The World Series of Poker's never-before-seen $1 million buy-in tournament is expected to generate the richest prize in poker history with the winner claiming more than $12 million.
Series officials announced Thursday that 30 players have committed to participate in the Big One for One Drop starting July 1 at the Rio.
That number of players puts the top prize at $12.3 million, which series spokesman Seth Palansky said tops the $12 million Jamie Gold won in 2006 for outlasting 8,773 players at no-limit Texas Hold'em in the main event.
The three-day special event will air on ESPN, according to tournament organizers. The winner will also earn a specially designed platinum bracelet.
Palansky said the event is just one of 61 tournaments held as part of the 43rd annual World Series of Poker. He said this tournament was unique because, so far, 20 of the 30 players who have signed up are nonprofessional poker players.
The 30 confirmed players have already committed their buy-in, and series organizers expect to reach their cap of 48 entries.
If the cap on participants is reached, the first-place prize awarded to the winner would be more than $18 million, Palansky said.
Eight-time gold bracelet winner Erik Seidel will take part in the game, along with Bob Bright, CEO of the stock trading firm Bright Trading LLC, and Paul Newey, co-founder of London-based private investment firm New Wave Ventures.
Professionals such as Johnny Chan, Tom Dwan and Daniel Negreanu will player poker with nonpros such as Guy Laliberte, founder of Cirque du Soleil and One Drop, and Phil Ruffin, owner of Treasure Island.
"A million dollar buy-in seems crazy, and well, it is, but when you factor in a great cause like One Drop getting a percentage of the prize pool, all of a sudden it seems like a fantastic idea, and a great way to raise money for charity," Negreanu said in a statement. "Count me in."
Caesars Entertainment Corp., which owns the WSOP, will fund two tournament participants. The gaming company said one seat will go to the winner of a Mega Satellite event June 30 at the Rio while the other will come from a yet to be determined promotion.
"I'm buying in," said Dwan. "One million dollars has a nice ring to it. It's so sick, and for such a good cause; now I just gotta win."
The $1 million buy-in includes an 11.1 percent cut for charity but doesn't include the normal fees taken out of the prize pool by the series for holding the tournament.
Laliberte organized the tournament to raise money to fund One Drop, a nongovernmental organization that helps fight poverty by funding access to water projects worldwide.
"Since its creation, One Drop has reached out to millions of people to support access to water and raise ... awareness of water-related issues," said Laliberte, adding that one person dies from a water-borne disease every 20 seconds.
With 30 players already committed, more than $3.3 million will be donated to One Drop.
Contact reporter Chris Sieroty at csieroty@review journal.com or 702-477-3893.