The Big One For One Drop Raised $3.8m But it Could Have Been More

The Big One For One Drop Raised $3.8m But it Could Have Been More

After the One Drop Foundation and the World Series of Poker announce the numbers raised for charity during the 2016 Big One For One Drop, Lee Davy, suggests they could have raised a lot more.

When the World Series of Poker (WSOP) announced plans to host a $1m buy-in event back in 2012 the part about charity was lost upon me. I didn’t care about the 11.11% charitable donation. I didn’t care about the lives it would save. All I cared about was the $1m price tag and that someone would walk away with close to $20m in cash.

The Big One For One Drop Raised $3.8m But it Could Have Been MoreMy priorities were severely misaligned, and I take no solace in the fact that after this year’s One Drop I realise it can happen to anyone.

The WSOP has released the official numbers raised for charity during the 2016 One Drop in Monte Carlo and once again they are huge. The Monte Carlo event alone raised $3,805,000 for the One Drop Foundation. Combine that with the $1,206,478 raised in the summer and you have a combined 2016 figure of $5,011,478. You will be hard pressed to find another sport anywhere in the world that can raise that kind of money for charity.

But it could have been so much more.

The One Drop Organisers Could Have Raised More

In 2007, investors Holden Karnofsky and Elie Hassenfeld decided to give back to the world but found that the information on the cost-effectiveness of the charities that they looked into was scant if at all present.

There was a hole in the market, a critical one, and both Karnofsky and Hassenfeld filled it with a non-profit organisation designed to analyse the cost-effectiveness of charities.

Presently, the top rated charity on Givewell is The Against Malaria Foundation (AMF), a non-profit created to prevent and reduce the rate of infant mortality due to malaria in Africa. The AMF founders believe that for every $3,500 you donate, you save a child’s life. I like metrics like that. It makes things seem real, and that’s important when the person you are helping is faceless, nameless, and lives on the other side of the world.

In 2012, The One Drop allowed 48 players to enter, raising $5.33m for the One Drop Foundation (not including Guy Laliberte’s personal $1.83m winnings which he also donated). In 2014, the field reduced to 42 entrants and raised $4.67m for charity.

Earlier this year, the One Drop Founder, Guy Laliberte, decided to make the event an invitational and the professional playing brigade weren’t invited. Rumours of the change circulated saying that some of the players weren’t too keen on the ‘atmosphere’ the experts created due to excessive tanking and prolonged seriousness.

Now let’s imagine the event remained in Las Vegas, was held during the WSOP, and it was open to everyone. Let’s also imagine 36 players entered, taking the same level of attrition that we saw between the first two tournaments. If that had happened, then the players would have raised approx. $4m for charity. Instead, they raised $3.8m – a gap of $200,000.

Imagine the money was going to the AMF instead of the One Drop Foundation. Using the $3,500 per life saved metric the decision to limit the number of entries could have resulted in the failure to save the lives of 57 children.

Let’s Get Back to What This is All About – Saving Lives

The press release issued jointly by the WSOP and the One Drop Foundation stated:

One DropTM, one of the world’s leading organisations dedicated to sustainable access to safe water, along with Group Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer and Caesars Interactive Entertainment joined forces at the Casino Monte Carlo in Monaco to put on a five-day fun-filled extravaganza featuring poker, performances and most importantly, philanthropy.”

Only this is factually incorrect.

If philanthropy were the most significant value, then the event would have been designed to attract more players, raise more money, and save more lives.

As far as I can tell, the only reason to move the event to Monte Carlo, and ban professional players, would have been because the mega rich non-professionals wouldn’t have competed, otherwise. But when I see a line-up that includes the likes of Andrew Pantling, James Bord and Tony Bloom I have to doubt that’s a factor.

Six years ago I was wrong.

The $18m first prize shouldn’t have been my priority. I should have been interested in the many lives the money raised for charity would have saved.

We all make mistakes; the most important thing is we learn from them, tweak our plan, and then take further action. Let’s hope the One Drop Foundation and the WSOP are prepared to make those changes.