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January 20, 2018

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Top poker pros fill the Rio for start of $111,111 buy-in tournament

Antonio Esfandiari defending title after winning $18 million in last year’s One Drop event


Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Antonio Esfandiari takes part in the $111,111 One Drop High Rollers No-Limit Hold’em event during the World Series of Poker Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at the Rio. Esfandiari won the event the previous year.

$111,111 One Drop High Rollers No-Limit Hold'em

Greg Merson takes part in the $111,111 One Drop High Rollers No-Limit Hold'em event during the World Series of Poker Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at the Rio. Launch slideshow »

Now they’re playing for some money.

The World Series of Poker had awarded nearly $60 million through four weeks of tournaments at the Rio, but no single event could quite match what started Wednesday afternoon.

The much-anticipated One Drop High Rollers tournament got underway with 120 players shelling out the $111,111 buy-in to play in the event.

That means the tournament’s current prize pool sits at nearly $13 million with the eventual winner taking home more than $5 million.

Three percent of every buy-in went toward Cirque du Soliel founder Guy Laliberte’s One Drop Foundation, a charity that supplies fresh water to poverty-stricken countries worldwide.

Registration for the three-day event remains open for the first four levels of play, meaning official payouts and figures won’t be released until approximately 6 p.m. Wednesday.

But the vast majority of the world’s best players have already taken their seats in the hallowed Amazon Room.

Antonio Esfandiari, who won last year’s $1 million buy-in One Drop event for more than $18 million, ushered in play by announcing the traditional “shuffle up and deal.”

He’s seated at Day One’s featured table alongside 2010 WSOP Player of the Year Frank Kassela, top professional David “Doc” Sands and several other notable card sharks.

The other 14 tables, which feature eight players each, are just as tough. In the middle of the room, 2010 WSOP Main Event champion Jonathan Duhamel is sitting directly to the left of 2012 champion Greg Merson.

Nine-time WSOP bracelet winner and revered veteran Phil Ivey is at a table that includes circuit mainstays Matt Glantz and Joseph Cheong.

With a starting stack of 300,000 chips, players can afford to approach the event with caution early. Through two hours of play, no one has busted out of the tournament.

Action will continue for 10 hours Wednesday at the Rio and resume Thursday until an eight-player final table emerges. The final table will be played Friday at 1 p.m. at the Rio.

Check back to later for full coverage from the One Drop High Roller tournament.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at

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