The Big One for One Drop has been a staple at the summer World Series of Poker for the past several years, with buy-ins of either $100K or $1 million. The rake from the tournaments goes to benefit the One Drop Foundation, founded by recreational poker player and Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte. Millions have been donated to One Drop over the years from WSOP events, and the funding helps bring clean, safe water to people in underprivileged communities around the world.
This summer, however, Laliberte made a surprising announcement. He was going to host a tournament called the Big One for One Drop Extravaganza in Monte Carlo in October, complete with a €1 million buy-in. The kicker was that it was going to be an invitation-only event for recreational players.
While many poker pros were not pleased with the idea of being shut out of the largest of high roller tournament and the chance to win money from the amateurs, Laliberte was firm in his decision to limit the tournament to businessmen and casual players, though pros were allowed to serve as coaches to the competitors for a profit of 2.5% of the players’ profits. And cash games were going to be open to any players at the Casino du Monte-Carlo.
With that, the big event was set for October 14-16 in Monaco, and players lined up to confirm their participation well in advance of the tournament. According to a press release several weeks beforehand, there were 35 players confirmed to play.
Smaller Field, Big Payday
Some of the confirmed players did not make it to Monte Carlo. By the end of the first day of action, only 22 players paid the €1 million to enter the Extravaganza. However, registration was open until the start of the second day, and reentries were available. And as it turned out, Laliberte allowed entry to some former professional poker players, easing up on his original rules a bit.
Of the 22 players in action on Day 1, the former pros included Andrew Pantling, Mark Teltscher, and Jason Strasser, and businessmen who regularly play poker tournaments and cash games around the world like Paul Newey and Talal Shakerchi were also in. Bobby Baldwin bought in, as did Dan Shak, David Einhorn, Cary Katz, and Rick Salomon. Laliberte played as well, and big names like Daniel Negreanu, Vanessa Selbst, Antonio Esfandiari, and Mustapha Kanit were in attendance as poker coaches.
Day 1 ended with 26 players and two reentries, putting the total number of entries at 28. However, only 24 players made it through the first day.
Eight Make Final Table, Six Cash
No one entered or reentered as Day 2 began, so the field was set with 28 entries and a prize pool of €24,888,892, which would be used to pay the top six finishers.
The field dwindled throughout the day, as players like Laliberte, Newey, Shakerchi, and original Day 2 chip leader Al De Carolis exited the tournament. Strasser departed, too, as did Paul Phua. Eight players finished the night with chips, with Haralabos Voulgaris on the shortest stack and Andrew Pantling with the most chips.
When they returned on Sunday to play for the win, Voulgaris exited on the eighth hand of the afternoon, but play then slowed quite significantly. It wasn’t until the 73rd hand of the table that Brandon Steven was eliminated in seventh place, and the bubble position paid nothing. The rest of the players were in the money.
Andrew Pantling then departed in sixth place and Cary Katz in fifth, while Elton Tsang soared into the chip lead and a distance from his competitors. James Bord took fourth place on the 120th hand, and more than 100 hands later, Rick Salomon busted in third place.
The heads-up players took a dinner break and returned with Elton Tsang holding 93.7 million chips to the 46.3 million of Anatoly Gurtovoy. The latter didn’t take long to move all-in, but the pot was chopped. Gurtovoy couldn’t garner any momentum during the final match, and Tsang climbed over 115 million chips. Gurtovoy was very short but doubled but moved all-in again a few hands later. On a board of Qc-4c-3c-2h, Gurtovoy shoved with Ah-5d, and Tsang called immediately with 6c-5h for the better straight. The Jc on the river sent Gurtovoy out in second.
Tsang won the tournament for his largest score to date. He had numerous other tournament finishes and final tables in events like the WSOP ACOP and Asian Poker Tour, and he held the Asian Poker King Main Event title from 2010, an event that took place in Macau. The Big One for One Drop Extravaganza, however, was the feather in his cap.