World Series of Poker

WSOP History

History Of The World Series Of Poker

The popularity of the game of poker has cause the World Series of Poker (WSOP) to become a household name. This event showcases the best of the best poker players, both amateur and professional, from around the globe. Since its meager roots in the 1970’s, this tournament has grown in both size and prestige, bringing even more attention to one of the world’s best-loved card games.

In The Beginning

The first official World Series of Poker was held in the year 1970, at the Horseshoe Casino, which was then owned by Benny Binion. Though many believe that Binion was the mastermind behind this now renowned event, the idea was actually that of Vic Vickrey and Tom Moore. These two men had in the previous year organized a series of high stakes games including poker greats such as Doyle Brunson, Johnny Moss, and Jimmy “the Greek” Snyder. While they declined to repeat the event, Binion capitalized on the idea and the World Series of Poker was born.

In 1970, the format of the WSOP was quite different than it is today, as there was no true tournament involved. Instead, players participated in a number of games over a few days, then voted Johnny Moss as being the “best all-around player” of the series, crowning Moss as the first WSOP champion. The following year, the format switched to a freeze-out tournament, with a buy-in of $5000. Only 7 players participated that year, but the popularity quickly grew. The year 1973 brought huge growth, as the tournament expanded to include four styles of poker play. Also in this year, CBS broadcast the event on television for the first time.

The Eighties and Nineties

The growth of the WSOP continued throughout the 1980s. In 1981, NBC sports began its coverage of the series, giving even more national exposure to poker. More preliminary events were added to the roster, bringing the number of events to 11 in 1982. Another addition of 1982 was that of the Ladies World Series of Poker event and across the events the total prize pool rose to a staggering $2.6 million.

1983 brought the birth of the satellite tournament, inspired by the tournament director, Eric Drache. His idea to hold preliminary events at tournaments throughout the world to draw in the best from every country changed the face of poker tournaments forever. The worldwide attention that was drawn from these early satellites caused expansion that would force the Horseshoe Casino to give up its stake as the solo venue for the event, for a time. Some participants were tabled at nearby casinos, such as the Four Queens and the Golden Nugget. Shortly, the Horseshow expanded, purchasing another adjacent casino and was again the lone host site of the events.

After the passing of Benny Binion, on December 25, 1989, his son Jack took over the casino and handed the reigns of the WSOP to Jack McClelland and Jim Albrecht. At this point the WSOP had developed into a four week long tournament that drew players of both sexes from around the globe. These changes proved to be a smart move, with considerable expansion over the next few years. In 1991, the main event offered its first $1 million prize and drew more than 200 players. By 1996, the number of participants had grown to over 300. In 1997, the event once again outgrew the Horseshoe. Temporary poker rooms were set up in other parts of the casino and even the valet parking areas. There was a stage constructed on Freemont Street, under the brand new canopy of lights, on which the final table was played out for all of Las Vegas to see.

The Poker Explosion

Family troubles caused a rift between the Binions in the late 80’s and early 90’s, which drove Jack from any inclusion in the running of the WSOP. These events cause some of the best-known names to boycott both the tournament and the Horseshoe from 1999 through 2002. These boycotts opened the doors for the World Poker Tour, which momentarily began stealing players away from the WSOP. However, these events actually opened the door for WSOP to come back, bigger and better than ever.

Many thought that the days of the WSOP were numbered after the WPT burst on to the scene, but the beliefs did not last. In 2003, Chris Moneymaker won the WSOP main event. As it was televised on ESPN, millions tuned in to see this seemingly regular guy take it all, sparking a renewed interest in poker and the Series. Out of nowhere, poker players had achieved the status of celebrities. 2004 brought similar success to then-amateur player, Greg Raymer, who won $5 million, doubling the prize of Moneymaker the previous year.

The World Series Of Poker Today

2004 saw the end of an era, as well. The Horseshoe Casino was sold and the rights to the WSOP were purchased by Harrah’s Entertainment Group. Their first order of business was to change the venue of the event to the RIO for 2005. They expanded the space available for the tournaments and the number of players quickly grew to fill the openings. By 2006, the event had become the single richest event of any type, in the world, offering a total prize of $12 million to that year’s main event winner, Jamie Gold.

The World Series of Poker Circuit was also introduced, taking events to casinos throughout the United States. All of this nationwide attention of the most recent years has grabbed the interest of corporate sponsors, who clamor for a chance for a connection to this phenomenal event. In 2007 and again in 2008, the WSOP consisted of 55 total events, each with its own bracelet and bragging rights up for grabs. The future for the World Series of Poker looks bright, with even more growth predicted and expanded events planned for the future. Who would have ever thought the handful of players back in 1969 would have grown to the multi-billion dollar brand that the World Series of Poker has become today.