Poker Pros, Businessmen Set to Collide in Epic $1m Buy-in Big One

The Big One for One Drop

It’s been two years since we had a Big One.

Tomorrow, at 1:11pm, a maximum of 56 players will take a shot at the largest prize in poker history.

The tournament is open to anyone above 21 but only a few people in the world are able to play.

The Big One for One Drop is the largest buy-in event in the world with a price tag of $1 million.

While only one person will take home the expected first-place prize of $20 million, thousands will benefit from the tournament.

Out of each $1 million buy-in, $111,111 will be given directly to One Drop, a charity dedicated to provide water access to impoverished regions throughout the world.

The last time this event was held, the 48 players created a $42.67 million prize pool while an additional $5.6 million went straight to One Drop.

It was the ninth largest prize pool in history and only nine players cashed. A min-cash in the event was worth $1.1 million while the top prize came in at $18.37 million.

Antonio Esfandiari Wins Inaugural Big One for One Drop

Antonio Esfandiari
Antonio Esfandiari busting some moves after busting Sam Trickett.

The player who took that eight-figure payday was Antonio “The Magician” Esfandiari. It was a three-day battle royale against the toughest field money can buy.

The inaugural Big One for One Drop drew the likes of Justin Smith, Andrew Robl, Jonathan Duhamel, Nick Schulman and Erik Seidel, Michael Mizrachi, Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier.

None of them survived the first day -- a day that where someone folded quad eights -- though.

Esfandiari survived Day 1 with a top 10 chip count and then ran through the field the following day.

On the final day of the event, Esfandiari continued to dominate.

Trickett took the lead for a bit after busting Brian Rast’s flopped nut flush with quads, but Esfandiari came back with a vengeance and reached the heads-up match with a 3-1 lead against Trickett.

There was an $8 million difference between first and second place but the match only lasted 16 hands.

In the last hand of the tournament, players saw a J 5 5 flop in a raised pot. Esfandiari bet, Trickett raised and Esfandiari threw in a three-bet.

Trickett put in another bet and then Esfandiari moved all-in.

Trickett called with Q 6 while Esfandiari had 7 5. The turn was a 3 and Trickett still needed a diamond to beat Esfandiari’s trips. It wouldn’t happen for Trickett though, the river brought a 2.

The largest tournament in the world was over.

Until now.

Esfandiari: "Poker Pros Will Be Tougher"

One Drop field
The 2012 Big One for One Drop field

The Big One for One Drop is back and bigger than before. The inaugural event was capped at 48 players but now up to 56 players can take part in the tournament.

Some players are passing on dropping another $1 million on the event while several others are returning for a second shot at poker’s biggest prize.

One of those returning players is the reigning champion Antonio Esfandiari. Esfandiari believes he’ll successfully defend his title.

“Do I believe it’s going to be me? Yes,” Esfandiari said. “I have to believe it or I have no chance of winning.”

But poker’s highest-earning player knows it’s anyone’s game.

“Anybody can win,” Esfandiari said. “Whoever’s day it is, as long as they play good and run good, they can win.”

As the only One Drop champion, Esfandiari says he has experience and a grasp of the One Drop field, a field that consists of wealthy businessmen and the best players in the world.

The biggest challenge, Esfandiari says, comes from his peers.

“The pros will be tougher just because they are more experienced than the businessmen,” Esfandiari said. “Obviously you want to play with someone not as experienced.”

Not everyone agrees though, especially the businessmen. Talal Shakerchi, an English hedge fund manager who played the last One Drop and will be playing in tomorrow’s, says the sheer size of the buy-in gives businessmen an edge.

Businessmen Bite Back

Talal Shakerchi

"No businessmen who can’t play reasonable well aren’t in [the One Drop],” Shakerchi said. “And businessmen kind of have an advantage.

“In poker it’s always bad if the money means too much to you, so you gotta play like, ‘These are just chips and they don’t matter.’

“But you can be playing pots where the equity in the pot is $1.5 million, $2 million and for some people that’s a lot.

“A lot of the poker players have backers as well. I’ve never been backed, but if I was I can imagine that you wouldn’t want to go out in a stupid hand.

“Some of the pros aren’t necessarily playing their normal game in some situations whereas the businessman don’t always have that constraint.

“It’s their own money and for some of them it’s not a huge proportion of their wealth so they can play poker the way they normally would.”

While Shakerchi has only been playing poker for 6 years, he’s been perfecting poker-related skills for decades.

“[Poker] overlaps a lot with what I do in my work, which is managing money,” Shakerchi said.

“A lot of the same considerations come into play, like dealing with incomplete information, balancing risk and reward, reading people and how people respond in big money situations.”

Both Esfandiari and Shakerchi will hit the $1 million felt tomorrow, one hoping for a repeat while another hope’s for the opposite.

Big Coverage for the Big One

2014 WSOP Big One Set Up
WSOP staff setting up the Big One for One Drop area

There coverage for the businessmen vs pros battle will be extensive. Aside from the on-demand coverage right here on PokerListings, a larger spectator area is being built and ESPN is expanding the televised coverage for the event.

“We’re completely turning over a section of the [Amazon] room, building out spectator seating, staging, extra TVs, food,” said WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart. “We’re really getting ready to host a million dollar event.”

“We’re also greatly expanding the TV production and are gonna have five feature tables.

“Four that are out here on the field will have RFID cards and we’ll be able to track the hole cards in every single hand that plays out across Day 2 and 3.

“It was a curiosity before, but now it’s really an event. I’m just excited to see how it plays out.”

And the grand spectacle is less than a day away.

“There’s a lot of buzzing about who’s raising last-minute funds and who may get in,” Stewart said. “I think there’s still some uncertainty about just how the field will wind up tomorrow.”

Players have until then to pony up the $1 million and there’s still a One Drop satellite that’ll put at least one player into the event.

Million-Dollar Contenders

So far, 41 players have put up the seven-figure buy-in:

  • Daniel “Jungleman12” Cates
  • Daniel Colman
  • Isaac Haxton
  • Greg Merson
  • Daniel Negreanu
  • Doug Polk
  • Scott Seiver
  • Antonio Esfandiari
  • Phil Galfond
  • Phil Ivey
  • Jason Mercier
  • Vivek Rajkumar
  • Brian Rast
  • Andrew Robl
  • Erik Seidel
  • Sam Trickett
  • Noah Schwartz
  • Vanessa Selbst
  • Jean-Robert Bellande
  • Anthony Gregg
  • Phillip Gruissem
  • Fabian Quoss
  • Max Altergott
  • Tobias Reinkmeier
  • Igor Kurganov
  • Christoph Vogelsang
  • Niklas Heinecker
  • Guy Laliberte
  • Bobby Baldwin
  • David Einhorn
  • Brandon Steven
  • Tom Hall
  • Paul Newey
  • Bill Perkins
  • Talal Shakerchi
  • John Morgan
  • Anonymous Businessman
  • Anonymous Businessman
  • Anonymous Businessman
  • Anonymous Businessman
  • Anonymous Businessman

Action starts tomorrow at 1:11pm.

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