Luxe Life Blog
Photos: One Drop’s Exceptional Eight gunning for $18 million win at Rio
It was a long, brutal and nerve-wracking 12-hour Monday, and today’s extravaganza will be even more intense as eight exceptional men try to outplay one another in the Big One for One Drop poker tournament at the Rio to win the largest-ever prize purse in a sports event. More than $40 million is in the pool, with $18,346,673 going to the champion.
That man could be Guy Laliberte, the founder of Cirque du Soleil with its seven shows here on the Strip who created this richest entry event in poker history. Forty-eight well-heeled players ponied up $1 million each to participate. By the end of Day 1 on Sunday, 11 players lost $11 million. By the end of Day 2 early today, another 29 had fallen by the wayside.
As the WSOP executives said: “After a day of dreams and dollars, disappointments and despair, these are the Exceptional Eight. Eight survivors. Eight millionaires. Eight pros and amateurs on the cusp of collecting the most gargantuan payout in poker history. Each is guaranteed at least $1,237,333, but no one is willing to accept that as a consolation prize. They are all gunning for the $18 million top prize.”
Shortly after midnight struck today, the Final Eight became known: Antonio Esfandiari, Brian Rast, Bobby Baldwin, David Einhorn, Guy Laliberte, Sam Trickett, Richard Yong and Phil Hellmuth. Las Vegas is well represented by Guy, his MGM CityCenter partner Bobby and pro players Antonio and Brian. Phil, from Palo Alto, Calif., is a Las Vegas regular, and Sam is from the U.K., Richard from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and David from New York City.
Bobby thought he was “all out” late Monday night and began to pack his bag when he pulled three kings and stayed in for today’s televised Final Table. Poker pro Mike Sexton of Las Vegas narrowly missed out on the Final Table. He placed 9th and won his $1 million back, plus a profit of $109,233 for two days of play.
Guy, 52, will sit at Seat 1 and start play in 3rd place with 21,700,000 chips. Brian, 30, has won WSOP gold bracelets here twice; he will be in Seat 2 in 4th with 11,350,000 chips. Phil, 47, who won his 12th gold bracelet in a WSOP tournament a few weeks ago, is in Seat 3 in 5th with 10,925,000 chips. In Seat 4, Las Vegas superstar Antonio, 33, comes in the chip leader with 39,925,000 and is the man to beat. Bobby, 62 , who helped build CityCenter, and has won four WSOP gold bracelets and in 1978 was crowned world poker champion; he’s in Seat 5 with the lowest number of chips, 7,150,000.
The youngest player is Sam, 26, and he’s in 2nd at Seat 6 with 37,000,000 chips. One of the most revered and respected players in Asia, Richard, 54, is in 7th at Seat 7 with 7,475,000 in chips. And Seat 8 is hedge fund investor David, 43. On his last visit here, he placed 18th in the 2006 Main Event and donated his $600,000 in winnings to the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
Guy’s One Drop water for the world charity has already benefited with $5,533,328 from the buy-ins; $111,111 was earmarked from each $1 million entry fee. If the former circus stilt-walker and fire breather wins, I’m reliably told that he will donate the $18 million prize to his charitable mission.
I’m also told that Guy is so pleased with One Drop that he’s already said, “We should do something like this again. We can solve the world’s water problems playing right here in Las Vegas.” That’s beautifully ironic considering we currently live in the desert in blazing 110 degree-plus heat.
You can watch the final outcome starting at 1 p.m. today on ESPN2. After a break, ESPN will pick up coverage from 5 p.m. to the wild conclusion. Although live there will be a 15-minute broadcasting delay, expect the action to run up to the midnight hour and beyond.
The nail-biting feats of Guy’s extraordinary event leads into the start of the WSOP’s Main Event on Saturday with three days of initial play for the $10,000 entry players to thin them down from three groups to one. ESPN will record the July 7-16 action for weekly broadcasts starting Aug. 14. The Final Nine will return Oct. 30 with ESPN’s live coverage. The Final Nine has been moved forward a few days to avoid clashing with the Nov. 2 election.
Today’s One Drop surely will be the most riveting poker, and we’ll have the full results on Twitter through the night @robin_leach and a wrap up with an interview with the winner Thursday.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
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