The biggest buy-in event of the 2016 World Series of Poker will kick off on Friday with some of the richest and best poker players on the planet battling it out for a WSOP bracelet and millions in prize money, all while helping out a worthy cause.
A total of 3.5 percent of total prize pool for the $111,111 High Roller for One Drop No-Limit Hold'em event will go to the ONE DROP charity, helping improve access to water around the globe. Another 1.5 percent goes to the tournament staff and dealers, and the rest is sure to become some of the most hotly contested prize money at the 2016 WSOP.
Unlike Poker Central's $300,000 Super High Roller Bowl at ARIA that wrapped up as the 2016 WSOP began, no lineup for the One Drop has been announced, because it is an open event with a standard registration process, but there are a handful of players who are good bets to be in there mixing it up with that much money on the line. Among them, the five players listed below would have to be considered ones to watch entering the 2016 WSOP $111,111 High Roller for One Drop.
Mustapha Kanit is the kind of man who lights up a room when he walks in.
Italy's all-time leading money winner and the top draft pick in the Global Poker League plays with no fear, and an infectious love for the game, a boyish grin, and a magnetic personality that makes him worth watching anytime.
Only even more so when the buy-ins reach nosebleed levels.
Since the 2015 WSOP, where he booked one cash making 20th in the $5,000 No-Limit Hold'em Turbo for $15,320, Kanit has booked seven scores across the globe worth just shy of an incredible $4 Million — five of which have come in high roller events.
There was a win in the €10,000 High Roller at European Poker Tour Barcelona, third in the €25,600 event at WSOP Europe, fourth in the PCA $100,000 Super High Roller, another win in the EPT Dublin €25,000 High Roller and his biggest career score of more than $1.5 million, ending the EPT season in Monaco with a runner-up finish in the €100,000 Super High Roller at the Grand Final.
Kanit isn't burned out from a summer of events in Las Vegas. In fact, he just recently rolled into town, likely with his eye on this event more than any other.
Dario Sammartino is best friends with Kanit, and it only seems fitting that we include this young Italian star on the list, too.
Sitting fourth on Italy's all-time money list with just under $3.4 million in live tournament earnings, Sammartino is a bit more unknown than Kanit, but he packs just as powerful of a punch at the poker table.
Sammartino has live tournament results that date back to 2008, but it wasn't until 2013 that he truly began to pick up steam. That year, Sammartino booked nearly $500,000 in live tournament earnings, including four WSOP cashes and a second-place finish in the Italian Poker Tour Sanremo €700 Main Event for €95,000. Then in 2014, he eclipsed $500,000 in live tournament earnings, including one standout sixth-place finish in the WSOP's $10,000 Six-Max No-Limit Hold'em for $91,670.
As if those two years weren't enough to get people talking about Sammartino, he went ahead and won over $1.45 million in 2015 for his best year ever, thanks in no small part due to the success he achieved at the EPT Grand Final in Monaco. Sammartino won a satellite into the €100,000 Super High Roller and went on to take fourth for €709,500. He then booked a 17th-place finish in the €10,600 Main Event for €51,350 and a sixth-place finish in the €25,500 High Roller for €257,400.
On top of those impressive results, Sammartino's momentum continued into the WSOP when he booked two big final tables. First he took sixth in the $10,000 Pot-Limit Hold'em Championship for $60,545, and then he took fourth in the $5,000 Six-Max No-Limit Hold'em for $163,604.
Already in 2016, Sammartino has scored third in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure $25,000 High Roller for $542,160.
He might look like a happy, go-lucky kid, but Fedor Holz is a killer on the felt, as evidenced by an incredible $9.2 million in cashes. Oh, and that's this year alone. When it comes to high rollers, nobody is on the level of Holz.
Holz's results in these things aren't just exceptional, they're borderline obscene. Holz has won or chopped three Aria $25,000 high roller events, finished second in the $300,000 Super High Roller Bowl for $3.5 million, and won the $200,000 Triton Super High Roller in the Philippines for over $3.4 million since the calendar turned.
He might be having a quiet summer at the WSOP, but the German is no stranger to success at the Rio. He had two scores of over $260,000 last year in his maiden voyage here, finishing 25th in the Main Event and third in the $10,000 Six-Max Championship.
If there was a betting favorite for this thing, it would probably be Holz. Plus, he's going to be shipping Jason Mercier a pile at summer's end after the American cleaned up on their bracelet-based prop bets, so as Holz tweeted a few weeks ago, he needs to get that dough.
Looking for a wild card to sweat in the One Drop? Look no further than Dan Shak.
Many of the young wizards might count their blessings when seated with Shak compared to the other players on this list, but Shak has put together an impressive amount of nice runs in high roller events. Some of the notable results among his more than $8.6 million in tournament cashes include a win in the AU$100,000 Challenge at 2010 Aussie Millions and two runner-up finishes in the $100,000 Super High Roller at PokerStars Caribbean Adventure.
He's even recently proven he can beat elite fields as he chopped Aria $25,000 High Roller 24 in February for $296,800. Most recently, he put together a seventh-place run in the $300,000 Super High Roller Bowl for $600,000, holding his own against the likes of Holz, Matt Berkey, and Bryn Kenney on the way.
Plenty of the rich amateurs who enter these nosebleeds are in over their heads, but ever since Shak transitioned into poker he has been firing these things since they first got popular and it's no sweat for him to stare across the felt at the world's best.
Furthermore, the man sits at the table with his trusty laptop and moves the chess pieces around for a big-money hedge fund literally in between hands. He won't be fazed by the stakes or the stage, and that fearlessness serves him well at the tables.
When Dzmitry Urbanovich bet Vanessa Selbst $10,000 at 200-1 that he could win three WSOP bracelets this summer, he could not have expected his first WSOP experience would go anything like it has.
To this point, the Polish poker phenom has had a couple sniffs of final tables, making 13th in the $10,000 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball and 12th in the $2,500 Mixed Triple Draw Lowball, but not much else.
In comparison to the cost of a full schedule of buy-ins, the $28,208 in cashes he's collected doesn't amount to much. He has to be champing at the bit to get into a big buy-in, small field no-limit hold'em event that could be a real summer saver. And with his track record over the last couple of years in high roller tournaments, no one could blame him.
Urbanovich burst onto the live European poker scene in 2015 with a win in the €25,000 High Roller at EPT Malta for €572,300. He booked incredible three more wins and two more final table appearances through the rest of that festival, then a month later, he finished runner-up to Erik Seidel in the €100,000 Super High Roller at the EPT Grand Final for €1,446,600.
He wasn't old enough to play at the 2015 WSOP, but after it was over, he went right back to work, making second in the €50,000 Super High Roller at EPT Barcelona for €841,500. He wrapped up 2015 making fourth in the €50,000 Super High Roller at EPT Prague for €285,000, and while it wasn't a high roller, he started this year winning theEPT Dublin Main Event for €561,900.
Obviously, Urbanovich isn't entering the One Drop on a similar hot streak, but considering his track record, he's a good bet to start another one here.
As the 2016 WSOP rolls on, be sure to stay tuned to PokerNews for continued coverage, brought to you by our sponsors, 888poker.