Why so big?
Earlier this year, Aria announced the super high roller event, which will take place July 2nd through the 4th, and the response has been pretty amazing so far. The Aria is taking advantage of a few things in the timing of its tournament:
–It’s taking place during the WSOP, meaning most of the poker pros who could afford the tournament are already in Las Vegas.
–Its timing on the WSOP schedule is ideal. It’s right before the main event. And the events you would have to skip to play the SHRB? The $10,000 H.O.R.S.E Championship, a $1,500 stud event, a $777 NLH tourney, and the $10,000 Dealers Choice Championship. No-limit hold’em specialists who can afford or get backed into the $500K event aren’t missing much.
–There is no $1 million buy-in Big One for One Drop at this year’s WSOP — just a $111K buy-in — meaning the poker economy can handle a tournament with a buy-in this large.
The amazing part of the event is that we are still nearly two months away from the tourney, and more than 50 players have committed to playing. That means Aria has blown past its goal of a $25 million prize pool, and a first-place prize of more than $8 million.
Let’s take a quick look at the field, based on some arbitrary categories we came up with. (Full list can be found here. You can also find an updated table at PokerNews.com.) Lots of these players could fit in multiple categories.
The superstars (6)
Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey, Tom Dwan, Erik Seidel, Antonio Esfandiari, Sam Trickett
It doesn’t get much better than Negreanu and Ivey for star power. Negreanu is perhaps the best known poker player on the planet and the biggest name on PokerStars’ roster. Negreanu also recently joined Poker Central, which is producing the coverage of the SHRB. The only interesting thing about Ivey’s appearance is that he would theoretically have an edge even in pro-dominated fields in the mixed game WSOP events. But he probably likes the idea of winning a lot more money here.
It might be a stretch to call Dwan a superstar anymore, as he hasn’t been terribly visible in the poker world of late, outside of appearances at the high-stakes Macau cash games. But it’s interesting that durrrr is resurfacing in a big way to play a half-a-million dollar buy-in. Confirmed not busto?
Seidel has eight WSOP titles, many of them in non-NLH games, so his decision to play this might seem a little strange, too. He won a pair of SHR’s back in 2011.
Esfandiari is one of the two winners of the million-dollar Big One for Drop, and one of the best known players in the game from his time on TV. Trickett finished second to Antonio in that event, and has $20 million in live cashes, good for sixth all-time.
Clearly Phil Hellmuth is one of these, too, but he belongs more in the next category…
Aria backed? (2)
Jean-Robert Bellande, Phil Hellmuth
There’s no way JRB is buying into a $500K event on his own dime. Right? And no way someone is just giving him this money because he thinks he has an edge on the field. He plays at Aria all the time, so we’re guessing that’s his ticket. Maybe?
Hellmuth doesn’t like to play high-stakes cash games, and there’s no way he would own-dime this tournament either. He has some sort of financial arrangement with Aria, as evidenced by his ever-present “Aria” hat. So, it’s safe to assume he is getting fronted by Aria in some shape or form to enter this one. It’s also hard to believe that he would skip any WSOP event, as he loves chasing bracelets.
The SHR ballers (9)
Dan Colman, Brian Rast, Fabian Quoss, Igor Kurganov, Max Altergott, Tobias Reinkemeier, Connor Drinan, Jake Schindler, Christoph Vogelsang
Certainly some cross-over with other categories, but these guys always seem to do well in SHRs, or at least play in them a lot. Colman famously won just about every SHR on the planet last year, but hasn’t cashed in anything since November. Rast cashed in six events with buy-ins of $25,000 or more last year. Quoss won two $100K+ buy-ins last year. Reinkemeier has $10 million earnings, mostly collected from SHRs. Kurganov won a $50K event at Aria in December and is a regular in SHRs. Drinan is most famous for losing with aces against aces in last year’s $1 million Big One for One Drop. Schindler won a $100K and a $25K event in 2014. Vogelsang finished third in the 2014 Big One for One Drop.
The tournament pros (21)
Dan Smith, Scott Seiver, Isaac Haxton, Sorel Mizzi, Andrew Lichtenberger, Tom Marchese, Byron Kaverman, David Sands, Joseph Cheong, Noah Schwartz, Ryan Fee, Pratyush Buddiga, Keith Lehr, Bobby Baldwin, Bryn Kenney, Darren Elias, Isaac Baron, Jason Koon, JC Tran, Mohsin Charania, Tony Gregg
Smith is coming off a long run at No. 1 in the world in the Global Poker Index. Seiver seems to do well in the SHRs and has $15 million in live cashes. Marchese has nearly $10 million in live cashes. Lichtenberger, aka LuckyChewy, recently won one of the World Poker Tour’s Alpha8 $100K buy-ins for $1.7 million. Haxton has $9 million in live tourney cashes, including a $2.5 million score in a $250K buy-in last year. Mizzi has $10 million in live cashes and has been in the top 10 of the GPI of late. Kaverman and Cheong (the former November Niner) have been in the GPI top 30 of late. Elias won back-to-back World Poker Tour titles. Buddiga has been as high as No. 4 in the GPI and has nearly $4 million in live tourney earnings. Sands kinda sorta retired from poker, but he still comes out for high rollers. Lehr is a WSOP bracelet winner with nearly $2 million in live earnings to his credit who has also won a Full Tilt FTOPS main event. Baldwin is the 1978 WSOP main event champ and four-time bracelet winner who is now a casino executive. Schwartz has $5 million in live cashes. Fee is an online player who has now amassed $3 million in live cashes. Baron was once known best for his online play as westmenloAA, but now has $5 million in live cashes. Koon is coming off a win in the $50K event at the L.A. Poker Classic. Tran is the former WSOP main event champ. Gregg won the $111K buy-in event at the WSOP in 2013 and has nearly $10 million in earnings.
The online pros (5)
Daniel “jungleman12” Cates, Andrew “good2cu” Robl, Doug “WCGRider” Polk, Phil “OMGClaAiken” Galfond, Jason Les
Cates — who was the top online cash game player at Full Tilt last year — doesn’t always play live events, but when he does, they are SHRs. Robl is no slouch live, but it’s not what he is known for. He has won a $100K buy-in event. Polk has turned himself into a formidable live tourney player, too, winning a bracelet in 2014. Les is a pro has one big live score to his credit, and is playing with Polk in the “Brains vs. AI” heads-up challenge against the computer program Claudico.
The businessmen/high-stakes players (10)
Cary Katz, Roger Sippl, Rono Lo, Alfred DeCarolis, Bob Bright, Brandon Steven, CEO, French Businessman, Hedge Fund Manager, Retired Businessman
Not that these guys can’t play poker, but that’s not what they are known for. Katz has more than $4 million in live tourney cashes, almost exclusively in high-roller events of $25K buy-ins larger, including eighth in the $1 million Big One for One Drop in 2014.We also love that there are several players who aren’t identified yet. We’re betting on “Retired Businessman” to take it down.
Tom Hall and Paul Newey used to appear on the entry list, but they have been removed.
The wild cards (4)
Sam Soverel, Stanley Choi, King Qin, Zhoa Quan
We don’t know much about these guts, but you can assume they are rich, good at poker or both if they are in this tournament.I haven’t found much about Soverel; one would assume he is a pro from mentions of him online, and he does have $800K in live cashes (more from the SHRB website). Choi once won a Macau SHR for more than $6 million, but hasn’t been on the radar of the poker world otherwise. Qin? We simply have no idea; an online pro seems like a safe bet. Quan has nearly $400K, but we have no other information to figure out how he got into this tournament.
Who are some other players we might see register? Or we’re curious why they aren’t entered yet?
—Martin Jacobson. We’re not sure if the reigning WSOP main event champ will take a shot at this, but clearly he has the game to do so, if he wants. It’s a more a matter of bankroll management, and what kind of backing he can get. Based on the other pros who are in this tournament, though, it seems hard to believe he couldn’t play this, if he wanted to.
—Guy Laliberté. He has to play this, right? The only thing that might stop him is his connection with the WSOP, through the One Drop tournaments that he helped organize. He has had his time eaten up with the sale of Cirque de Soleil, lately, but we just can’t imagine Guy skips this.
—John Juanda. Juanda is another player who likes bracelet hunting. But he also loves high rollers. We’ll predict we’ll see him in this tournament before registration closes.
—Jason Mercier. Another player who has the game for it. It’s probably just a matter of backing and whether he wants to take a shot.
—Jamie Gold. Pretty please play this, Jamie. We’re kidding that we think that the former WSOP main event champ would play this. Right?
—Gus Hansen. LOL. We think. But whoever has bankrolled his $20 million in online losses might want to chase it with a chance for a big score? We’re probably grasping at straws.
—A woman. We’re waiting for the first woman to enter the field. Paging Vanessa Selbst? A rich businesswoman who wants to beat up on some rich guys?
On Twitter: @Dustin Gouker