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Even split between businessmen and poker pros at One Drop final table

3 July 2012

By Aaron Todd

LAS VEGAS -- One of the aspects of the World Series of Poker's Big One for One Drop that has been the most fascinating to watch is the battle between professional poker players who leaned on friends to gather up the cash to get into the $1 million buy-in event and the professional businessmen who plunked down $1 million of their own money like it was nothing.

The vast majority of poker cognoscenti assumed that the poker pros would have a huge edge in the tournament. After all, how many of these businessmen have spent as much time and effort studying the game as the pros? How many tells would they miss or give off that the pros would be able to jump on?

After Day 1, it appeared that conventional wisdom had been turned on its head. Of the 11 eliminations that occurred through the first nine levels of play, 10 were professional poker players. (There is some debate as to whether Giovanni Guarascio is a professional player, but he is listed as a professional in the player bios provided to media covering the event.)

On the first hand of Day 2, it looked like the tide had turned. Chamath Palihapitiya, a venture capitalist and former Facebook executive, busted out.

Then the parade of pros continued out the door. One by one, six of the top pros exited the stage. Well, technically, Daniel Negreanu and Tom Dwan left at the same time when they were both bested by Mikhail Smirnov's quad 9s. The 9s were actually the second-most memorable four-of-a-kind for the Russian in the tournament. On Day 1 he folded quad 8s, as he was convinced he was beat by a straight flush.

With 30 players left in the field, only 13 were considered full-time professional gamblers – and that includes one player whose primary source of income comes not from poker, but from handicapping NBA games. Considering the tournament started with 27 pros, making up 56.2 percent of the field, the fact that 14 of the first 18 eliminations were professional players was certainly notable.

Fortunes change quickly in poker and in business, however, and nine of the next 14 players eliminated were amateurs. The final two tables featured an even mix of professionals and amateurs, eight apiece.

And the mix stayed that way right up until the unofficial final table of 10 was reached. A dosey doe of businessmen and professionals made their way to the exits. First Cary Katz, the CEO of a college student loan corporation, was eliminated. Then British pro Roland De Wolfe's day ended. Frenchman Frederique Banjout, the CEO of Eden Shoes, was next. Shortstacked pro Tom Marchese finally took a stand and was out in 13th. Brandon Steven, the owner of a Subaru dealership in Wichita, Kansas, was next. German pro Phillip Gruissem busted in 11th, leaving five pros and and five businessmen to battle it out for the televised final table of eight players.

Ilya Bulychev, a businessman from Russia, became the bubble boy, busting in 10th, and while poker pro and World Poker Tour commentator Mike Sexton just missed making the televised final table, he did claim $1,109,333 for his ninth-place finish.

The battle for supremacy has been incredible to watch. The pros have been more aggressive, which has been a more volatile strategy, but allowed them to accumulate more chips. Pros Antonio Esfandiari and Sam Tricket both have more than 30 million chips, while businessmen Richard Yong, Bobby Baldwin and David Einhorn rank sixth, seventh and eighth with less than 9 million. Guy Laliberte, the founder of Cirque de Soleil and the One Drop charity for which the tournament has raised $5.5 million, ranks third in chips.

Ultimate bragging rights for the businessmen and the poker pros, as well as the $18.3 million first-place prize, will be decided on Tuesday starting at 1 p.m. PT. The event will be broadcast on a five-minute delay on ESPN and ESPN2.

Based on what we've seen through the first two days, the battle at the final table should be one to remember.
Even split between businessmen and poker pros at One Drop final table is republished from
Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd has covered the gambling industry since 2006. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and (his personal favorite) Badeuci.

Since graduating from St. Lawrence University, Aaron has worked as a journalist covering the gambling industry and as a communications specialist in college athletic departments.

A native of a small town in New York just south of Ottawa, Aaron lives in Needham, Mass., with his wife and three children. Write to Aaron at, and follow him on Twitter @CasinoCity_AT.