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History of the World Series of Poker (WSOP)

Daniela López Written by Daniela López
Richard Grant Reviewed by Richard Grant

 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.

 

Origins

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

Year Country Winner Entrants Prize Money
1970 United States Johnny Moss 7 N/A
1971 United States Johnny Moss 6 $30.000
1972 United States Thomas Preston Jr 8 $80.000
1973 United States Walter Pearson 13 $130.000
1974 United States Johnny Moss 16 $160.000
1975 United States Brian Roberts 21 $210.000
1976 United States Doyle Brunson 22 $220.000
1977 United States Doyle Brunson 34 $340.000
1978 United States Bobby Baldwin 42 $210.000
1979 United States Hal Fowler 54 $270.000
1980 United States Stu Ungar 73 $385.000
1981 United States Stu Ungar 75 $375.000
1982 United States Jack Straus 104 $520.000
1983 United States Tom McEvoy 108 $540.000
1984 United States Jack Keller 132 $660.000
1985 United States Bill Smith 140 $700.000
1986 United States Berry Johnston 141 $570.000
1987 United States Johnny Chan 152 $625.000
1988 United States Johnny Chan 167 $700.000
1989 United States Phil Hellmuth 178 $755.000
1990 Iran Mansour Matloubi 194 $895.000
1991 United States Brad Daugherty 215 $1.000.000
1992 Iran Hamid Dastmalchi 201 $1.000.000
1993 United States Jim Bechtel 220 $1.000.000
1994 United States Russ Hamilton 268 $1.000.000
1995 United States Dan Harrington 273 $1.000.000
1996 United States Huck Seed 295 $1.000.000
1997 United States Stu Ungar 312 $1.000.000
1998 United States Scotty Nguyen 350 $1.000.000
1999 Republic of Ireland Noel Furlong 393 $1.000.000
2000 United States Chris Ferguson 512 $1.500.000
2001 Ecuador Juan Carlos Mortensen 613 $1.500.000
2002 United States Robert Varkonyi 631 $2.000.000
2003 United States Chris Moneymaker 839 $2.500.000
2004 United States Greg Raymer 2,576 $5.000.000
2005 Australia Joe Hachem 5,619 $7.500.000
2006 United States Jamie Gold 8,773 $12.000.000
2007 United States Jerry Yang 6,358 $8.250.000
2008 Denmark Peter Eastgate 6,844 $9.152.416
2009 United States Joe Cada 6,494 $8.547.042
2010 Canada Jonathan Duhamel 7,319 $8.944.310
2011 Germany Pius Heinz 6,865 $8.715.638
2012 United States Greg Merson 6,598 $8.531.853
2013 United States Ryan Riess 6,352 $8.361.570
2014 Sweden Martin Jacobson 6,683 $10.000.000
2015 United States Joe McKeehen 6,420 $7.683.346
2016 United States Qui Nguyen 6,737 $8.005.310
2017 United States Scott Blumstein 7,221 $8.150.000
2018 United States John Cynn 7,874 $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:

Country Player Main Event Wins Bracelets
United States Phil Hellmuth 1 15
United States Doyle Brunson 2 10
United States Johnny Chan 2 10
United States Phil Ivey 0 10
United States Johnny Moss 3 9
United States Erik Seidel 0 8
United States Billy Baxter 0 7
United States Men Nguyen 0 7

 

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.

Year Country Player Winnings Bracelets Cashes Final Tables
2004 Canada Daniel Negreanu $346,280 1 6 5
2005 United States Allen Cunningham $1,007,115 1 5 4
2006 United States Jeff Madsen $1,467,852 2 4 4
2007 United States Tom Schneider $416,829 2 3 3
2008 United States Erick Lindgren $1,348,528 1 5 3
2009 Italy Jeff Lisandro $807,521 3 6 4
2010 United States Frank Kassela $1,255,314 2 6 3
2011 United States Ben Lamb $5,352,970 1 5 4
2012 United States Greg Merson $9,785,354 2 5 2
2013 Canada Daniel Negreanu $1,954,054 2 10 4
2014 Germany George Danzer $878,933 3 10 5
2015 Russia Mike Gorodinsky $1,766,487 1 8 3
2016 United States Jason Mercier[ $960,424 2 11 4
2017 United States Chris Ferguson $428,423 1 23 3
2018 United States Shaun Deeb $2,545,623 2 20 4

 

Records

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 CasinoEncyclopedia.com, 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.
Last Updated: May 28, 2024
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