionaire in the United States. Astor was a fur trader who incorporated the American Fur Company, and bravely crossed the Mississippi River to extend his brand. When he died, his net worth was around $20 million, making him the richest person in the country.
One million dollars. In 1991, for the first time ever, the winner of the World Series of Poker Main Event, Brad Daugherty, earned seven figures. The first 20 champions earned a combined $8.375 million. The next eight Main Event winners won an even one million dollars as well, with Chris “Jesus” Ferguson earning $1.5 million for his win in 2000.
One million dollars. In the seven-season history of High Stakes Poker, only one pot ballooned over one million dollars. It was between Guy Laliberté and David Benyamine, and Laliberté, who was a big favorite, offered to just take the pot rather than run out the turn and the river. Benyamine agreed.
One million dollars. Laliberté’s name and “one million dollars” will forever be linked in the poker world. Not because of the massive hand he played against Benyamine, or the amount of money he’s reportedly lost playing online poker, but because on June 2nd, 2011, he announced that the WSOP and the One Drop Foundation would be teaming up to run a $1 million buy-in tournament.
The Big One for One Drop came on the heels of Black Friday, and some members of the industry were worried for the poker economy. Still, many fans, players and media members alike were excited, and with 11.11 percent of each entry going to the One Drop Foundation, which helps provide safe water to fight poverty around the world, it was hard not to back such an incredibly generous cause.
To entice businessmen to compete, the WSOP made the One Drop a bracelet event, so long as 22 players registered. At the time of the announcement, a handful of players were scheduled to participate, including Laliberté, Bobby Baldwin, Phil Ruffin, Doyle Brunson, Andy Beal, Patrik Antonius, Gus Hanesn and Tony Guoga.
Antonius, Brunson, Beal and Guoga did not actually play.
As the 2012 WSOP neared, the confirmed player list grew. By April of 2012, the 22-player threshold was passed, and two days before the event began, the cap was reached. The cap itself was hotly debated, but WSOP Executive Director Ty Steward clearly stated that the cap would not be lifted.
“The global businessmen and philanthropists in the field have been secured in large part because of their odds against a 1-in-48 field size,” Stewart wrote at the time. “It would be unethical to change gears a full year after the event was announced. We hope that all committed players with a five percent deposit will come through with the full million, but we shall see.”
Some players, including Jean-Robert Bellande, who publicly announced their registration, did not compete in the tournament as well.
On July 1, after Gus Hansen “defeated” Shaun Deeb heads up in the largest satellite in the history of poker, the field was finally set. Hours later, the tournament began, but not before a spectacular opening celebration by Cirque de Soleil.
The atmosphere in the Amazon Room as the One Drop was set to begin was actually quite loose. Chamath Palihapitiya, a venture capitalist known primarily for his work with Facebook, couldn’t stop blabbering and trash-talking with Phil Hellmuth, while Richard Yong, one of the famed “Asian Businessman,” rolled up in pajama pants and heartily clapped Phil Ivey on the back.
Even when the cards were in the air, there was plenty of friendly banter at each table. Tom Dwan talked about Macau with Baldwin, Antonio Esfandiari quizzed Erik Seidel about being the best, and Haralabos Voulgaris played “buddy-buddy” with Ruffin and Laliberté, as he tried to extract every chip possible from the duo.
The biggest story stemming from Day 1 wasn’t that Brian Rast finished as the chip leader, or that 11 players busted, rather it was that Mikhail Smirnov folded face up on a board of . His opponent, John Morgan, moved all in for 3.4 million over a bet of 700,000 from Smirnov on the river. Later, Eugene Katchalov assured PokerNews that Morgan most likely had for a straight flush.
Day 2 was highlighted by a massive pot between Esfandiari and Jason Mercier. With the blinds at 60,000/120,000/15,000, Esfandiari opened to 250,000 on the button, and Mercier three-bet to 680,000 from the small blind. Esfandiari four-bet to 1.6 million, Mercier five-bet to 2.89 million, and Esfandiari six-bet to 4.489 million. Mercier tanked for a bit, then moved all in for 10 million or so. Esfandiari snapped it off.
The board ran out , and Mercier was eliminated. Esfandiari was suddenly the chip leader with over 23 million chips, and finished the penultimate day as the chip leader.
The bubble boy of the largest tournament in history was Russian Ilya Bulychev. He shoved with the and Sam Trickett looked him up with the . Trickett held as the board came , and Bulychev left empty-handed.
Mike Sexton busted in ninth place, earning $1,109,333, and the official final table was set:
The final table started off a bit slow, and it took nearly two hours for the first player to be eliminated. Yong bowed out in eighth place when he moved all in for around six big blinds with the and Rast looked him up with the . The flop () and the turn () were clean, but the spiked on the river to eliminate Yong.
The next two players to bust were Baldwin and Rast. Rast, was eliminated in a massive pot where he called an all-in bet from Trickett holding the on a board of . Trickett rolled over the for quad threes, and assumed the chip lead.
Trickett busted Hellmuth in fourth with the against the Poker Brat’s , and Esfandiari busted David Einhorn with the against the philanthropist’s . Esfandiari entered into heads-up play with more than a 2:1 advantage, and 16 hands later it was all over.
With the blinds at 400,000/800,000/100,000, Esfandiari raised to 1.8 million on the button. Trickett called, and the flop fell . Trickett checked, Esfandiari fired out a bet, and Trickett check-raised to 5.4 million. Esfandiari raised to 10 million, Trickett reraised to 15 million, and Esfandiari moved all in. Trickett called.
The turn and river bricked with the and , respectively, and Esfandiari was the winner and $18,346,673 richer.
Laliberté presented Esfandiari with the bracelet, which “The Magician” proudly gave to his father.
“I’ve had some really great coaching lately,” Esfandiari told our own Sarah Grant. “From Day 1, I just believed that I was going to win this tournament. I played my heart out, and the poker gods were on my side.”
Because of the success of the One Drop, the WSOP has opted to bring it back in 2014. In the interim, the WSOP will host the Little One for One Drop, a $1,111 buy-in bracelet event that will feature unlimited entries over two starting days, during the 2013 WSOP.
One million dollars. At one time it was difficult to believe that a tournament buy-in could be as large as one million dollars, but the WSOP and the One Drop succeeded with the Big One in 2012. We couldn’t be more excited for its return in 2014.
PokerNews Top 10 Stories of 2012:
#5a, Greg Merson Wins the WSOP Main Event and POY Award
#5b, Dan Smith Dominates
#7, Greg Raymer Wins Four Heartland Poker Tour Titles
#8, Marvin Rettenmaier Wins Back-To-Back WPTs and Much More
#9, Baumann and Hille Bubble WSOP Main Event Final Table
#10, Phil Ivey Returns in a Big Way