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World Series of Poker (WSOP)

History of the World Series of Poker (WSOP)

The World Series of Poker is the world's biggest and most famous poker tournament series, attracting players from all over the world, with its wide variety of buy-ins and poker variants. The main event now attracts more than 6,000 players hoping to win the huge first prize and a place in the history books.

The World Series of Poker was founded in 1970, when Benny Binion (Owner of the Binion's Horseshoe Casino in Las Vegas) invited the seven most famous poker players at the time to play a winner-takes-all tournament. The tournament was nothing like it is today; having a pre-set start and end time and the winner was found by voting, not by beating the competitors. The tournament was actually a series of different cash games, including five card stud, seven card stud, razz and deuce to seven low ball draw. After being voted for by the six other players, Johnny Moss was awarded as the first winner of the World Series of Poker ever and received a silver cup as his trophy.

From 1971 the format was changed to freeze-out tournaments and there were a total of five events. The series consisted of four preliminary events with a $1,000 buy-in and the main event having a $5,000 buy-in. The 1971 event and its new format became the basis of all future WSOP's, creating the first real tournament series the world had seen.

In 1972 the main event as we know it today, was created. The main event had a buy-in of $10,000 and the variant played was Texas Hold'em, but unlike today were several thousand players play the event, only 12 players registered for the 1972 main event.

It was not until 1976 that the famous WSOP winner bracelet was introduced, giving players of all the different events a bracelet for their achievement. However players winning events prior to 1976 were later awarded a bracelet for their winnings as well.

Most poker players have heard of the term "A chip and a chair", which refers to that it is possible to win any poker game as long as you are still in it. Despite it not happening very often, it actually happened in the WSOP main event in 1982, where Jack Straus though he had busted out of the tournament, but was left with 500 in chips. Jack turned those 500 chips into winning the main event and $520,000, making the first notable "a chip and a chair" win recorded in history.

 In 1973 the first broadcast of the WSOP took place, when Jimmy Snyder made a special program about the event. The WSOP was not regularly broadcasted until 1987, where it has been broadcasted every year ever since. The first broadcasts featured footage from the tournaments being played, but had no hole card cameras or similar, so the viewer didn't get too see much of actual poker being played. The hole card camera was introduced on the 2002 main event final table coverage, making it possible for the viewers to see what cards the players were playing and the show became significantly more interesting to watch.

Because of the viewer success of the final table coverage, a feature table was introduced from 2003. The feature table consisted of players (usually with some well known pro's) that showed all the hands they were dealt, making it possible to follow all the action as it was developing on the table. Ever since the broadcasting of the WSOP has increased every year, now streaming the final table of the Main Event and many other events, with a one hour delay.

With the increased TV coverage, more and more viewers were watching the WSOP and could see a amateur player winning the WSOP main event in 2003. Chris Moneymaker had qualified to the main event via a $39 satellite on Pokerstars and later on won the event. He became the first player to ever win a main event after qualifying via a satellite and he revolutionized poker with his win. Chris won an astonishing $2.5 million for his win and viewers all over the world were amazed. This created a huge hype all over the world and made poker an extremely popular hobby for many people, wanting to copy what Chris Moneymaker had done. Creating a huge boom in online poker as well as live, Chris Moneymaker and WSOP is to thank for this, being great ambassadors for poker.

The WSOP was owned and hosted by Binion's Horseshoe Casino in Las Vegas, until 2004 where Harrah's Entertainment bought the famous casino. With the purchase of Binion's Horseshoe, Harrah's obtained the rights to the World Series of Poker brand and moved the WSOP events from Binion's to their own casino the Rio, just off the strip in Las Vegas. To show respect to the Binion's Horseshoe Casino for their work in creating the event, the last two days of the main event final table in 2005 were hosted in Binion's Horseshoe, which would also be the last time the WSOP would be hosted there.

In 2008 WSOP made the decision to move the final table of the main event to November, to build up excitement and increase the amount of TV viewers watching. The final table and its participants were named "The November Nine" and it has become tradition ever since, except from in 2012 where the US Presidential elections forced WSOP to host it in October instead.   

In 2010 Harrah's Entertainment was renamed to Caesars Entertainment Corporation and the company continued to run the WSOP.

The World Series of Poker Main Event is now seen as the most prestigious poker tournament in the world, due to the extensive media coverage, the huge field it presents every year, the $10,000 buy-in and its multimillion dollar first prize. The winner of the main event will not only be world famous because of his amazing win, but will also receive sponsoring contracts, ambassador contracts and many other things. Combining all of these things had made the WSOP Main Event the tournament that all players in the world dreams about winning.

WSOP Events

Since 1971 the WSOP has hosted multiple events, to provide tournaments with all the different variants of poker, different formats and small to big buy-ins. In 1971 there were a total of five events taking place, with four side-events and the main event. Since then, the WSOP has continued to grow massively every year, culminating in 2013 with the highest overall attendance, number of events and total prize pool in the history of the WSOP. In the 2013 WSOP, players from a 106 different nations took part, having a total of 79,471 entries and a combined prize pool of $197,041,468 spread over 62 events.

In 2012 the WSOP launched a charity tournament for the One Drop Organization, with the biggest buy-in of the entire series. The tournament had a buy-in of $1,000,000 and 48 seats in total were available. The tournament was sold out, creating a $18.4 million first prize that Antonio Esfandiari won. WSOP decided to change the rake from their usual 10% to 11.1%, giving $111,111 to charity for each seat sold to the tournament. In total the tournament raised $5.44 million to the charity with a extra donation of $111,111 from the CEO of Caesar's Entertainment who were not eligible to play the tournament due to his role in the company. Guy Laliberté finished 5th in "The Big One" and won $1,834,666 which he all donated to the charity organization.

The One Drop Foundation is an initiative by the Cirque Du Soleil owner Guy Laliberté, whose mission is fight poverty all over the world and ensure that everybody has access to fresh water.

WSOP Records

There are many notable records that have been set in the WSOP events; we have collected the biggest achievements throughout the years, which you can read below.

Most Bracelets won: Phil Helmuth is the player who has won most bracelets overall in the WSOP events, with 13 bracelets added to his collection.

Multiple Main Event Wins: several players have won the Main Event more than one time, however common for them all is that they won it when there was not a big attendance at the events. Stu Ungar and Johnny Moss has both won the main event three times which is most of all (However Johnny won the first main event by vote and in a different format) and Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan has each won the event two times, both of them consecutively. Due to the high attendance at the main event these days, it is highly unlikely that a player will win the event more than once.

Most Cashes: With more than 60 events now running at the WSOP, there are many players that cashes several times during the tournament series. However it will take a lot of tournament cashes to reach Phil Helmuth, who has cashed 99 times in total in WSOP events. Phil is known to be a special character at the poker tables, claiming he is one of the best players in the world. This is with good reason if you look at his cashing history.

Youngest Winner of the Main Event: To play any of the WSOP events, players have to be at least 21 years of age, due to the law in Nevada. With this kind of age restriction, it is even more impressive when young guys win the main event. The youngest winner of the WSOP main event is Joe Cada, who was only 21 years and 357 days old, when he beat 6,493 other players and won $8,574,649.

Oldest Winner of the Main Event: Just like it is impressive when a young guy wins the main event, it is also impressive when a old guy wins it. Johnny Moss won his third and last main event in 1974 in the age of 66 years and 358 days. There is no doubt it was easier to win back then, due to the small attendance, but nonetheless an impressive win.

Oldest Player in the Main Event: The oldest player to participate in the WSOP main event was Jack Ury, who participated in the 2010 main event in the age of 97. Jack became famous in the main event of 2009, when TV coverage captured him slowrolling Steven Friedlander saying "You're in trouble" . You can see the funny clip right here:

Jack unfortunately passed away in February 2011, only 7 months after he played his last WSOP main event.

Biggest WSOP Main Event Cash: in 2006 the WSOP Main Event had its biggest attendance ever, with 8,773 players registered. This created the biggest prize pool the event had ever seen and awarded the lucky winner Jamie Gold with a whopping $12,000,000 first prize for his efforts.

WSOP player of the year

Every year since 2004, the WSOP has given a "Player of the year" award to the player who accumulated most points through the series. In 2011 the award began to include results from the World Series of Poker Europe and in 2013 the World Series of Poker Asia Pacific was included in the ranking as well.

Below you can see the winners of the "Player of the year" award, since it was created in 2004:




Daniel Negreanu


Allen Cunningham


Jeff Madsen


Tom Schneider


Eric Lindgren


Jeff Lisandro


Frank Kassela


Ben Lamb


Greg Merson


Main Event Attendance

These days the main event easily gets an attendance of over 6,000 players that has either qualified or paid $10,000 to play. But it has not always been this way, as the main event attendance didn't hit more than 100 players until 1982. From 1982 until 2003 the event became more and more popular each year, going from a attendance of 104 to 839 players. After Chris Moneymaker won the main event in 2003, the hype around poker made the main event explode in attendance and in 2004, 2,576 players attended the tournament, tripling the attendance from the year before.

In 2005, the main event climbed once again and had 5,619 players attending the event, having twice the attendance from the year before and seven times the attendance of 2003. In 2006 the biggest main event attendance so far took place, with an amazing 8,773 players registered and playing the event.

From 2004 until 2013, the average attendance of the main event has been a total of 6802 players, creating an average prize pool of $68,024,444. This makes the WSOP main event the biggest tournament in the world.

Other WSOP Events

The WSOP takes place every year in the Rio Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas from May to July, with the main event final taking place in November.

To spread the WSOP feeling out to other casino and states, WSOP created the WSOP Circuit Events in 2005 as a "build-up" to the WSOP. The WSOP Circuit consists of a main event and side-events at each destination, with the main event giving a cash prize as well as a ticket to the WSOP main event. With more than 20 stops at different casinos, WSOP Circuit gives players a chance to play poker with the WSOP feeling and win a ticket to their main event for a small price.

In 2007 Harrah's decided to expand the famous brand to Europe, creating the World Series of Poker Europe (WSOPE), to create a similar tournament series as the WSOP but in a European feels. Harrah's had prior to the launch of WSOPE purchased three London casinos, ensuring that the events would take place in their own casinos. The tournament series quickly became a success and is being held every year in October.

By 2010 the WSOP had arrived in Africa, creating the World Series of Poker Africa (WSOPA). The WSOPA takes place in February at the Emerald Resort and Casino near Johannesburg in South Africa and has six different events. Unlike when you win a WSOP, winners of the tournaments are not awarded with a bracelet, but a ring instead.

 The latest WSOP tournament series taking place outside of America is the World Series of Poker Asia Pacific (WSOP APAC), which took place in April at the Crown Casino in Melbourne Australia for the first time in 2013. The WSOP APAC had a total of five bracelet events and a Highroller and Caesar Cup event that was not awarded bracelets for.