Guy Laliberte

When it comes to riches and poker, there are few people who can even come close to Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte.

When it comes to riches and poker, there are few people who can even come close to Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte, although he is still tagged by many in the poker world as the man who gave away a chunk of his wealth by losing heavily in some of the biggest online games in history.

This essentially true but rather unfair assessment of Laliberte’s contribution to poker saw him lose upwards of $20million, James Guill of PokerListings writing:

"If Phil Ivey is the poster child for winning at online poker then Laliberté is the poster child for losing at online poker. In early 2009 Laliberté was rumored to be playing on Full Tilt Poker under five different screen names including noatima, patatino and LadyMarmalade. Those accounts lost a combined $17.1 million on Full Tilt in 2008 alone. Laliberté's slide only got worse. According to estimates his total losses at online poker are around $26 million lifetime. The biggest beneficiaries? Tom "durrrr" Dwan, Phil Galfond and the Dang brothers, Di and Hac."

For a man whose net worth last year (June 2016) was listed as being $1.3BILLION (!) the $26million is a mere drop in the ocean, but he was undoubtedly embarrassed by the tag of ‘biggest whale ever’ at the nosebleed cash games. And it didn’t help that he believed he’d been scammed for a big proportion of the money.

Brian Pempus at CardPlayer.com wrote about Laliberte’s claims, roughly translated from an interview in French:

“The story of Full Tilt is clear: I got scammed, squarely, by people I knew personally who used [unclear] bank, paying no money.” He added that “they printed money to play against me. Basically, Laliberté was claiming that his opponents were playing with virtually unlimited house money and that he was getting free-rolled, and/or that they were pooling their money together to play him and thus sharing their losses or winnings. It’s unclear precisely what he meant, but the speculation has been running rampant."

Aside from this unsavoury part of the online games, Laliberte added an amazing event to poker’s worldwide schedule – the charity-driven One Drop events, which saw players at the 2012 WSOP first pony up their $1million buy-in. The event was won by Antonio ‘The Magician’ Esfandiari who walked off with over $18million – and his water charity, the One Drop Foundation – saw its coffers increased by over $5million.

Laliberte himself took down 5th spot in the event for almost $2million which he naturally gave straight back to the charity. Subsequent events, including smaller buy-in versions, have proved hugely popular and are seen as an excellent way for the world’s biggest and best players to give something back while still having the chance to play for massive prizes.

Laliberte’s only other big cash in live tournament play was an almost $700k payday for 4th spot in the 2007 World Poker Classic event in 2007, but he is still a regular participant in the biggest buy-in high-roller events.

Outside of poker, the philanthropist is heavily involved in many projects, became the first-ever Canadian ‘space tourist’ in 2009, and has apparently also bought and modified an island for use by his family in the event of a global catastrophe.

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