Steven Holloway is the football writer for the NZ Herald.

Steven Holloway on poker: The most expensive tournament in the world


In three weeks' time the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in Las Vegas will host a poker tournament that boasts a $US1 million ($NZ 1.3 million) buy in. That's right, buy-in.

For the average kiwi earning $54,900 per annum, it would take over 24 exceptionally frugal years to save enough to enter the highest stakes poker tournament ever held.

But in Vegas, 42 people have so far signed up for the tournament which will produce a whopping first prize of over $US17 million dollars.

Why would someone pay so much to enter a poker tournament? Chances are they fall into one of three categories - the wealthiest businessman in the world, the brightest poker minds in the world and the world's worst degenerate gamblers.

This mismatch of characters will congregate on July 1st for the flagship event of the 43rd edition of the World Series of Poker.

Here is everything you need to know about it and the rest of the series.

One Drop

Cirque do Soleil founder Guy Laliberte came up with the concept of this super high stakes tournament with 11 percent of every entry fee going toward his One Drop charity which supports projects to provide safe water to remote areas of the world.

While the wealthy business tycoons will likely be paying for their entry with their own considerable fortunes, a high proportion of the poker players entering will be 'selling pieces' of their action.

This means that Joe Blogs can be part of the fun by contributing a percentage of the poker pro's buy-in. Top tournament pro Jason Mercier recently took to twitter advertising his action to the public offering 1 percent of his buy-in for $11,000.

Satellite tournaments have also been created, the most recent an absurd $25,000 buy-in featuring 57 people and offering one seat to the big one.

So why are the pros so desperate to play this nosebleed stake tournament? Their edge on the field.

They figure their skills put them at a profitable advantage over the rich hedge fund managers, venture capitalists and satellite winners who will be way out of their depth.

And shelling out $111, 111 to a worthy charity probably makes them feel pretty good about themselves too.

Players multi-tabling live tournaments

Multi-tabling a poker tournament means playing more than one at the same time. In the online world it has become the norm with players able to easily juggle the action from multiple tables with a few swift clicks of the mouse.

In the live arena 'multitabling' tournaments throws up a whole new host of issues - but that hasn't stopped some of the top players giving it a go.

High stakes pro Tom Dwan was one of the pioneers of multi-tabling live tournaments last year, running madly between different tournaments - playing a hand - then running back to which ever table he is doing best in.

The motivation behind this strange practice comes from the huge sums of money the players have tied up in 'prop bets' to win bracelets, or do better than their peers.

For some pros, a $5000 buy-in tournament isn't worthy of their full attention. The 'small' buy in simply doesn't justify them staying at the event for the entirety. They need to split their focus with another tournament, to give themself a better shot at a bracelet. Crazy stuff.

A Kiwi has won a bracelet

A WSOP bracelet is the holy grail of poker professionals. Few are given out, many seek them, and New Zealand has one.

In 2010 Simon Watt defeated Dwan in the US$1,500 buy-in event for a cool US$614,248.

But it was the high stakes side bet story which really gripped the poker world as the two battled it out on the final table.

Dwan had millions of dollars in bets with fellow pros riding on his ability to win a bracelet at the WSOP. Watt became an instant hero of the high stakes pros by standing in his way and earned the following acclaim from Mike 'the mouth' Matusow.

"Thank you for saving us all millions of dollars! How does it feel to be every high-stakes gambler's hero? They're gonna, like, put you on the wall in Bobby's Room...What's your name kid?"

The Main event

The six-week WSOP culminates with the 10-day Main Event which begins on July 9th.

Last year 6,865 entrants stumped up the $USD10,000 to enter and German pro Pius Heinz eventually walked away with the whopping first prize of $USD8.7 million.

It's an incredible tournament which evolves and expands every year. Watch out for coverage in July on ESPN, or try to get their yourself through satellite tournaments on all major online sites.

Hand of the week:

Who says the games are dead? This amazing hand came from a zoom poker session I played this week on PokerStars.

Zoom is a recent 'turbo style' addition to the PokerStars cash game scene, where after you click fold, you are instantly dealt a new hand with new opponents.

Here is a great example of how not to play pocket Aces from my opponent Webber78.

PokerStars Zoom Hand #81788893073: Hold'em No Limit ($0.50/$1.00) - 2012/06/10 22:16:35 ET
Table 'Triangulum' 6-max
Seat 1: AlexPles ($100 in chips)
Seat 2: gvozdik777 ($84.84 in chips)
Seat 3: waikatoFC ($674.63 in chips)
Seat 4: Harv$$103 ($226.85 in chips)
Seat 5: webber78 ($533.29 in chips)
Seat 6: alexn124 ($85.40 in chips)
gvozdik777: posts small blind $0.50
waikatoFC: posts big blind $1
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to waikatoFC [4c 5c]
Harv$$103: folds
webber78: calls $1
alexn124: folds
AlexPles: folds
gvozdik777: folds
waikatoFC: checks
*** FLOP *** [7c 3d 6d]
waikatoFC: checks
webber78: bets $3
waikatoFC: raises $6 to $9
webber78: raises $523.29 to $532.29 and is all-in
waikatoFC: calls $523.29
*** TURN *** [7c 3d 6d] [5d]
*** RIVER *** [7c 3d 6d 5d] [9c]
*** SHOW DOWN ***
waikatoFC: shows [4c 5c] (a straight, Three to Seven)
webber78: shows [As Ad] (a pair of Aces)
waikatoFC collected $1064.28 from pot
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot $1067.08 | Rake $2.80
Board [7c 3d 6d 5d 9c]
Seat 1: AlexPles folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 2: gvozdik777 (small blind) folded before Flop
Seat 3: waikatoFC (big blind) showed [4c 5c] and won ($1064.28) with a straight, Three to Seven
Seat 4: Harv$$103 folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 5: webber78 showed [As Ad] and lost with a pair of Aces
Seat 6: alexn124 folded before Flop (didn't bet)

Have you got a great, interesting or horrendous hand to share. Email me the hand history at and I will feature the best one in my next column.

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Steven Holloway is the football writer for the NZ Herald.

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