Poker $1 Million Buy-In Event Opens as Player Folds Quad Eights

Russian businessman Mikhail Smirnov folded four eights, believing he was beaten by a straight flush, as the first $1 million buy-in charity tournament at the World Series of Poker began.

Poker professional Bryan Rast leads 37 players remaining in the tournament, called the Big One for One Drop, out of an opening field of 48. Rast has 10.7 million in chips, followed by Phil Hellmuth with 8.4 million.

Play began yesterday in the 55th event at this year’s World Series of Poker at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. The winner will claim $18.3 million, topping the $12 million Jamie Gold won by claiming the World Series of Poker’s $10,000 buy-in no-limit Texas hold’em world championship, known as the main event, in 2006. Gold’s win was the largest in a poker tournament.

Greenlight Capital Inc. co-founder David Einhorn, who is donating any winnings to the charity City Year, is 16th with 3.8 million chips.

The tournament concludes July 3.

Day 1’s most dramatic moment occurred when Smirnov, 39, folded quad eights, believing he had been beaten by a straight flush.

In no-limit Texas hold’em, each player gets two concealed cards and everyone at the table shares five “community cards,” giving each player seven cards from which to make the strongest possible five-card hand.

Getting what’s called a quad, the same valued card in all four suits, is extremely rare. It’s beaten only by the straight flush, in which five successive cards of the same suit are held, and the ultimate hand, the royal flush, which is 10-jack-queen-king-ace of the same suit.

Quick Call

Smirnov was dealt a pair of 8s. After getting a third eight when three community cards were dealt, he bet only to be quickly called by 71-year-old John Morgan, the chairman and chief executive officer of Winmark Corp, a Minneapolis-based company that owns and operates 900 franchises that sell used and new merchandise, such as Play It Again Sports.

A fourth community card brought the fourth eight and, after another round of betting between the two, the fifth and final community card was the king of spades. That left four spades, including the seven, eight and jack, on the board, meaning Morgan could have topped Smirnov’s four eights if he was holding the nine and 10 of spades in his hand, which would have completed a straight flush.

When Morgan pushed all of his remaining chips -- about 3.4 million -- into the pot, Smirnov considered every possible hand Morgan could have had before giving up his almost unbeatable cards.

Hand Folds

Smirnov showed the two eights he had concealed and let everyone know he had folded one of poker’s most unbeatable hands.

“It seemed like a very difficult call to make,” he said, according to “But for me, I think that my read of the table and when you think about his hand and it’s very easy for me to fold.”

After the hand Morgan was asked if he had the straight flush or if he was bluffing.

“I’m not going to tell anyone,” he said, according to “And the reason I am not going to reveal it is totally out of respect for my opponent.”

One Drop, which is the main beneficiary of the poker event, fights poverty worldwide by supporting access to water.

Players eliminated included poker pros Erik Seidel, Jonathan Duhamel, Michael Mizrachi and Justin Smith.

Rast, 30, won two champion’s bracelets during the 2011 World Series of Poker. Born in Denver, he’s won more than $2.8 million in worldwide tournaments. His biggest win came in the 2011 WSOP $50,000 Poker Player’s Championship, where he took home $1.7 million.

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