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History of the WSOP

 History of World Series of Poker

The WSOP – World Series of Poker – is an annual festival of many tournaments that take place in the summer in Las Vegas.

It is considered the holy grail of poker tournaments by many top players that give away life-changing sums of money every year.

The WSOP Main Event costs $10,000 to enter, and in 2018 the winner received $8,800,000 – one of the largest prizes in history.

Many online poker sites run satellites to one of the 50+ tournaments available which typically includes flights and accommodation for two as well as entry to at least one tournament.



A Poker World Series was first introduced back in 1969. It was a US only event known as the Texas Gambling Reunion.

The first event was by invite only which took place in Reno.

The first open event was the following year, through an idea initially thought up and run by Benny Binion, a poker player, and casino owner.

The first event was just a number of cash games across several formats that included Deuce to Seven Low-ball, Five-card Stud, Seven-card Stud, Razz and Texas Hold’em.

As these were cash games, the winner got voted for by other players and it was Johnny Moss who won a silver cup.

The following year the format as the Main Event became a Texas Hold’em Freezeout tournament, which has remained the same to this day.

Harrah’s Entertainment – which is now known as Caesars Entertainment – purchased Binions Horseshoe back in 2004 and with it the rights to the WSOP.

The location changed to their own Rio hotel & casino just off the main strip in Las Vegas.

They set about making the WSOP what it is today – the first Main Event back in 1970 had seven entrants, in 2018 this was a slightly healthier 7,874. Prize money in 1970 was zero with just a silver cup going to the winner, the following year six entrants gave the winner a prize of $30,000. In 2018, American John Cynn walked away with $8.8m!

WSOP Format

The World Series of Poker has grown in entries and events most years since.

Up until 1975, a cash prize was all the winner got, but in 1976 the iconic bracelet is also given to the winner of each event, and poker players often think a player hasn’t made it until they own at least one of these.

After its launch, the tournament steadily grew through the 1970s with a total of 52 players in 1982.

Then came the introduction of satellites to the main event meaning the Main Event and its $10,000 buy-in became much more accessible to the everyday player.

1987 saw more than 2,100 players take part in the overall event with 152 entering the Main Event itself.

With the advent of online poker came more and more opportunities for players from all over the world to qualify and as a result of this, online satellites were the most significant reason that saw Main Event numbers go from 839 in 2003 to 2,576 in 2004 and 5,619 in 2005.

It peaked at 8,773 in 2006 around the same time a new law passed in the United States making online poker illegal.

The numbers reduced as a result and have swung between 6,000 and 8,000 since although the second highest was in 2018 with 7,874 entries.

In 2012, the introduction of The Big One for One Drop saw the first poker tournament with an entry fee of $1m. 11% of this amount went to charity, and it attracted many true high-rollers.

Winners and Entrants

YearCountryWinnerEntrantsPrize Money
1970United StatesJohnny Moss7N/A
1971United StatesJohnny Moss6$30.000
1972United StatesThomas Preston Jr8$80.000
1973United StatesWalter Pearson13$130.000
1974United StatesJohnny Moss16$160.000
1975United StatesBrian Roberts21$210.000
1976United StatesDoyle Brunson22$220.000
1977United StatesDoyle Brunson34$340.000
1978United StatesBobby Baldwin42$210.000
1979United StatesHal Fowler54$270.000
1980United StatesStu Ungar73$385.000
1981United StatesStu Ungar75$375.000
1982United StatesJack Straus104$520.000
1983United StatesTom McEvoy108$540.000
1984United StatesJack Keller132$660.000
1985United StatesBill Smith140$700.000
1986United StatesBerry Johnston141$570.000
1987United StatesJohnny Chan152$625.000
1988United StatesJohnny Chan167$700.000
1989United StatesPhil Hellmuth178$755.000
1990IranMansour Matloubi194$895.000
1991United StatesBrad Daugherty215$1.000.000
1992IranHamid Dastmalchi201$1.000.000
1993United StatesJim Bechtel220$1.000.000
1994United StatesRuss Hamilton268$1.000.000
1995United StatesDan Harrington273$1.000.000
1996United StatesHuck Seed295$1.000.000
1997United StatesStu Ungar312$1.000.000
1998United StatesScotty Nguyen350$1.000.000
1999Republic of IrelandNoel Furlong393$1.000.000
2000United StatesChris Ferguson512$1.500.000
2001EcuadorJuan Carlos Mortensen613$1.500.000
2002United StatesRobert Varkonyi631$2.000.000
2003United StatesChris Moneymaker839$2.500.000
2004United StatesGreg Raymer2,576$5.000.000
2005AustraliaJoe Hachem5,619$7.500.000
2006United StatesJamie Gold8,773$12.000.000
2007United StatesJerry Yang6,358$8.250.000
2008DenmarkPeter Eastgate6,844$9.152.416
2009United StatesJoe Cada6,494$8.547.042
2010CanadaJonathan Duhamel7,319$8.944.310
2011GermanyPius Heinz6,865$8.715.638
2012United StatesGreg Merson6,598$8.531.853
2013United StatesRyan Riess6,352$8.361.570
2014SwedenMartin Jacobson6,683$10.000.000
2015United StatesJoe McKeehen6,420$7.683.346
2016United StatesQui Nguyen6,737$8.005.310
2017United StatesScott Blumstein7,221$8.150.000
2018United StatesJohn Cynn7,874$8.800.000


Most Bracelets

Although the Main Event is the tournament everyone wants to win, there are many smaller tournaments throughout the WSOP series and each one pays out cash depending on the number of entries as well as a WSOP Bracelet.

Those players with the most Bracelets are:

CountryPlayerMain Event WinsBracelets
United StatesPhil Hellmuth115
United StatesDoyle Brunson210
United StatesJohnny Chan210
United StatesPhil Ivey010
United StatesJohnny Moss39
United StatesErik Seidel08
United StatesBilly Baxter07
United StatesMen Nguyen07


WSOP Player of the Year

In 2004, a new award for player of the year was introduced. This takes into account how players fare across all events from a WSOP including wins, final tables and cashes.

YearCountryPlayerWinningsBraceletsCashesFinal Tables
2004CanadaDaniel Negreanu$346,280165
2005United StatesAllen Cunningham$1,007,115154
2006United StatesJeff Madsen$1,467,852244
2007United StatesTom Schneider$416,829233
2008United StatesErick Lindgren$1,348,528153
2009ItalyJeff Lisandro$807,521364
2010United StatesFrank Kassela$1,255,314263
2011United StatesBen Lamb$5,352,970154
2012United StatesGreg Merson$9,785,354252
2013CanadaDaniel Negreanu$1,954,0542104
2014GermanyGeorge Danzer$878,9333105
2015RussiaMike Gorodinsky$1,766,487183
2016United StatesJason Mercier[$960,4242114
2017United StatesChris Ferguson$428,4231233
2018United StatesShaun Deeb$2,545,6232204



The following are some of the records currently held in the WSOP:

Most Final Tables
53 – Phil Hellmuth

Most Cashes
109 – Phil Hellmuth

Highest Career Earnings
$21,835,100 – Antonio Esfandiari

Highest Earnings from One Event
$18,346,673 – Antonio Esfandiari

Youngest Bracelet Winner
18 years, 364 days – Annette Obrestad

Oldest Bracelet Winner
81 years, 0 days – Johnny Moss

Most Bracelets in 1 Year
3 –
Ted Forrest
Puggy Pearson
Jeff Lisandro
Phil Hellmuth
Phil Ivey
George Danzer

Most Final Tables in 1 Year
6 – An Tran

Most Cashes in 1 Year
23 – Chris Ferguson

Oldest Participant
97 years – Jack Ury

WSOP Main Event Records
Most Main Event Wins

3 –
Stu Ungar
Johnny Moss

Highest Main Event Winnings
$12,000,000 – Jamie Gold

Most Main Event Final Tables
5 each –
Jesse Alto
Doyle Brunson

Most Main Event Cashes
10 – Berry Johnston

Youngest Main Event Winner
21 years, 357 days – Joe Cada

Oldest Main Event Winner
66 years, 358 days – Johnny Moss

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About the author

Daniela López
Casino Analyst
Daniela Lopez, a Casino Analyst for, excels in analyzing online casinos and game strategies. Her expert insights guide players in making informed decisions. Daniela's commitment to industry trends keeps the site a trusted resource, helping gamblers improve their play and success chances.
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