$1 million WSOP buy-in will aid charity

$1 million will buy a lot of water.

The combination of the two may create what World Series of Poker officials expect to be the largest-ever buy-in competition in the tournament’s history.

Caesars Entertainment Corp., which owns the World Series of Poker, announced late Thursday the special event will take place at next year’s tournament at the Rio and is being structured as a three-day competition for a maximum of 48 players.

A portion of the event’s prize pool will be directed toward a charity that fights poverty worldwide.

Of the $1 million buy-in, 11.1 percent will be donated to ONE DROP, a nongovernmental organization that fights poverty worldwide by supporting access to water and raising awareness of water-related issues. Guy Laliberté, founder of Cirque du Soleil, is chairman of ONE DROP.

The remaining $889,000 of each entry will go toward the players’ prize pool.

The event is expected to generate one of the largest prize pools in tournament poker outside the World Series of Poker’s Main Event.

The winner will be awarded millions of dollars and a specially designed platinum bracelet.

"We are proud to align the planet’s premiere poker event with the foundation created by one of our generation’s most creative entrepreneurs to help make the world a healthier place," Caesars Entertainment Chairman Gary Loveman said in a statement.

Mitch Garber, chief executive of Caesars Interactive Entertainment, which runs the World Series of Poker, said the event was created because of the tournament’s worldwide platform and resources, which could be directed toward an event that supports ONE DROP.

"Water is one of the most important issues of this century," Garber said. "We hope to attract public figures and recognized business community leaders, who will join our efforts and participate in a historic event while supporting ONE DROP’s activities."

The event has already drawn commitments from 15 participants.

They include Laliberté; 1978 World Series of Poker Champion Bobby Baldwin, who is chief executive of CityCenter; Treasure Island owner Phil Ruffin; and several poker professionals, including two-time World Series of Poker champion Johnny Chan and four-time World Series of Poker champion Daniel Negreanu.

"A million dollar buy-in seems crazy, and well, it is," Negreanu said. "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. Count me in."

Other participants include poker professionals Patrik Antonius, Gus Hansen, Tom Dwan and Tony Guoga.

Quebec’s Casinos and a European group intend to offer satellite events for players to gain entry into the competition. Caesars plans to offer two additional entries. One will go to the winner of a megasatellite event. The other will come from a yet-to-be-determined promotion.

The event is expected to begin on July 1, 2012 at the Rio.

ESPN intends to televise the event as part of its coverage of the 43rd World Series of Poker in 2012.

The tournament is expected to pay out to 20 percent of the field, which is double the typical poker tournament payout structure.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.

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