Minnesota poker players get chance to sweat the Big One

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John Morgan, a Minnesota businessman and Canterbury Park shareholder, lived a dream of most poker players when he played in the Big One for One Drop at this year’s World Series of Poker. Morgan had several reasons for deciding to play in the event with the $1 million buy-in.

“It’s a bucket-list kind of thing to do. And it’s big. It’s bigger than life actually,” he said. “The One Drop charity is an outstanding charitable idea. I don’t think you can get your money in any better if you are just an average player, putting your money in against just 48 other players. And, of course, I could afford the million dollars.”

Since most players can’t afford the million-dollar buy-in, Canterbury Park and Morgan decided to give local players a way sweat the event, by hosting the Ultimate Overlay tournament Oct. 1-4 (three Day 1s and a Day 2). Morgan said 10 percent of his winnings from the Big One for One Drop would be added to the prize pool. He also donated $100K and a watch for the prize pool. With a $130 buy-in and the field capped at 750, this guaranteed an overlay even when Morgan busted out of the Big One without cashing. In addition, $75K of the money collected from the players will be donated to various charities.

“It was spectacular. I got to know Bobby Baldwin really well. (He is a) great guy. I got to know Phil Ruffin. Phil Galfond is a fabulous guy.”

Morgan was also involved in one of the most memorable hands in World Series of Poker history with Russian player Mikhail Smirnov, who held {8-Hearts}{8-Diamonds} and the flop was {j-Spades}{8-Clubs}{7-Spades}. Smirnov bet and Morgan called. The turn brought the {8-Spades}. Smirnov bet again and Morgan called. A {k-Spades} came on the river. Smirnov bet 700K and Morgan shoved for 3.4 million. Smirnov folded his quads face-up. The only hand that could have beaten him was {10-Spades}{9-Spades} for the straight flush. Morgan has decided not to divulge the contents of his hand, making it one of the biggest poker mysteries in history.

“(The hand) was the No. 1 trended item on Twitter,” Morgan said. “It’s incredible. (Baldwin) said this is the most memorable hand in the history of the World Series.”
Why the silence?

“You can take both ends of this,” he said. “One is I don’t want to make him look bad if he laid down a huge hand. And I didn’t want to make him confident if it was a smart lay down, either. So I didn’t want to tell anybody. I just stepped back and then people started coming around. Then it got really exciting and I was gaining more from not telling people than telling people. So it got to having a life of its own.”

Morgan has told only one person the true contents of the hand. When asked if he would ever let the world know what he held he said, “I don’t know. Somebody suggested I do something for charity and then tell exactly what happened.”

— John Somsky is the Ante Up Ambassador for Minnesota. You can email him at john.somsky@gmail.com.