When professional poker player Daniel Colman won the $1 million buy-in Big One for One Drop over a month ago, many in the poker world were somewhat dismayed by his lack of celebration after his win, which earned him $15.3 million. Some also wondered how the non-reaction would play with casual poker fans, and whether it would hurt the game’s image.
The real test came last week, when ESPN aired the final episode of their Big One for One Drop coverage, during which poker fans around the United States had the chance to finally see who would come out on top in a heads-up duel between Colman and poker superstar Daniel Negreanu.
The final hand played out in a fairly normal way. Short-stacked, Negreanu moved all-in preflop with A4, and Colman instantly called (seemingly without even looking at his cards) with KQ. Negreanu was talkative, as usual, while Colman was quieter. Negreanu made two pair on the flop, but the board also gave Colman a straight draw. That came in on the turn, and the river didn’t help “Kid Poker,” giving Colman the victory.
And then, as can be seen in clips from ESPN, there came the reaction that stunned many who watched it for the first time on television. Colman didn’t smile, and could charitably be said to look ambivalent about what had just taken place. Viewers could easily have come to the conclusion that Colman was disappointed to have come out the winner.
Jay Busbee of Yahoo! Sports described the reaction as “funereal.” Ryan Glasspiegel of TheBigLead.com noted that Colman “looked like he was relieved it was over.”
All in all, viewers were likely left confused as to why exactly a man who had just won the second-largest prize in tournament poker history looked so morose. A post-tournament interview didn’t clear up that matter either.
“I think it’s really great, this event, what we were able to raise for charity,” Colman told ESPN. “It went to a pretty worthwhile cause, giving water to parts of the world that just don’t have that.”
That was the only interview that Colman gave that night. But many in the poker community later became aware of exactly how Colman felt after he made a post on the Two Plus Two Forums.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to benefit financially from this game, but I have played it long enough to see the ugly side of this world,” Colman wrote. “I would never in a million years recommend for someone to try and make it as a poker pro.”
Colman also explained that he didn’t want to promote the game of poker or himself, which helps explain why he seemed to shy away from the spotlight after his win.
“It bothers me that people care so much about poker’s well-being,” he wrote. “As poker is a game that has such a net negative effect on the people playing it. Both financially and emotionally.”
As Colman pointed out in his interview, though, the Big One for One Drop did have some undoubtedly positive outcomes. The tournament raised well over $4.6 million for the One Drop charity, which helps provide clean water access around the world.