– General Information –
Guy Laliberté is a Canadian entertainment mogul, circus performer, and recreational poker player. He was born on September 2nd, 1959.
He’s best known for founding the world-famous circus troupe Cirque du Soleil. Their success propelled Laliberté to immense wealth. Forbes estimates his net worth to be around $1.1 billion.
However, poker fans mostly know him for being the biggest loser in online poker history. He lost over $30 million playing high stakes online cash games on a number of accounts.
Laliberté founded the One Drop charity fund which aims to provide clean drinking water and hygiene products to parts of the world where they’re scarce. One Drop hosted super high buy-in events at the World Series of Poker.
– Key Career Dates –
- 1984: He founds the circus troupe Cirque du Soleil. They later become the most successful circus company in the world.
- 2004: He starts playing super high stakes online cash games. He goes on to lose over $30 million, more than anyone in poker history.
- 2008: He appears on classic poker shows Poker After Dark on NBC and High Stakes Poker on The Game Show Network.
- 2012: He comes in 5th in the $1 million Big One for One Drop high roller for $1.835 million at the WSOP. That is the biggest single live tournament cash of his career to date.
– Guy Laliberté’s Career –
→ Beginnings ←
Laliberté left his home country of Canada to hitchhike around Europe at the age of 18. While traveling, he made his money by playing the accordion. Also, he learnt the craft of fire eating and stilt walking during his time abroad.
When he returned to Canada, he joined a group of circus performers. In 1984, he founded the now mega-successful circus troupe Cirque du Soleil. Part of its original capital came from a government grant which Laliberté helped secure by stilt walking 56 miles from Baie-Saint-Paul to Quebec City for publicity.
Cirque du Soleil now has been seen live by over 100 million people around the world and brings in an estimated $1 billion in annual revenue.
As for poker, he started playing super high stakes online cash games and live tournaments for recreation around 2006.
→ Live Tournaments ←
Laliberté’s Hendon page shows a rather impressive $2.530 million in live tournament winnings.
He racked up that much by cashing in just two events. One at the 2012 World Series of Poker, and one at the 2007 World Poker Tour.
In April 2007, he came in 4th for $696,220 in the $25K World Poker Tour NLHE tournament at the Five Star World Poker Classic at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. 2001 WSOP Main Event champion Carlos Mortensen was the eventual winner at that event.
Please note, however, that there’s most likely a rather trivial reason why Laliberté’s live tournament scoresheet looks a lot better than his online cash game graph. Unlike cash game graphs, lifetime live tournament winnings do not include the losses on buy-ins, only the cashes.
→ World Series Of Poker ←
Laliberté is yet to win his first WSOP gold bracelet. In fact, he’s only cashed in one World Series event.
In 2012, he finished 5th in the $1,000,000 Big One for One Drop high roller for $1.835 million. That is the biggest live tournament score of his career to date.
However, despite that, he had a major impact on the World Series’ history.
See, Laliberté set up the One Drop Foundation in 2007. It’s a charity fund that aims to provide clean drinking water and hygiene products to parts of the world where they’re hard to come by.
It was this charity that was behind the world’s first ever $1 million buy-in poker tournament. It took place at the 2012 World Series of Poker. All the tournament fees that would normally go to the house were donated to the One Drop fund.
Antonio Esfandiari was the one who triumphed at the end and won $18,346,673. For years, he held the record for the most amount of money won in a single poker tournament. He eventually got overtaken by Bryn Kenney in 2019, who won $20.5 million in a similar charity high roller, the Triton Million in London.
The WSOP has put on 3 other $1 million One Drop high rollers since the first one in 2012.
→ Live Cash Games ←
Laliberté played on an episode of Poker After Dark in season 4, airing in July 2008 on NBC. There, his opponents included suck poker greats as Tom Dwan and Phil Hellmuth.
He also played poker in front of the cameras of another classic TV show, High Stakes Poker on The Game Show Network.
In fact, he was involved in two of the biggest pots in the show’s history.
Laliberté got into an $818,100 pot against Doyle Brunson that he ended up losing with a weaker pair of Aces. You can watch this hand with commentary by Doug Polk below.
On season 4 of High Stakes Poker, Laliberté “almost” played a $1.228 million pot against David Benyamine. The Canadian circus mogul had K5 on the flop for two pair, while the Frenchman was holding the nut flush draw. The two got their stacks in for over $1 million, then after the cards were turned over, they agreed to play for “only” $238,900.
→ Online Poker ←
Laliberté is best known in the online poker community for his colossal losses in online super high stakes cash games in the early 2000’s.
The online cash game tracking website estimates he lost a staggering $31 million, playing on six different accounts on two sites, between October 2006 and October 2012.
He mainly played Pot Limit Omaha on $200/$400 stakes or higher – at times even sitting down at the $500/$1,000 tables…
The pace at which Laliberté was losing was just as staggering as the sums lost. On certain accounts he lost more $100 per hand on average.
The first alias he used online was “noataima” on the now defunct poker site Full Tilt. Then, to avoid bumhunting pros, he switched to “patatino” on the same site. He had three other Full Tilt accounts: “lady marmelade”, “elmariachimacho”, and “Esvedra”.
Please note that opening more than one account wasn’t against the terms of service on Full Tilt after 2011.
At last, in March 2011, Laliberté made his way to another online room, PokerStars. There, he played under the screen name “Zypherin” and lost a cool $4.6 million more on super high stakes PLO cash games.
Online poker may have cost Laliberté an awful lot, but he did get one thing out of it: he got to play against the world’s best. Tom “durrrr” Dwan, Phil Ivey, and Phil Galfond were all among his frequent playmates. He even significantly helped their careers, especially Dwan’s, with huge contributions to their bankrolls.
So how does the man feel about his time at the highest stakes online poker tables?
He feels he was cheated. In an interview with the Canadian paper Le Journal de Montreal in May 2014, he had this to say:
“The story of Full Tilt is clear: I let myself be robbed by people I knew personally. They had an unlimited bankroll, they weren’t putting up any money. They were going all-in all the time, when it wasn’t their own money. These players were getting paid to play against me. (…) I was an idiot.”
By that, he was referring to the hourly wage and 100% rakeback deals the Full Tilt sponsored pros got. Some of them also received huge lines of credit from the site that they never paid back.
Laliberté feels all that gave a huge amount of unfair advantage to his opponents over him.