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World Series of Poker Origin

The WSOP is the most prestigious set of poker tournaments in the world.


The original World Series of Poker was started by Tom Morehead of the Riverside establishment in Reno and was an invitational event. The set of tournaments the World Series of Poker (WSOP) would evolve to was the brainchild of Las Vegas legend and poker player Benny Binion as well as his two sons Jack and Ted.

The Binion family not only nurtured the WSOP, but poker in general. Prior to the 1970s, poker was not found at many casinos because of the difficulty of keeping cheaters out. Through better security techniques as well as the Binion's tireless promotion through events like the WSOP, poker became a very popular game.

In 1970 the first WSOP at Binion's Horseshoe took place with seven players. The winner, Johnny Moss was elected by his peers as the first World Champion of Poker and received a silver cup as a prize.


From 1971 on, all WSOP events have been freezeout tournaments with cash prizes. In 1973 a new event, five-card stud, was added to the main event of no-limit Texas hold 'em. Since then new events have been added and removed. In 2003 and 2004 there were 36 events at the WSOP, including poker games like Omaha and Razz as well as events only for seniors and women. Event winners get, in addition to their prize money, a golden bracelet.

Players who have won bracelets in a draw poker event, a stud poker game, and a community card poker game are: Mickey Appleman, Bobby Baldwin, Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, Johnny Moss, and Stu Ungar.

The number of participants in the WSOP has grown every year, and in recent years the growth has exploded. In 2000 there were 4780 entrants in the various events, yet in 2004 there were over 13,000. In the main event alone, participants grew from 839 in 2003 to 2576 in 2004. Much of this growth can be attributed to the WSOP and the World Poker Tour being shown on ESPN and the Travel Channel.

Because the prizes increase with more players, more than $25 million was won by players in the 2004 main event, including a $5 million first prize.

In 2004, Harrah's Entertainment purchased Binion's Horseshoe and announced that the 2005 Series will be held at the Harrah's-owned Rio Casino, just off the Las Vegas strip, with the final two days of the main event held downtown at the Horseshoe.

The Main Event

The main event of the WSOP is the $10,000 buy-in no-limit Texas hold 'em tournament. Winners of the event not only get the largest prize of the tournament and golden bracelet, but additionally their picture is placed into the Gallery of Champions at Binion's Horseshoe.

There have been many memorable events during the WSOP, including Jack Straus's 1982 win which was a comeback after having discovered he had one $500 chip left when he thought he was out of the tournament.

A few players have won the WSOP multiple times, including Stu Ungar who won in 1980, 1981, and 1997. Ungar had a drug problem that spanned decades, which makes his 1997 win all the more amazing. Since Ungar had no money to enter the tournament in 1997, his friend and 6 time WSOP bracelet winner Billy Baxter gave him the entrance fee. Ungar split the $1,000,000 prize evenly with Baxter.

Johnny Chan won back to back in 1987 and 1988. Chan finished 2nd in 1989 to the youngest WSOP main event winner of all time Phil Hellmuth. The 1988 event would later be featured in the movie Rounders.

Chris Moneymaker won the main event in 2003 after qualifying through a $39 satellite tournament at the PokerStars online cardroom. Four players at the final table of the 2004 main event qualified through PokerStars as well, including the winner, Greg "Fossilman" Raymer and second place finisher David Williams.

It may be that winning the WSOP makes legends out of people, but some living poker legends have tried unsuccessfully for years to win the main event, including: T. J. Cloutier, Erik Seidel, Barry Greenstein, Men "The Master" Nguyen, and Howard Lederer.

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