Where are They Now is a series of an in depth look at all poker players - not just the pros - as they travel through one long game. Some of the players profiled are deceased but not forgotten.
Poker players with a lot of money seem to always be looking for ways to do something they have never done before. Many poker players enjoy getting adrenalin rushes by participating in crazy propositional bets that range from standing in the ocean for hours at a time to running marathons during the summer months of Las Vegas. Others take exotic vacations where they visit remote locations, swim with sharks, and maybe go hang gliding, cliff diving and bungee jumping, looking for a thrill they aren’t able to get at a poker table. Guy Laliberte may have originally started playing poker while looking for some kind of rush away from his extremely successful Cirque du Soleil show, but apparently that wasn’t enough for him either. As we will soon see, some poker players enjoy jumping off things to reach an ultimate high, while others like to get on a rocket and see how high they can fly.
Guy Laliberte was born in Quebec City, Canada on September 2, 1959. His mom worked as a nurse and his dad held an executive position at an aluminum corporation. As a child Laliberte liked entertaining guests of the family by singing and dancing. He also learned to play a variety of instruments, including the harmonica and accordion. By the time he was in high school he knew he wanted to have some kind of career in the performing arts. While in high school Laliberte produced a number of plays and shows, and while he didn’t immediately go into that career after high school, the skills he learned there would help him later on.
Poker wasn’t something Laliberte would spend much time with until many years later, after he had established himself as one of the most successful and popular men in the world of show business. First, Laliberte had to get there, and his start in show business was modest, at best. Right after graduating he traveled to Europe to hitchhike with about $1000 bucks in his hand. He has said in interviews he soon realized that the amount of money he had wouldn’t be enough to do everything he wanted to do in Europe, so he started street performing around popular tourist attractions. In his couple of years of performing in Europe he learned from the best performers by watching them when he wasn’t working. He also learned the art of fire breathing.
When he was 20, he returned home to Quebec City, and got a job at a hydroelectric power plant, thinking he should put performing on the backburner in favor of a “real job.” Fate intervened in the way of a labor union strike, only three days after Laliberte starting work at the plant. Able to gain unemployment assistance, he decided to not seek another “real job” and started working again in the performing arts industry. For the next couple of years Laliberte joined a stilt-walking troupe alongside a man named Daniel Gauthier, who would become his business partner.
At 24 years old, Laliberte took over a struggling show called “Les Echassiers,” around the same time of the 450th anniversary celebration of Jacques Cartier’s discovery of Canada. The show was renamed to “Le Grand Tour du Cirque du Soleil,” later shortened to the name it’s became famous by, “Cirque Du Soleil.” The show combines the way different cultures put on their version of a circus and street performers. “Cirque Du Soleil” the show had modest earnings at first, but by the mid 90’s it was one of the most sought after shows around the world. In the year 2000 Laliberte bought out Gauthier’s percentage of his ownership, and now owns 95 percent of the company. From one show in Canada in the mid 80’s, it has grown to showing in over 271 cities around the world, including its most popular location of Las Vegas. Statistics show that over 9,000 people a night see the show in Las Vegas, which makes up for five percent of the city’s visitors. The popularity of the show has meant huge profits, making Laliberte a billionaire. A recent list estimated his net worth as 2.5 billion dollars, and the 5th richest man in Canada.
With his show in Vegas he spent times at casinos, and began dabbling in poker. Admittedly, the poker professionals would get excited when he sat down at the cash games, but over time he learned to hold his own at these games. His popularity with “Cirque du Soleil” (and his wealth) also has made him a perfect candidate for hit poker shows High Stakes Poker on Game Show Network and Poker After Dark on NBC. Laliberte has also participated in a number of tournaments when his schedule has allowed. His best finish was in April of 2007 when he finished 4th at the $25,000 Buy-in No Limit Hold’em Championship at the World Poker Tour’s Fifth Annual Five Star World Poker Classic. The finish netted him $696,220, amounting to little more than pocket change for Laliberte, but competing with the best in the world such as Scott Fischman and former World Series of Poker Main Event Champion Carlos Mortensen was an invaluable experience. In addition to this final table, Laliberte has two $2,500 satellite wins on his resume.
Laliberte made major news when he boarded a spaceship from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, en route to the International Space Station, for the ticket price of $35 million. Laliberte became only the 7th “tourist” in history to be shot into space, and the third Canadian (the other two astronauts) to be shot into space that year.
The story generated quite a bit of interest on internet forums, predictably. His reasons for doing this are being described as anything from a “publicity stunt,” and others suggest he did it just “because he can.” However, Laliberte’s contributions as a philanthropist would seem to suggest that Laliberte wouldn’t do something “just because he can.” His biggest contribution has been to the One Drop Foundation, a non-profit organization that aims to make sure everyone across the world has clean drinking glasses. Laliberte has contributed one hundred million to the cause. Laliberte was named 2007 Humanitarian of the Year for his efforts with this organization.
Laliberte has five children from two relationships and has been romantically linked to a number of models, including Naomi Campbell.