World Series of Poker (WSOP)

World Series of Poker (WSOP)

It is the most recognized, respected, and attended series of tournaments in all of poker, and has been since its inception. It is the victory - and the bracelet that accompanies it - that every poker player wants on his or her resume. And after hosting its 39th year of poker tournaments, the World Series of Poker continues to thrive.

It began in 1969 when Tom Moor and Vic Vickrey went to Reno for the Texas Gamblers Reunion, where they joined others like Doyle Brunson, “Amarillo Slim” Preston, Johnny Moss, Puggy Pearson, Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder, and Benny Binion. The next year, the first World Series of Poker was held as a freeze-out tournament among seven players who paid $5K to enter. Moss took the title, followed by Preston in 1972. By 1973, the WSOP had grown to include four events - seven-card stud, razz, deuce-to-seven draw, and no-limit hold’em - and CBS Sports had taken an interest and filmed it for television. What started as a friendly game between friends turned into a phenomenon that began attracting the attention of newcomers, and no one could have predicted the growth that would follow.

By the early 1980’s, the WSOP at the Horseshoe Casino in Las Vegas had expanded to more than ten events per year and included a ladies-only event. The main event was established to have a $10K buy-in, and final payouts for each year’s series were in the millions of dollars. In addition, 1983 gave birth to the satellite tournament, wherein players could compete in qualifying events for a cheaper price and win a seat into the larger buy-in events, thus bringing more players into the game.

When Benny Binion, the man credited with perpetuating the growth of the WSOP, died in 1989, his son Jack took over as the organizer. Increasing public attention and attendance continued each year throughout the 1990’s, and milestones were reached early in that decade, such as the first non-American - Monsour Matloubi - winning the main event in 1990, and the first million dollar cash prize in the main event in 1991.

All the while, the Horseshoe was finding it difficult to accommodate the growing fields each year, and family squabbles kept some players away between 1999 and 2002. As fear grew that the WSOP would fall away, especially with the emergence of the World Poker Tour, it was the main event victory of Chris Moneymaker in 2003 that turned it around in a way that no one could have predicted. The amateur player and accountant, who won his entry through a small online poker buy-in and qualified his way to the WSOP, beat a field of pros to capture the $2.5 million win. The field doubled the following year when Greg Raymer, another online qualifier, won $5 million for his victory.

More changes took the game in a new direction in 2004, when Binion’s Horseshoe was sold and Harrah’s Entertainment purchased the rights to the World Series of Poker. The WSOP made its move to the Rio All-Suites Casino and Hotel near the Las Vegas Strip, and numbers of tournaments and players increased again. Joe Hachem won the main event in 2005 and an astounding $7.5 million first prize.

By 2006, the first prize of the main event had surpassed the $12 million mark, and though there was a drop in 2007 due to the U.S. passage of the UIGEA and subsequent decrease in online poker qualifiers, the WSOP bounced back with an overall increase in 2008, where 55 bracelet events were held and the first prize of the $10K no-limit hold’em main event was just over $9.1 million. And as the WSOP approaches its 40th anniversary, there are limitless possibilities for the continued growth of the largest poker tournament series in the world.