Last summer ESPN saw moderate success as they televised certain events of the World Series of Poker live instead of on tape delay.  Poker is another one of those niche sports that ESPN has seen success in televising in the past, although the industry has certainly fallen on hard times.  There are some disadvantages to televising a live poker tournament.  For starters, fans can’t see the hole cards, which revolutionized poker on TV by allowing viewers to know what players were holding.  Second, live poker takes much longer than the snazzy editing done by ESPN to condense hours of play into a neat, tidy package.  But, today ESPN is going back to televising a live final table at the 2012 WSOP. 

However, it’s not the “Main Event” that ESPN is televising today.  It also isn’t the Poker Player’s Championship, which many feel is the real test of poker’s best.  Instead, ESPN is televising the richest poker tournament ever.  “The Big One for One Drop” is a new poker tourney organized by Cirque du Soleil CEO Guy Laliberte to raise awareness and money for his One Drop charity, which helps with access to plentiful, safe water supplies for the impovrished.  Yes, the charitable aspect to this tournament is great because the WSOP has agreed to donate their rake (somewhere north of $5 million for this tournament) to Laliberte’s charity.

But, charity aside, the real drama is at the sheer, stupid amount of money that is on the line.  The buy-in for the tournament was a cool $1 million dollars, which was ponied up by 48 top poker pros and businessmen from around the world.  First prize for the event is a record-setting $18 million.  Think about that for a minute.  Some time today, live on ESPN, someone is going to win $18 million in the blink of an eye.  That’s like three-quarters of a season for A-Rod!  In one moment, someone will become the all-time richest player in the history of tournament poker.

Really, it’s a surprise ESPN hasn’t promoted the event more.  The tournament is for a noble cause, and it’s the richest single payout in the history of poker.  The coverage of the final table will start on ESPN2 in the afternoon and move to ESPN at 8pm.  If I were you, I may consider watching, even if you’re not a fan of poker.  Noted poker pro Antonio Esfandiari, poker “brat” Phil Hellmuth, and Laliberte are all at the final table with a chance to win.