The Washington Post

This is what it looks like to buy in to a poker tournament for $1 million

“Poker gods, can you hear me?” (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

Greg Merson won the World Series of Poker Main Event in 2012. For his efforts, he received a fancy bracelet and a life-changing payout of $8.53 million. The University of Maryland dropout-turned-poker pro hasn’t taken his winnings into retirement, though: He jets around the world for cash games with nosebleed stakes — and he still plays in the occasional tournament.

Among those on his calendar: the Big One for One Drop, a charity tournament with a $1 million buy-in. Yes, one million American dollars.

The Big One for One Drop — a World Series of Poker-affiliated event with a potential top payout of $20 million — begins this weekend in Las Vegas.

Merson paid his seven-figure entry fee on Wednesday and Instagrammed the action, as one does.

For those dropping jaws/keeping score at home, that’s $50,000 in cash and $900,000 in casino chips. Not exactly pocket change. According to the entry ticket Merson received (and tweeted), he also paid $50,000 in “other.” Meaning…what exactly? He cashed in $50,000 worth of baseball cards? Beanie Babies? Bitcoin?

Turns out, the answer is kind of boring: “Other,” Merson explained in a text message, refers to a “50k deposit I put down June 1st to reserve my seat.”

Merson, by the way, didn’t front all of the money himself. As is standard among professional poker players, particularly those entering tournaments with big entry fees, Merson sold shares in his $1 million buy-in.

According to Poker News:

Merson said he started trying to attract investors back in April. He’s since sold out somewhere between 89 and 91 percent of himself and believes most of the professional players on the roster will be doing about the same.

“I think most pros are going to have five to 15 percent of themselves,” Merson said. “Anything over 20 is on the high end for a pro. Nowadays, with poker kind of struggling and sponsorship dollars down, I just don’t think there’s going to be very many pros who are fully buying in or even taking half of themselves. Of course, there will be a few who do that, but most will be in that five-to-15-percent range.”

If you were thinking of trying to invest in his Big One buy-in, though, forget it. Merson said on Twitter that he’s sold out.

[This post has been updated.]

J. Freedom du Lac is the editor of The Post's general assignment news desk. He was previously a Local enterprise reporter and, before that, the paper’s pop music critic.

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