Early days of the WSOP

In the late 80s poker was not very popular and was only played in casinos. There were only 50 poker rooms in Las Vegas. Poker was slowly becoming less and less popular until Benny Binion, owner of the Binion Horseshoe casino created the World Series of Poker. His main aim was to unite all the best poker players in the world at the highest stakes to create a World Champion of poker every year. Before the World Series started there was another tournament created by Tom Moore (owner of the Holiday Casino) and Vic Vickery, a very passionate poker player: Texas Gambler reunion. The players here were the same found at the felt of the first WSOP in 1970: Doyle Brunson, Amarillo Slim, Johnny Moss, Puggy Pearson and Benny Binion himself.


There were 28 players who participated in the very first WSOP and it was played as a cash game, with Johnny Moss victorious. In 1971 the event became a No Limit Hold’em freezout with a $5,000 buy in, with only 6 players participating, and Johnny Moss defended his crown and took down $30k in prize money for his efforts. In 1972 the buy in became $10k and a second event was added, Five Card Stud. Today there are over 55 events…. CBS was the first broadcaster interested in showing the WSOP and started broadcasting it in 1973. For the 7th World Series, the bracelets handed out to the winners were solid gold and had a value of around $500.

Up until 1977 the winner of the main event won all the money in play, but 1978 was the first year in which the prize pool was split between the top 5 players. In 1979 Barbara Fleet was the first woman brave enough to compete in the most prestigious poker tournament in the world and in this same year Hal Fowler became the first ever amateur to win the event, beating Bobby Hoff heads up and putting shame on all the poker pros.

Poker on the up – 80s:

In the 80s the world of poker took 2 major turns, the first was Stu Ungar’s win of the 1980 WSOP main event and the second because the WSOP started being broadcast on national television by the NBC network in 1981. Eric Dache in the very same year thought of the satellite tournament concept, which is how most players qualify for major events nowadays. The invention of satellites was the turning point in the globalisation of poker. It meant that the world of poker was opened publically. Two years later Tom Mcevoy was the first satellite winner to win the main event. In 1990 Mansour Matloubi was the first non-American to win the WSOP main event. He opened the door to the likes of Mortensen and Joe Hachem, who later went on to triumph in 2001 and 2005.

A spectacular explosion:

From the year of 1991 the winner of the WSOP main event was to become a millionaire. It took the attention of media giant ESPN and they invented the pocket cams, which meant that the players cards could be seen. The ‘big bang’ of the poker world came when Chris Moneymaker won the world series of poker after qualifying through a $39 satellite on He beat 838 players and was heads up with the legend, Sam Farha. He had a chip deficit to his opponent but pulled off one of the biggest bluffs in WSOP history, subsequently beating Farha and collecting $2,500,000!


This was the boom that poker needed, as next year 2576 players came to compete, a 205% increase on the 839 the previous year. In 2005 Harrah’s Entertainment gained the rights to the WSOP and all the events nowadays take place in the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino. This proved to be a great idea as the capacity of the Amazon room is a lot bigger. In 2006 Jamie Gold then took down the biggest prize ever in tournament poker, $12,000,000 for beating 8773 hopefuls in one of the most controversial main events to date.

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