The inaugural $1,000,000 buy-in Big One for One Drop tournament was held at the World Series of Poker in 2012, and to quote the sitting Vice President of the United States, it was a big f**king deal.

The event was announced with a very interesting policy, a 48 player cap. The cap was something many believed lofty expectations, but it also encapsulated what a successful One Drop tournament would look like – a prize-pool of over $40 million – making it perhaps the most ambitious poker tournament ever devised.

Considering the absurd buy-in and the large charitable element – $111,111 of every buy-in went directly to the One Drop charity – that would significantly cut into even the best player’s EV, not a lot of people thought the player cap would be met.

Not only did the tournament reach the player cap, they actually turned away potential entrants that had $1 million in hand.

Before, during, and after, the original Big One for One Drop tournament was one of the most hyped and most talked about poker tournaments in the game’s long, storied history. And the action and excitement didn’t disappoint, culminating with Antonio Esfandiari’s memorable victory celebration.

One Drop the redux

The second rendition of the Big One for One Drop occurred at the 2014 World Series of Poker (it was decided to hold the event biennially), and trying to build on the success of the 2012 tournament, the player cap was increased to 56. This proved unnecessary, as only 42 players entered the tournament, but perhaps more importantly, the number of amateur players was down.

The 2012 One Drop tournament had 20 (give or take a player or two) non-professional players among the 48 player field, and five non-pros and four professional players cashed in the event, with amateurs finishing 3rd, 5th, 7th, 8th, and 9th.

The 2014 One Drop tournament had around a dozen non-professional players. In 2014 three amateurs and five pros cashed, but the amateurs finish positions were far worse, 4th, 7th, and 8th.

With pros seeming to have a big edge, One Drop organizers decided to make some changes.

In what may or may not have been a kneejerk reaction, the 2016 Big One for One Drop got a new name, adding “Extravaganza” to the title; a new home in Monte Carlo; and a new requirement to enter, as professional poker players were excluded from entering – players were also given the option to reenter.

The result was a serious drop in the number of players. This time around, just 26 players showed up to play in the tournament, and thanks to two reentries (must be nice to not only have $1 million to enter, but an extra $1 million to reenter) a total of 28 entries.

However, all of the players were categorized as “non-professionals,” although some players’ professional status seems questionable.

Did excluding pros help of hurt?

There was a mixed reaction to the tournament, with poker pros pointing out the smaller field, but players in the event pointing out that One Drop’s success or failure cannot be measured using classic poker tournament metrics.

In a tweet that has since been deleted, Jason Mercier called the tournament a flop, citing the decision to exclude professionals. His tweet was met with criticism, and one of this year’s entrant’s, Bob Voulgaris, took to Twitter to explain why excluding pros worked, even if numbers were down.

Excluding professional players seemed like a reasonable move, but if you take a quick perusal of the entrants’ list you’ll see a lot of recognizable names who stretch the “non-pro” classification. Because of this, I’m not sure excluding “pros” is the right way to handle who gets to play in the future.

Yes, some of these people have gone on to other things, or made their money before they took up poker, but it’s hard to say that we can’t allow the Daniel Negreanu’s and Phil Hellmuth’s, or the Jason Mercier’s and Scott Seiver’s of the world to play in this event because they’re too good, when you have names like James Bord, Mark Teltscher, Andrew Pantling, Dan Shak, Talel Shakerchi, and Tony Bloom in the field.

Yes, some players who were excluded would likely have a solid edge over the field, but the bright line of “no pros” seems blurry at best.

A better option may have been to turn the event into a private tournament, and perhaps require some type of monetary donation (in addition to the percentage of the prize-pool that already goes to charity) to be able to play. This could be a lifetime donation (time and/or money) to One Drop or other charities, that would likely keep the top young players out of the event, but give some other poker pros the chance to play.

A lot of pros will look at this charitable requirement as extra juice on top of what is already significant juice, and even with an edge that allows for significant markup, it would still be difficult for them to sell pieces of themselves, which is the only way most players can play in the tournament in the first place.

Basically, I’d rather see professional players allowed to enter, but the event place such a burden on them that many don’t enter.

Moving away from the WSOP was a good idea

The WSOP seems like the most logical venue choice for any poker tournament, especially when the tournament has the magnitude of the Big One for One Drop. That being said, Monte Carlo is the perfect backdrop for this type of event, especially if you have no interest in getting professional poker players to register.

If you have the money to play in this event, you have the money to spend a week in Monte Carlo. Furthermore, the location (the basic cost associated with spending multiple days in Monte Carlo would require me to take out a second mortgage) could further help dissuade professional players from entering.