How The World Series of Poker Became The “Must Play” Event
World Series of Poker, or the WSOP, is a series of poker tournaments played every year in Las Vegas.
The events are sponsored by Caesars Entertainment, and they have been held every year since 1970.
The event started small, with only a single bracelet event and the seven best-known poker players invited to play. It has since expanded to over 80 bracelets, with the most, 105, held in 2019.
WSOP is probably the most prestigious series of poker tournaments globally, and almost every poker player on the planet knows about it. Many poker fans dream of entering it and winning millions. However, despite its fame, most people know very little about the specifics of the WSOP and how it works.
In this piece, I’ll attempt to explain the WSOP in detail. Let’s begin!
History of WSOP
The WSOP was started way back in 1970 by Benny Binion, a casino owner and avid poker player. He invited only seven people to play in a single tournament in Las Vegas.
This tournament can’t compare to what we have today. We can all safely say that these were the humble beginnings of the World Series of Poker.
The very next year, Binion changed the tournament and made it public with a $5,000 buy-in. Only six players joined, for whom the freezeout tournament format was introduced.
In 1972, the buy-in increased to the current $10,000, but the high price didn’t stop players from joining. By the 80s, the tournament had grown to 52 players. The winner would get a gold bracelet, a practice that began in 1976 and continues to this day.
The tournament slowly grew, and in 2004, it was acquired by Harrah’s Entertainment, the predecessor of today’s Caesars Entertainment. The series already featured more than 1,000 participants at that point.
Around this time, Chris Moneymaker changed the game. He showed everyone that even amateur players could play in the big leagues, even if they didn’t have the money to enter the WSOP.
How? Well, he realized that he could use smaller tournaments as stepping stones toward the big one. What’s more, he started by playing online. He joined a PokerStars satellite tournament for $86 and ended up winning the WSOP with a prize of $2.5 million.
This truly revolutionized the game. Moneymaker showed everyone that even amateur online poker players can join and win the WSOP without ever paying more than $100.
This change was evident in the number of participants. In 2003, when Moneymaker won the series, there were only 839 participants. The next year, the number skyrocketed to 2,576, and the year after, it more than doubled to 5,619. Today, the number usually ranges between 6,300 and 7,200 each year.
This major boom in the US prompted the series’s owners to move abroad, which is how the World Series of Poker Europe (WSOPE) was born in 2007.
Three events were held back then, and a 19-year old girl named Annette Obrestad won the main event and a prize of 10,000 GBP.
As I’ve already stated, the WSOP is a series of poker tournaments, which means there are numerous events each year. Every person who wins an event wins a gold bracelet and the prize money for the tournament.
On top of that, numerous popular poker variants are played. Still, in the last few years, most events featured Texas Hold’em, arguably the most popular poker variant in the world.
Besides Texas Hold’em, Seven-Card Stud and Omaha Hold’em are also widely played in WSOP. Other variants come and go, but these three are always there.
The main event is the $10,000 no-limit Texas Hold’em event, where thousands of players play every year to win the multi-million dollar prize, the bracelet, and the informal title of the World Champion of Poker.
All events have cash prizes that increase depending on the number of players and the buy-in size. A casino sponsors every tournament, and all of them typically charge a commission fee ranging from 6% to 10%, with the rest going to the winners. The biggest prize in the history of the WSOP and poker went to Jamie Gold in the Main Event of 2006 — $12 million.
The best thing about this format is that everyone can join, especially if you opt to use the satellite tournaments, like Moneymaker, without ever investing much. The only requirements are the buy-in price and the age barrier — every player must be 21 or older. The buy-ins range from $333 to a staggering $1 million for the Big One for One Drop tournament.
These simple requirements have made the series incredibly versatile. It now features complete beginners, advanced players, and professionals.
Major Events in WSOP
- Main Event — This is the biggest and most prestigious WSOP event. The buy-in is $10,000, and everyone who thinks that the WSOP is one tournament always has this one in mind. It’s mostly because the Main Event gets all the praise and media coverage.
- Poker Player Championship — This $50,000 event has the biggest buy-in in the WSOP, and many pros consider it to be the real main event of the series. However, it doesn’t feature many of poker’s best players, as only a handful of people have the kind of money required to buy their way in.
- Millionaire Maker — This event justifies its name. Thousands of players join it, thanks to its relatively affordable buy-in of $1,500. The main prize is always above a million.
- Colossus — The event is one of the most popular in the WSOP as it features a $565 buy-in, which has enabled many amateur players to try and win a WSOP bracelet.
- Employee Events — This is the opening event of the series, and only employees of Caesar’s from all over the world can participate. Many people love this event as they get to watch their favorite croupiers play poker.
- Senior Events — This is not a single event, but a series of events where you need to be a certain age to enter.
Interesting Records in WSOP
- Only two players, Johnny Moss and Stu Ungar, have managed to win the Main Event three times.
- Phil Hellmuth is the only player who has managed to win the Main Event at both the WSOP and the WSOPE. He is also the player with the most bracelets (15) and the most final tables attended (59).
- The oldest WSOP participant is Jack Ury, who played in 2010 at the age of 97. He died a year later.
- Antonio Esfandiari has managed to win the most from WSOP events, a total of $21,917,460.
- An Tan, a Vietnamese-American player, is the person with the most final tables attended in a single year, a total of six.
- Daniel Negreanu has two Player of the Year Awards, a title introduced in 2004. He is the only one to have received it two times.