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World Series of Poker hosting $1M buy-in event

Ken Ritter, Associated Press

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Wheelers, dealers, poker pros and CEOs are putting up $1 million apiece for a seat at a first-ever World Series of Poker event offering the richest top prize in poker history.

Forty-eight players are expected for the three-day no-limit Texas Hold'em event starting Sunday at the Rio All Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. It ends Tuesday with one winner likely to take home more than $18 million, plus a champion bracelet.

"I think the drama here is the size of the stakes and the eclectic mix of characters sitting at the table," Mitch Garber, chief executive of tournament host Caesars Interactive Entertainment, said Friday. "You have everything — billionaires, a Facebook millionaire, venture capitalists and business people."

The event is called The Big One for One Drop. The international water advocacy charity OneDrop.org will receive an 11.1 percent portion of the buy-in. That could amount to more than $5 million.

In all, nine players will share more than $42 million in prizes if all 48 buy-in slots are filled. Just two spots remained open Friday.

Play at six tables of eight seats each will be streamed Sunday and Monday on the Internet, with final table play shown nearly live Tuesday on ESPN2. A 15-minute time delay ensures hands are played before they are broadcast.

"Many will be known by some segment of the audience," Garber said of competitors including North American poker pros Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu, Jonathan Duhamel and Michael Mizrachi, and Danish player Gus Hansen.

International entrants include Eden Shoes founder Frederic Banjout from France, hedge fund manager Talal Shakerchi of England and Cirque de Soleil and OneDrop.org Canada founder Guy Laliberte of Montreal.

Phil Ruffin, the owner of the Treasure Island Resort in Las Vegas, and MGM Resorts International executive Bobby Baldwin are buy-ins, along with Winmark Corp. CEO John Morgan of Minneapolis, Kansas car dealership owner Brandon Steven, Greenlight Capital founder David Einhorn of New York and Chamath Palihapitiya, a California venture capitalist, former Facebook executive and part owner of the NBA Golden State Warriors.

Four winners of play-in tournaments also get seats.

"It's hard to find a better mix," Garber said of the field. He called it a virtual certainty that players at the final table will be recognizable to cable viewers.

An $18 million prize would be about 1½ times the $12 million Jamie Gold won in the World Series of Poker no-limit Texas Hold 'em main event in 2006.

The high-roller championship is the 55th of 61 events in the 43rd annual World Series of Poker. It started May 28 in Las Vegas.

More than 7,000 players are expected for the $10,000 buy-in no-limit Texas Hold'em main event beginning July 7. It ends when the final table is reached July 16 and resumes with finals play on Oct. 28.