It’s 2008 and Guy Laliberté finishes up another difficult session at the online tables.
Having spent 2 years playing online for high stakes, his losses have almost reached the $25M mark.
He has become the biggest looser in online poker’s history. The Canadian founder of the world famous Cirque Du Soleil is passionate about poker though, and his experiences haven’t been purely negative.
He finished 4th for almost $700,000 in a World Poker Tour, but his online path has always been a painful one. His successes as a business man allow him to play with a near-limitless bankroll. He helps drive high stakes action on Full Tilt and relishes the opportunity to challenge the best players, many which he knows personally since his circus performs in Vegas allowing him to play live games too.
Laliberte plays online against players like Phil Ivey, Patrick Antonius, Tom Dwan, Phil Galfond, David Benyamine and brothers Di and Hac Dang.
Sometimes when players are outclassed, illusions can be created if they run above expectancy for a while. Laliberté never had such false encouragement – he drops millions at a swift and steady rate.
In an attempt to fly under the radar a little, he creates several different accounts, but in the end, his losses aren’t slowed by the switching of identities.
Best estimates by observers attribute 5 accounts to him: patatino between 2007 and 2008. This account has losses of 5.92 million.
Noataima, also between 2007 and 2008 has recorded losses of 7.07 million. Bleachbum from 2008 is also said to be one of Laliberté’s. This account is down by 1.01 million. Elmariachimacho between 2008 and 2009 lost 4.16 million and is also said to be Laliberté. Finally, lady marmalade in 2008, which has losses of 6.63 million.
Guy Laliberté has never officially confirmed all of these, if estimates are true, then he has lost almost 25 million dollars online. It would also make him the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th biggest loser of the year for 2008.
Young guns such as Phil Galfond and Tom Dwan saw their careers strengthened massively by the cash Laliberté injected into the online ecosystem. To most people, the disaster would be easy to forsee when a billionaire consistently sits against some of the most talented players in the world, but Laliberté sees things differently.
When talking to Canadian newspaper Le Journal De Montreal he simply said “I got cheated”.
He said that although he often played against people he knew personally, he didn’t know that they were playing with Full Tilt’s generous financial backing. Mismanagement of Full Tilt during those times allowed pros to negotiate huge lines of credit and when Full Tilt collapsed after Black Friday, players like Phil Ivey, David Benyamine, Erick Lindgren, Barry Greenstein, and Mike Matusow owed collectively, 18 million dollars to the company.
They were playing almost without any personal risk in the games against Laliberte, who described his online experience as “I bend over, and I give everyone the Vaseline”.
He feels that he got scammed, but in truth, it’s hard to know if the extensive loans of Full Tilt affected the fairness of the games he was involved in.
Guy Laliberte says that he stopped online poker completely after Black Friday, but he never lost his passion for the game. In 2012 he was the mind behind the Big One for One Drop tournament. This 1 million dollar buy in event raised money for his One Drop foundation and its opening year saw the largest poker prizepool ever. Laliberte finished 5th place that year for 1.8 million dollars.
Script and Voice by Craig Bradshaw
Video by Bruno Thienard