Eight men are going to sit around a poker table this afternoon in Las Vegas, all of them already insanely wealthy. But at the end of the night one of them is going to walk away with the largest prize ever awarding in a poker tournament.
And they'll be able to thank the creator of Cirque du Soleil for the opportunity.
Today marks the final day of The Big One For One Drop, a tournament at the World Series of Poker that has an unprecedented $1 MILLION buy-in to enter. A total of 48 professional poker players and businessmen with nothing better to spend their money on started this tourney on Sunday, with only nine of them getting a piece of the prize pool.
Each of the remaining eight is guaranteed at least $1.237M (which isn't that great a return on investment for such an upfront risk, but neither was the $1.109M the guy who finished ninth last night got), while first place awards a record payout of $18,346,673. That's more than 50 percent better than the $12M won by Jamie Gold in the Main Event of the 2006 World Series of Poker, the current top prize.
This event was put together through the machinations of one of the world's richest, creative and most philanthropic men: Guy Laliberte, a French-Canadian who created Cirque du Soleil in the 1980s and is now worth a cool $2.6 billion. He's also founder of a charity known as One Drop, which hopes to bring clean drinking water to all parts of the world.
11.1 percent of each entrants buyin went to this charity, meaning One Drop has taken in $5.3M from the event already. It could be much more, though, since Laliberte is among the final eight players.
In fact, half of those still alive aren't considered poker players. They include a businessman from Malaysia, a part owner of the New York Mets and the CEO of City Center, one of Las Vegas' newest mega casino facilities.
The other four are all well known professionals: Antonio Esfandiari, who's the current chip leader; Brian Rast, Sam Trickett and Phil Hellmuth, who has won a record 12 World Series of Poker tournaments.
The final table is being shown live (actually, with a 15-minute delay) with access to the players' cards prior to them being shown to everyone else. ESPN will webcast the entire table online, but also show it on ESPN2 from 1-4 p.m. and on ESPN from 5 p.m. until it's over.
Here's hoping my daughter's swim meet gets rained out tonight so I don't have to watch it on my phone in between the backstroke and the freestyle ...