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November 23, 2017

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Cirque’s One Drop $1 million buy-in poker tournament begins Sunday at the Rio


World Series of Poker

Antonio Esfandiari is $18,346,673 richer after winning the Big One for One Drop at the Rio on Tuesday, July 3, 2012.

Antonio Esfandiari Wins Big One for One Drop

Guy Laliberte and Antonio Esfandiari during the Big One for One Drop at the Rio on Tuesday, July 3, 2012. Launch slideshow »

2012 Big One for One Drop

2014 winner Antonio Esfandiari

2012 winner Antonio Esfandiari

High rollers and big-business moguls are arriving on the Strip for Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte’s huge $1-million buy-in poker tournament starting lunchtime Sunday at the Rio.

ESPN TV cameras will record the action of the second charity clash the Big One for One Drop at the World Series of Poker in the Amazon Room for three 2-hour broadcasts next month.

Forty-one players have signed up for the contest of with space for another 15 last-minute signups. If all the seats are filled, the first-place prize could hit $20 million.

“With the unthinkable stakes of the Big One for One Drop, it could showcase a seminal moment for poker that just may yield the biggest first-place prize in sports TV history,” said WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart.

Ten new players, including an anonymous businessman from China and others from Germany and Russia, have committed to join the original 2012 competitors, including the first female, Yale University graduate Vanessa Selbst.

A two-time gold-bracelet winner regarded as the best female player in the game today, she said: “I didn’t get to play in 2012, but after seeing how much fun everyone had with the event, as well as how profound an impact it had on One Drop, I knew that I had to be a part of it this time around.”

Perhaps the most unlikely player to register early was former “Survivor: China” contestant Jean-Robert Bellande, known to poker fans as BrokeLivingJRB. He turned heads sending an Instagram photo of a new Bentley when he posted his buy-in deposit with bricks of cash from a gym bag.

Guy explained how the tournament helps his One Drop charity: “I am fully committed to finding a solution to the lack of water, which is the biggest cause of death in our world today.”

The list of players can be found at the WSOP website. The winner also receives a special-edition WSOP platinum bracelet by jeweler Richard Mille. The event is open to anyone ages 21 or older.

The buy-in for the Big One for One Drop at $1 million remains the largest ever for a poker event. There will be no rake or house fees to operate the event, and $111,111 of each buy-in is taken out as a charitable donation to One Drop. Thus, $888,889 goes directly into the prize pool. Antonio explained what the win meant to him.

We’ll report the action Sunday via Twitter @robin_leach, and we’ll have a recap with photos and video of the first day’s play and eliminations here Monday.

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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