Iranian-Born Poker Player Nets Record $18 mn Prize
Iranian-born Las Vegas resident Antonio Esfandiari took out some of poker's biggest names to claim the richest ever tournament prize, more than $18 million, event organizers said Wednesday.
The $1 million buy-in "Big One for One Drop Texas Hold'em" event was held Sunday through Tuesday at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas as part of the World Series of Poker.
Esafandiari took home $18,346,673 after three days of high-stakes poker, beating Britain's Sam Trickett in the final head-to-head and trumping big name stars such as America's Phil Hellmuth, a 12-time World Series champion.
Trickett pocketed more than $10 million, a return of 10-1 on his initial buy-in investment in the richest tournament ever played.
The Big One for One Drop is the brainchild of Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte, whose One Drop organization collected another $5.3 million, or 11.11 percent of the 48 players' million dollar entry fees.
Laliberte said in a statement he was "grateful" and encouraged "the poker community to stay involved and to spread the word" about his charity, which promotes access to safe drinking water around the world.
"Water is essential for life," he added, "and we all have to protect and share it."
Laliberte started One Drop five years ago. The group aims to support access to water through education campaigns, specific projects, and microfinance loans to help ensure sustainable development.
The NGO says the funds raised from the poker tournament will finance its projects in countries like Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Haiti and India. The group recently announced it would start a new project in Burkina Faso.
Cirque du Soleil, based in Montreal, is one of the most well-known contemporary circuses in the world. It was founded in 1984 by Laliberte and Daniel Gauthier, both former street performers.