Thursday, June 28, 2012 | 2:31 p.m.
Barbara Walters’ report on Guy Laliberte
This Sunday the largest buy-in poker tournament ever conceived with its $1 million-per-player entry fee goes cards up. The dream and vision of Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte for the ultimate poker game will be realized as the winner after three days of play walks away with a eight-figure payday expected to exceed $35 million -- plus, the first ever World Series of Poker platinum bracelet.
It makes sports and gaming history with the largest amount ever awarded in a poker tournament, breaking Jamie Gold’s $12 million haul in 2006 at the WSOP Main Event. The tournament, to be played as No Limit Hold’em, starts Sunday at 1:11 p.m. and runs through Tuesday at the Rio as part of the 43rd Annual WSOP.
ESPN is the TV broadcast partner for the Big One for One Drop event that benefits Guy’s Water for the World project: $111,111 of each $1 million buy-in goes to One Drop, which fights poverty by providing access to water.
The players can increase to a maximum of 48; the roster of the more than 40 now includes two Las Vegas hoteliers: Phil Ruffin, the billionaire owner of Treasure Island, and Bobby Baldwin, president and CEO of MGM’s CityCenter and himself a four-time WSOP gold bracelet winner.
These are the legends of poker, philanthropy and the world’s most successful businessmen. Guy is playing alongside poker professionals including Las Vegas regulars Andy Beal, Daniel Negreanu, Johnny Chan, Gus Hansen and Tom Dwan, plus Jonathan Duhamel, Patrik Antonious and Tony Guoga.
Other high-rolling players are coming from Britain, France, Asia and Quebec and include corporate chieftains and hedge fund bankers, although some have requested to remain anonymous. Caesars Entertainment, MGM Mirage and Loto Quebec Casinos of Montreal had satellite tournaments offering a seat at the table.
Guy has seven Cirque shows on the Strip and is bringing “Zarkana” to Aria on Nov. 1 to replace “Viva Elvis,” which ends in September. He also went to Russia to become a cosmonaut.
“Since its creation, One Drop has reached out to millions of people to support access to water and raise everyone’s awareness of water-related issues. Today, knowing that one person dies from a water-borne disease every 20 seconds, I urge everyone to do even more,” Guy said. “We are looking forward to the Big One for One Drop as a creative and innovative solution to fund One Drop projects that help fight poverty by supporting access to water worldwide.”
“I'm very happy to participate in this event. As a partner and friend to Guy, I have always admired his commitment to One Drop,” said Phil Ruffin.
“A million-dollar buy-in seems crazy, and, well, it is, but when you factor in a great cause like One Drop getting a percentage of the prize pool, all of a sudden it seems like a fantastic idea and a great way to raise money for charity,” said Daniel Negreanu. “Count me in.”
I will be reporting with live tweets @robin_leach from the start Sunday and at its conclusion as one person walks away with the biggest prize in poker history: more than $35 million.
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.
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