Three years ago, Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté announced the creation of the $1 million buy-in "Big One for One Drop" -- the most expensive tournament buy-in in poker history -- to be held at the 2012 World Series of Poker. The tournament proved tremendously successful, as 48 poker pros and philanthropic businessmen came together and raised more than $5.5 million for charity. As such, an encore was organized for the 2014 WSOP.
This year's follow-up tournament, which attracted 42 players and raised an additional $4.7 million for The One Drop Foundation, played out in late June and aired on ESPN a month later. On one of the broadcasts, viewers witnessed a hand that members of the mainstream media quickly dubbed "the worst bad beat you will see in poker" and "worst tournament beat ever."
The hand that caused such a ruckus took place on Level 13 (50,000-100,000 blinds with a 10,000 ante), when there were just three tables left in the tournament. Two of the players still in contention were Connor Drinan, who had qualified via a $25,000 satellite, and college-loan magnate Cary Katz.
The infamous hand began when Katz raised to 225,000 from under the gun position. Drinan, a young and accomplished player, reraised to 580,000 from the big blind. Katz responded with a four-bet to 2 million. Drinan moved all in, and Katz made the call with the bigger stack.
Drinan tabled the Ad Ac, and Katz also turned over pocket aces with the As Ah. The two players would chop the pot 95.65 percent of the time, and the only way one of them could win outright would be if the board "four-flushed," meaning four cards of the same suit ran out.
The 2d Kh 5h flop gave Katz a freeroll to the hearts, and wouldn't you know it, the 4h on the turn suddenly made it a very real possibility.
"I feel like it might (come)," said Antonio Esfandiari, the winner of the inaugural Big One for One Drop. Katz joked that he had some of that "Esfandiari luck," and then the dealer quietly burned and put out the 2h, which completed the flush and sent shock waves through the crowd.
Drinan, the unfortunate victim, was understandably speechless. A day later, Katz would finish in eighth place, good for just over $1.3 million. Daniel Colman won the tournament and walked away with more than $15.3 million.
Whether or not this stunning hand was the worst beat in poker history is debatable, but what happened to Drinan was unquestionably nightmarish.
"Connor Drinan just became the answer to a wicked poker trivia question," ESPN commentator Lon McEachern said at the conclusion of the hand. "That is brutal. That might be the worst beat in the history of tournament poker."
For two players to be dealt pocket aces is exceedingly rare, and to have such a hand end in anything but a chop is also extremely rare. To have this combination of rarities occur in a tournament with the world's biggest buy-in . . . well, it certainly made for a memorable moment.