In a poker world where high rollers are more and more common, and by now a structural part of any schedule, there always has to be a tournament to one-up the rest. The Big One for One Drop Extravaganza is fulfilling that role to perfection.
After $1,000,000-buy in editions at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas in 2012 and 2014, the entire circus has descended upon the lavish French riviera town of Monte Carlo, Monaco.
The parameters were altered a bit with the buy-in upped to €1,000,000, the option to reenter until the start of Day 2 and the stipulation that no professional players could enter. The rule changes had some people up in arms, especially when the players entered and it turned out some of them certainly weren't the recreational players one might think of when Guy Laliberté announced, "Non-pros only."
But, in the end, it was like Daniel Negreanu said in an interview with PokerNews.
"Basically, if Guy wants to let someone play, he can let them play. It's that simple," he said.
And so regular players on the pro circuit like Talal Shakerchi and Paul Newey entered, joining former poker pros Andrew Pantling, Mark Teltscher and Jason Strasser.
After a luxurious lunch at noon, the tournament started at 2 p.m. local time. The most expensive poker tournament in the game's history was underway and a total of 22 players initially sat down. They started with an excessive 5,000,000 in chips and blinds at 6,000/12,000 - over 400 big blinds.
It was a nice sight: Big towers of chips fitted right in with the extravagant interior of the Casino du Monte-Carlo with gold plated ornaments on the ceilings and expensive high pile carpet leading to a marble balcony overlooking the Monte-Carlo bay area. The setting and atmosphere were just right. The staff was dressed for the occasion, a luxurious buffet awaited the players at all times and top notch dealers added to the allure of something exclusive.
It didn't take long before the fireworks started. It was Guy Laliberté, the French-Canadian organizer of the event, pushing the action early on. He first was caught check-raise bluffing the river against Anatoly Gurtovoy. That set Laliberté off in the wrong direction and things only got worse from there. He ran top-pair and top-kicker into the top-set of Patrick Madden and just like that, Laliberté was down to just a few big blinds. He lost those to Bob Safai not much later, ending up short with ace-ten against ace-king.
"He got it up to 5 million!" teased coach Daniel Negreanu, hinting at a possible reentry for Laliberté which would grant him a crisp five million-stack. And so the former Cirque du Soleil owner did, buying back in for another €1,000,000 to give it another shot.
"He approached me about a month ago," Negreanu told PokerNews during a break in play. "I thought it sounded like fun and I wanted to support a great cause. I got here a few days early. We’ve been hanging out on his yacht and going through a few things."
While those pointers did not pay dividends on Laliberté’s first bullet, Negreanu was confident in Laliberté’s abilities.
“He’s more relaxed now. He’s cooled off a bit and so I’m going to let him come to me when he wants to," said Negreanu.
Meanwhile, as Laliberté was just sitting down again for try No. 2, Bobby Baldwin made his exit from the tournament. Baldwin had gotten extremely short and eventually ran pocket nines into pocket kings. Baldwin did not buy back in, though it should be noted he can still decide to do so anytime before the start of Day 2.
Andrew Pantling, now the CEO of betting platform Matchbook (but in a former life a poker pro known as "ClockWyze" online), wasn't having the best of days. He lost several pots to become the short stack of the tournament when the dinner break commenced and busted the tournament shortly after play resumed. It wasn't long before Pantling bought back in as well, putting in another €1,000,000 to keep the chance of stardom and a big financial reward alive.
The atmosphere was as relaxed as many high rollers are. There were still plenty of poker pros around, but they weren't playing. They were coaching. Not all of them were as busy with their role as others.
While Vanessa Selbst watched each and every hand of David Einhorn and Negreanu kept a close eye on Laliberté, the likes of Andrew Robl (coach of Jason Strasser) and Jean-Robert Bellande (coach of Bobby Baldwin) did not move from their cash game table once during the entire day.
In the end, a total of 26 players signed up and two reentries were made to get to a total of 28. Twenty-four players will come back at noon for the start of Day 2 where the goal is to play down to a final table of eight players.
Leading the way is Alfred de Carolis (leading photo) who'll bring 13,825,000 in chips, good for 115 big blinds at the start of play. Second in chips is Dan Shak who has Scott Seiver on his side as a coach. Tony Bloom (1,200,000) and Zuo Wang (1,840,000) are at the bottom of the pack.
PokerNews.com will again be on the floor for live updates, interviews and photos from the extravagant event.
|Table||Seat||Player||Chip Count||Big Blinds|
|10||3||Alfred de Carolis||13,825,000||115|