|ESPN.com: Poker||[Print without images]|
ESPN has learned that barring a last-minute change of heart, banker Andy Beal, whose participation in the World Series of Poker's Big One for One Drop was previously widely reported, has opted to forego the event. While One Drop elected not to comment due to a corporate philosophy towards event registration that says nothing is official until tournament time, WSOP officials confirmed Beal's present state of omission, saying nothing is final.
Beal's name is a buzz word in the industry because of his fabled high-stakes, heads-up match against the best players in the world depicted in Michael Craig's book, 'The Professor, the Banker and the Suicide King.' Beal, represented in the book as "The Banker," tried to raise the stakes to grotesque levels whose gravity was intended to throw the pros off their games. He had some success, but ultimately failed because of a refusal to leave the table whilst up.
Away from poker, and more relevant to the majority of the population, Beal has made a name for himself in the financial world and is one of the wealthiest men in America.
Why is this happening?
This is speculation, but Beal is a banker who was looking at the prospect of going on national television and throwing around money like confetti during a down economical period for his country. It reads a lot like rubbing his success in people's faces and from a personal or public relations standpoint, I could see why he wouldn't want to take that step. Beal's previous support for the event suggests support for the charity, considering how seldom he makes public poker appearance. It'll be interesting to see if he'll show some financial support towards the One Drop cause in the days and weeks to come.
Why will some readers be disappointed?
The reason Andy Beal is so mystifying on a poker level is because he did what we'd all love to do. He took the game we love, shaped it to his liking and took on the best poker players in the world, even tasting victory before finally meeting defeat. It's a great story as poker and romance go, and it's one that many people wished included more chapters. This $1 million buy-in event felt to some like that next chapter.
What does it mean?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
The reality is that this event wasn't going to be that next chapter. Yes, Beal would have been repeating the high-stakes-against-high-class-pros thing he did a decade ago, but he wouldn't have been able to do it with the same focus or in the same environment. There are 15 other Andy Beal's in this tournament, and granted none of them come with his history with the game, that storyline will be told with some Beal-esque character.
Beal's name has already contributed everything it could to The Big One for One Drop. It added a nice touch of PR fuel via spectator speculation, but The Big One is far bigger than any of its competitors. If Beal's, or Phil Hellmuth's, or Phil Ivey's, or any other player's name is omitted from the final roster of players, it won't change that this is a $1,000,000 buy-in event whose winner will officially win more money than anyone has ever won in one tournament in poker history. Even if my mother took Beal's spot, that would still be a newsworthy headline that transcends the mere 24-hour news cycle.
It would be nice if the sentiment behind the One Drop corporate policy had teeth here. If Beal does indeed make a last-second decision to play, he'd be a welcome addition, but really he's just one player who would more likely than not, go out unceremoniously. The Big One will go down in history as the biggest buy-in tournament in history and Beal presence won't affect that status one way or another.