How Triton Million London Was Born

By Lee Davy

Triton Million Poster

Talal Shakerchi, CEO of Meditor Capital Management, and serious poker aficionado arrives at the King’s Lounge, in the Pavilion at the Rio during the 50th Anniversary of the World Series of Poker (WSOP). He’s here to do some promotional work for Triton Million London: A Helping Hand For Charity. 

‘Raidalot,’ as he’s known in online poker circles, sits in a chair facing the camera. A red WSOP hoodie drowns his thin frame; spectacles sit snugly on his beak, and he wears a playful yet pensive look on his face. 

A member of the production team claps, and beneath the incessant cricket-like riffle of thousands of poker chips, Shakerchi answers a question on how he has been so successful in life?

“Life is a lot like poker,” says Shakerchi, “You can prepare, train and upskill, but ultimately luck is going to be the predominant factor in your success.”

Luck and skill are the Yin and Yang of poker, and here sits Shakerchi confirming that the Yin runs straight through the heart of the highest echelons of the game – the 1%ers.

Warren Buffet once said, “If you’re the luckiest 1% of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99%.”

One wonders if that’s how the Triton Million concept began.

Triton Million London: Genesis

October 2018, and Leon Tsoukernik and his team at the King’s Resort in Rozvadov are hosting the World Series of Poker Europe (WSOPE). A collection of the finest components of the high roller stratum are in town to compete in a €25,500 High Roller and two €100,000 Super High Rollers. 

Richard Yong and Paul Phua

Amongst them are Triton Poker’s co-founders Richard Yong and Paul Phua, and Dusk till Dawn (DTD) Poker and Casino owner, Rob Yong. Over dinner, the conversation inevitably turns to poker. The Triton owners ask Yong if he thinks it’s feasible to run a big charity event, similar to the One Drop. Yong nods his head, and the germination process begins.

The trio next meets in Jeju, 2018, during the Triton Poker Series, and discuss buy-ins, structure, location and potential beneficiaries. 

“At this time we had a concept, but no more,” says Triton co-founder, Paul Phua. “We decided to let the ideas stew, but the excitement was palpable. I knew we were on the verge of creating something special.”

Triton Million London: The Birth

Eight months pass before the two Yongs, and Phua meet at the Maestral Resort and Casino in Montenegro during the Triton Poker Super High Roller Series. 

“We knew that it was important to at least match the previous buy-ins of the One Drop events, so we quickly agreed that the buy-in would be $1m,” said Phua. “Then, we began discussing locations. The group considered Montenegro and Manila, but I was always insistent that London would be the ideal venue. It’s a world-class environment, with an incredible infrastructure. 

“It was important to make the venue accessible from all parts of the world, and many Asian High Rollers have homes and children based in the UK. I also know from playing with them that the American high rollers love London. Choosing London also meant the creation of the biggest buy-in event ever – a £1,050,000 buy-in, with £50,000 from each buy-in donated to charity. At this point, the group felt that the event should be open to all players, but there was something about this decision that kept me awake that night.”

Creating the biggest buy-in poker tournament the world has ever seen needs input from the players, and when it comes to high stakes action, there is nobody more experienced than Andrew Robl. 

“I woke up the next morning, and knew that we had to try something different,” said Phua. “I called the group together, and this time invited Andrew Robl, and I walked them through the idea of the invitation format with the field split 50/50 between pros and non-pros.

“Andrew named a few American-based pros and non-pros he felt confident would play, and I did the same with the Asian players. A rough headcount threw up 22 players, and Triton Million London was born.”

The Format 

“We began sending invites to non-pros, and as time went on, we believed that we could get 30-players. We dissected previous big buy-in events and noted what had worked well, and picked out areas we felt we could improve. One area I was sure we could improve was the format for the non-pros. The non-pros needed to feel as comfortable and interested as possible. So, I suggested we could segregate the pros from the non-pros on Day 1, and also place severe restrictions on players using clothing to hide the neck and face. It was also a unanimous decision to make the wearing of a suit and tie mandatory for the final table. One of the core challenges we had was determining the status of borderline cases of applicants for the non-pros. We know we cannot please everyone, but we are confident of being fair and not for personal interests.”

Being a Part of History

Triton Million London: a Helping Hand for Charity takes place over three days: Aug 1 -3 at London’s Hilton on Park Lane. So far, 31 players have paid a non-refundable £50,000 deposit. £1,550,000 has already been raised for charities such as The One Drop Foundation, Raising for Effective Giving (REG) and The Caring For Children Foundation, and the numbers keep rising.

Triton Million Beneficiaries

Triton Million’s fathers, Phua and Richard and Rob Yong will compete alongside the likes of Bobby Baldwin, Talal Shakerchi and Rick Salomon. From the professional side three-time, Triton Poker Champions Jason Koon and Mikita Badziakouski will compete as does the hottest player in the world, right now, Bryn Kenney.

With Ali Nejad, Nick Schulman, Lex Veldhuis, Randy Lew, Jeff Gross, Marle Cordeiro, Liv Boeree and Pete Latham on the broadcast team, Triton Million will go down as one of the most spectacular broadcasts in history. 

Triton Million Commentators

How does it feel to be an integral part of the genesis of such an incredibly complex and challenging project? 

“I feel honoured in so many ways,” says Phua. “I am honoured to have Rob’s {Yong} and partypoker’s support, and also that Rob is playing in the event. I am also honoured to be a part of a great Triton team who all want to make this tournament a smooth yet exciting ride.

“On a personal level, for once, how I perform on the table will have to take a back seat. I already feel a great sense of pride and satisfaction in what we have done. If we can get 40 players or more, which I believe is realistic at this point, then it would be truly incredible.

“I want the players to have a wonderful and enjoyable experience. Pros and non-pros gambling in the highest stakes in the world, in a fair, grand and fun environment. If we can raise £2.5m for charity, and the media receives the event well, I will feel like I have done a good job not just for Triton, but for poker and society as a whole. I love this game. I love helping people who are less fortunate than I am. I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of history.”

There’s that word again. 


Who is going to be the luckiest come August 3?