Photos: Brian Rast in 1st place, Phil Hellmuth in 2nd at One Drop at the Rio
Mon, Jul 2, 2012 (9:05 a.m.)
Photo: Stephen R. Sylvanie
To watch 11 men slowly lose $1 million each is a humbling experience even to a man like me accustomed to some pretty big numbers! Bobby Baldwin, MGM Resorts’ CityCenter chief, was right on with his prediction minutes before poker play began at the Rio on Sunday afternoon in Guy Laliberte’s the Big One for One Drop charity tournament: “Ten to 12 will go on the first day,” he told me.
Today, 37 remain of the 48 who started out Sunday, and Bobby is sitting pretty in 13th of chip counts with 4,225,000. Friend and poker rival Phil Ruffin, Treasure Island president, is 17th with 3,750,000.
Las Vegas is represented with seven players remaining, plus Cirque du Soleil founder Guy, who organized the endeavor. He’s in 7th with 6,550,000 chips. The board leader is Las Vegas pro poker prince Brian Rast with 10,710,000 chips. Regular Las Vegas visitor Phil Hellmuth is 2nd with 8,395,000.
On the final day Tuesday of the three-day tournament, ESPN will begin live coverage of the Final Table, where nine men face one another to divide a prize pool totaling a staggering $42,666,672. The winner hauls off with $18,346,673, the largest first-place prize ever awarded in any sporting event except for boxing’s pay-per-view gates. Second place receives $10,112,001, and the Top Nine players in the last nail-biting play win back their $1 million entry fee.
Here’s the current Las Vegas standings: Brian Rast, 1st; Antonio Esfandiari, 4th; Bobby Baldwin, 13th; Robert Bright, 15th; Phil Ruffin, 17th; Phil Ivey, 26th; and Cary Katz, 27th. Daniel Negreanu, another Las Vegas regular who calls Toronto home, is dangerously near the bottom in 36th with only 470,000 chips.
On Sunday, we were first to report on the bearded, hooded and incognito Hollywood and XXX film producer Rick Salomon of Paris Hilton and Pamela Anderson notoriety. Rick is still in play in 21st with 3,285,000 chips and so far has dodged paparazzi. He didn’t walk through the entry tunnel for introductions and also avoided being in the group photograph of all the players at the historic event.
“For a lot of these players, the $1 million buy-in brings a lot of added pressure. If they lose, they go get drunk at a strip club to try and forget about the loss,” Bobby said. “The blood is flowing, and some still try to remain stone-faced. But you can read a stone face because the eye muscles twitch with the cards.”
Phil Ruffin told me just before he sat down to play: “There’s no added pressure for me. At this level, it’s still just another day at the office.”
Tournament director Jack Eiffel summed it up best: “All 48 of these individuals will be immortalized in poker history. What started out when Guy first announced this as raised eyebrows has turned to dropped jaws because all 48 seats sold out. It’s unthinkable and unbelievable but has become historic.”
We’ll be back Tuesday morning with a preview of the Final Nine and a guess at who could walk off with the big win in the richest-ever entry event. Everybody has begun guessing that Guy himself could pull off the win. If he does, I know that he’ll donate the nearly $19 million to his water charity One Drop.
Watch the action on ESPN on Tuesday: ESPN2 from 1 to 4 p.m. PT and then ESPN starting at 5 p.m. PT to the conclusion. Our thanks to Richard Corey for his videos of One Drop posted on YouTube.
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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