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Join us as we dive into the rich history of the WSOP – finding out what it is and all those interesting facts that may help in your own poker journey.
What is the WSOP?
The WSOP is short for the World Series of Poker, which was founded in 1970 with an inaugural event at Binion’s Horseshoe that took in a series of cash games:
- Five-card stud
- Deuce to seven lowball
- Seven-card stud
- Texas no-limit hold’em
The format for the main event was no-limit hold’em with a freezeout played and the winner was THE Johnny Moss. The WSOP main event became the flagship tournament of the whole series in the years to come.
By 1980, the WSOP had grown to a series of twelve events, with the next expansion coming in the 1990s when they grew to 24.
The Poker boom came in the new millennium, when online poker grew the footfall of the game at an extraordinary rate, and my first WSOP in 2007 saw 55 events across the range of card games already mentioned plus the two variants of Omaha, high and high/low.
The Growth of the WSOP Brand
2007 saw the brand of WSOP owned by Harrah’s, who brought across three events to Europe with three events. Nowadays, that growth saw record figures for 2023, with a record 129 live events in the States, 15 in Europe, 15 in the Bahamas and amazingly online another 65.
The Online option was added in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic depleted Live Poker badly.
Online poker sites are rigorously tested by Joe Wager, so if you fancy a crack at the WSOP, take the opportunity to look through our recommendations.
A WSOP Winner’s Bracelet
A prized WSOP Bracelet is always awarded to the winner of an event and has become synonymous with the World Series of Poker.
Five Famous WSOP Facts
1 The Moneymaker Boom
Chris Moneymaker is the name synonymous with the Poker Boom of the new millennium when he won the 2003 WSOP Main Event, winning $2,500,000 after winning an online satellite to enter the poker showpiece.
Before his unexpected win, Moneymaker was a chartered accountant, and much of the sudden growth in poker is historically attributed to what has been named the “Moneymaker effect”.
Quickly, the online poker sites caught on, and their poker rooms were bulging at the seams in the years that followed. Moneymaker went on to represent PokerStars for many years on the live circuits with limited success, but he represented the game brilliantly, being seen as the normal working-class man and approachable to all. For all his achievements on and off the felt, Chris Moneymaker was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2019.
2 2004 Entry Into $10,000 WSOP Main Event Tripled
The Moneymaker effect was seen in its fullest the year after in 2004, when the entry to the WSOP Main event tripled to a record 2576 from 839 with Greg Raymer the winner of what was a record first prize of $ 5 million.
3 $82 Million Was the Biggest Prize Pool in 2006
The Boom peaked in 2006 when television producer Jamie Gold took home a record first prize of $12,000,000 from an unequaled prize pool of $82,000,000. Like Chris Moneymaker, Gold’s win was something of an outlier as he went on to struggle to make any further impact on the WSOP.
In fact, Gold, like many of the winners disappeared away from poker back into obscurity with his winnings.
4 Phil Hellmuth Is the Biggest Winner Ever
Phil Hellmuth is nicknamed the “Poker Brat” for his constant outbursts at the poker table but his achievements on it are remarkable. In 1989, the fifty-nine-year-old, then a brash lad hot out of college, from Madison in Wisconsin, was the youngest winner of the Main Event. Since then, he has gone on to win seventeen WSOP bracelets and unsurprisingly holds many records, including the most cashes ever in the Series.
5 Doyle Brunson’s legacy will always be the WSOP
The WSOP will historically be linked with all the greatest poker players, Johnny Moss as the first, Stu Ungar winner of three Main Events was deemed the greatest no-limit hold'em player ever, Phil Hellmuth the biggest winner of bracelets as mentioned above.
Phil Ivey and Daniel Negreanu need to be mentioned as multiple winners of WSOP bracelets during the Poker Boom.
But Doyle Brunson will always be known as the greatest poker player and gambler ever. The stories of his life and poker career are the stuff of legend, but sadly the great man passed away in May, aged eighty-nine. He was a ten-time bracelet winner across all formats including the Main Event of 1976 and 1977, and still competed every year up to his death.