LAS VEGAS -- The World Series of Poker plans to stage a card tournament next year at levels never reached before by even the world's biggest high rollers, costing entrants $1 million to buy in.
Series officials announced the no-limit Texas Hold `em tournament Thursday as part of a charity initiative with One Drop, a non-governmental organization in Montreal that pushes for access to water in Third World countries. The tournament -- billed as The Big One for One Drop -- is scheduled as a three-day event starting July 1 next year.
It will award a specially designed platinum bracelet, and its results will count toward series records like any other tournament.
The $1 million entry fee dwarfs all live poker tournaments before it in terms of the cost to enter. A super-high roller event at the Aussie Millions in January cost $250,000 to buy in, and saw 20 participants including the winner, Erik Seidel.
"Nothing makes you nervous, but what it does do is make you question your sanity," said Daniel Negreanu, a four-time gold bracelet winner at the series who said he plans to play if he doesn't go broke between now and next year.
Today, $200,000 is considered a steep buy-in for a single session at even the biggest cash games in Las Vegas, at Bobby's Room at the Bellagio and Ivey's Room at the Aria Resort & Casino, he said.
"The tournament would just be enormous," Negreanu told The Associated Press.
Series officials said 15 players already have confirmed plans to play, including Treasure Island hotel-casino owner Phil Ruffin, Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte, MGM Resorts International executive Bobby Baldwin and poker professionals Johnny Chan, Tom Dwan and Patrik Antonius.
ESPN plans to televise the tournament.
Organized heavily by Laliberte, a high-stakes recreational player who established One Drop, the charity donation and tournament conditions gives deep-pocketed poker players plenty of incentives to enter -- if they can stomach the dizzying buy-in.
Laliberte said the entry fee could even things out in the competition, and generate enough action to make its top prize the biggest ever at the series.
"This is definitely an element that will influence, probably, some of the way of playing," he said. "This is a lot of money for many people, and that's why I'm saying the game might be balanced between the billionaires and the millionaires."
He said if the tournament gets corporate backing for entries and proves popular, he thinks it could eventually become an annual event.
About 11 percent of the buy-in will go to the charity, and the series plans to skip its normal fees, roughly 10 percent, to host the tournament.
Ruffin said he doesn't expect to win against the professionals, but said he might have an advantage as a billionaire because the $1 million entry is a smaller chunk of his net worth.
"It's a little bit of an advantage, but it's going to be about the skill play," Ruffin said. "They could look at us as dead money, but we're hard to bluff."
World Series of Poker owner Caesars Entertainment Corp. plans to enter two players, one through a smaller tournament that awards an entry fee and another through a separate casino promotion. Quebec's Casinos also plans to award an entry fee, and some prominent businessmen have plans to play, including Texas banker Andy Beal.
Beal, listed by Forbes as the 48th wealthiest billionaire in the United States, is famous for taking on Doyle Brunson, Phil Ivey and other card players in a series of cash games at the Bellagio, sessions immortalized by Michael Craig's book, "The Professor, the Banker and the Suicide King."
Negreanu said that with so many non-professionals putting up cash, sharks will likely pool their bankrolls to try to get in, or sell pieces of themselves to raise an entry fee.
"If you're a professional player, it's a good spot to be in," he said.
Negreanu said he didn't think the tournament would overshadow the series' main event, a no-limit Texas Hold `em tournament that costs $10,000 to enter and is the richest event in poker, though it will certainly excite those enthralled with money.
"The best players in the world can't necessarily afford to buy in," he said. "I don't think that's the goal."