Jonathan Duhamel, Guy Laliberte Commit To Million Dollar Tournament

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Guy Laliberté "One Drop"

The 2011 tournament poker season is wrapping up after an excellent year, but 2012 is shaping up to be even more impressive than the year just passed.

Although the 2012 World Series of Poker schedule has yet to be determined, there is one event that is drawing considerable buzz six months before the world converges on Las Vegas. The tournament is the “Big One for One Drop,” a $1 million buy in tournament that is the brainchild of poker player Guy Laliberte, who has a small side job as the founder of Cirque du Soleil and is also the chairman of One Drop. One Drop is a charitable cause that promotes the ability for needy areas to have one of the most important things in life – a clean, accessible water supply.

During last month’s “November Nine” festivities, Laliberte announced the names of several players who will take part in the tournament. Along with Laliberte, 2010 World Champion Jonathan Duhamel and poker “Triple Crown” winner Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier were announced as the latest players who will put their $1 million where their mouth is and compete in the tournament.

Duhamel, for his part, is looking forward to battling some of the biggest whales in the game for what is expected to be a huge prize pool. “I am absolutely thrilled to participate in the biggest poker event ever organized,” Duhamel commented during yesterday’s announcement. “One million dollars is a lot of money but my participation comes naturally, being a spokesperson for One Drop, and because of my attachment to such a great cause.”

“Life starts with water and because of its uneven distribution, a person dies every twenty seconds,” Duhamel continued. “The Big One for One Drop will raise $111,111 per participant, which will definitely prove the poker community attachment to One Drop. As for me, I personally commit to give 5% of my winnings from this tournament to One Drop.”

At this point, 22 players have committed to the tournament which, after the $111,111 is deducted from each buy in, will build a prize pool of just over $19.5 million. More players are expected to sign up for the tournament, according to Laliberte, which will only add to the excitement of the tournament next summer. It will also be an official WSOP bracelet event; the minimum number of players set by the WSOP for awarding a bracelet is 22 (the number of people that Doyle Brunson beat in 1976 to win his first World Championship, by the way) and, with more players expected (the field is capped at 48), could become the largest first place payday not only in the history of the WSOP but also in the history of poker itself.

Along with Laliberte, Duhamel and Grospellier, the remainder of the field reflects some of the strongest – as well as richest – players in the history of the game. 1978 WSOP Championship Event winner (and the current CEO of MGM-Mirage Resorts) Bobby Baldwin and Phil Ruffin (the owner of Treasure Island) have committed to play in the event, along with the last back to back winner of the WSOP Championship Event, Johnny Chan. Daniel Negreanu will step up with his $1 million, as will Patrik Antonius, Gus Hansen, Tom “durrrr” Dwan, Antanas “Tony G” Guoga and Dan Shak.

A surprise on the list of players is that of billionaire banker Andy Beal. Beal, whose exploits on the poker table were immortalized in the book The Professor, The Banker and The Suicide King by Michael Craig, has stepped away from the tables since his battles in the mid-2000s against a conglomerate of poker professionals, but the “Big One for One Drop” is large enough to draw the Texan back to the game.

There will also be a chance for the “Average Joe” to be able to take part in the One Drop tournament. Loto-Quebec will be running a satellite for the tournament through its poker arm, espacejeux.com, where the victor of the satellite will have the chance to sit down at the tables come next summer. If that satellite winner wins the Big One, they could, in theory, immediately rocket to the top of the all-time WSOP money list.

Laliberte stated yesterday that there are several more players that will be taking part in the event but, instead of announcing those names, stated they will be announced over the coming months. Even without further additions to the stellar roster of players, the “Big One for One Drop” promises to be one of the most exciting tournaments of 2012, if not in poker history.

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Earl Burton is a veteran journalist in the poker industry, having covered the game since 2004. He has played the game much longer, however, starting out playing in family games at a very early age. He has covered tournaments across the United States, including the World Poker Tour, the World Series of Poker and various charitable events. Earl’s background includes writing for some of the top poker news sites in the industry as well as other poker media outlets that include Poker Player Newspaper and Canadian Poker Player Magazine. Earl keeps an unblinking eye on the poker world, offering coverage of news from the industry, tournament action, player interviews, strategy and his opinions on the game. Whenever possible, Earl will also step to the tables to demonstrate that there’s more than just writing talent behind his poker game!

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