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In what had to be a severe disappointment for fans, players and organizers alike, Elton Tsang emerged as the champion of the €1,000,000 buy in “Big One for One Drop Extravaganza” in Monte Carlo earlier today.

When this year’s version of the “Big One” was announced, founder Guy Laliberte decided to make a couple of massive changes to the tournament. First, he decided to NOT hold it during the World Series of Poker this summer as it had in its two previous incarnations (2014 and 2012), but perhaps the bigger thing that occurred was that Laliberte banned professional poker players from taking part in the tournament. The businessmen who were playing, Laliberte claimed, didn’t like how the pros normally had pieces sold off between each other and, as such, could play more aggressively without knowing they were on the hook for the entire amount, something the businessmen didn’t have the luxury of doing.

Especially with the backdrop of Monte Carlo chosen, Laliberte said earlier this month that 35 players had committed to the tournament and that more would step up closer to the start of the event. Imagine his surprise, then, when Friday came and only 26 players would put up their €1 million (roughly $1,096,953.80 U. S. at current conversion rates) and several of those, including pros Talal Shakerchi, Paul Newey, Andrew Pantling and Mark Teltscher, would violate Laliberte’s rule of “no pros” at the table. Daniel Negreanu, who was there to coach Laliberte in the tournament (many of the businessmen had hired top pros to coach them), was quoted by PokerNews.com in putting the situation in its best explanation:  “If Guy wants to let someone play, he can let them play. It’s that simple.”

Still, even with Laliberte allowing the late entry by the pros, only 28 entries were garnered from the 26 men who came to the tables (Laliberte and Pantling put in the extra buy-ins after being eliminated). This is compared to the two efforts in Las Vegas during the WSOP that featured 42 (2014) and 48 (2012) entries each. It will be something that is discussed when the next (if there is a next) “Big One” tournament is arranged as to who can play and where it will be played.

With only 28 entries, the top six players would take something away in what could only be called a very flat payout structure. The sixth place finisher would take down €1.5 million and fifth place would only get €250K more. Angling for that attention getting number for winning, however, it was decided that the first place prize would receive €11,111,111, in keeping with the “Big One” motif.

When play began on Sunday morning (U. S. time), Pantling was atop the leaderboard with eight men left, but that would change rapidly. Pantling clashed with Tsang early at the final table, first doubling him up then shipping another stack of chips over to Tsang that he would never relinquish. In fact, about an hour into the action Pantling had gone from the top stack to the short, while Tsang kept moving upward.

Haralabos Voulgaris would be the first departure at the hands of Anatoly Gurtovoy, but the really unfortunate person would be the “bubble boy,” Brandon Steven. Steven, holding a K-Q off suit, had Cary Katz call his all-in and say, “I didn’t even look,” just before turning up A-K off suit. The resulting Jack high board didn’t hit anyone, keeping Katz in the lead and sending Steven to the rail with nothing to show for his €1 million buy in.

Pantling would be the next to go in sixth, shipping his chips over to Tsang when his K-3 failed to hit against Tsang’s A-9. Tsang then took down Katz in fifth and, after Gurtovoy dumped James Bord from the event in fourth, it was Tsang (way in the lead) and Gurtovoy against Rick Salomon for the championship. Salomon would battle for well over 100 hands before finally succumbing to Gurtovoy, setting up the heads up match.

Tsang, sitting on 93.7 million chips, was way out in the lead over Gurtovoy and the situation never changed. After about 30 hands of heads up play, Tsang was over 116 million in chips and Gurtovoy, with just over 23 million, was trying to find a hand to mount a comeback. When the chips did get to the center, it was a dramatic showdown worthy of a big event.

On a monochrome Q♣ 3♣ 4♣ flop, both players would check to see a 2 come on the turn. Tsang checked his option to Gurtovoy, who fired out a three million chip bet, and Tsang eyed over Gurtovoy’s remaining stack. Satisfied with his estimations, Tsang tripled the bet to nine million and, after Gurtovoy announced all-in, Tsang beat him into the pot with the call. Tsang showed down 6♣ 5 for the straight to the six with a redraw to a flush, causing a huge sigh from Gurtovoy as he showed his A 5 for the losing Wheel. The only thing that would save Gurtovoy was another six, but it was not to be; the J♣ on the river only added insult to injury in giving Tsang a flush to win the hand and the 2016 Big One for One Drop Extravaganza championship.

Elton Tsang, €11,111,111
Anatoly Gurtovoy, €5,427,781
Rick Salomon, €3,000,000
James Bord, €2,100,000
Cary Katz, €1,750,000
Andrew Pantling, €1,500,000

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