THE WSOP: ALMOST HALF A CENTURY OF WORLD POKER HISTORY0 Comments
The first edition of the World Series of Poker was disputed in 1970. It was organized by Benny Binion, owner of the Horseshoe Casino of Las Vegas. It was played by about 30 players in a room that would not have more square meters than a normal Sin City hotel room.
Binion took the idea of an initiative organized the year before by two guys named Tom Moore and Vic Vickrey. The first was co-owner of Reno’s Holiday Casino and the second, a great connoisseur of the game world. Moore and Vickrey organized a kind of convention in Reno which they called “Texas Players Meeting”, which was attended by some of the best high stakes cash players of the moment, such as Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder or Rudy “Minnestota Fats” Wanderone. There were also other players lesser known at that time, such as “Amarillo Slim” or Doyle Brunson, and the referred Benny Binion. Moore and Vickrey decided not to repeat their experience in 1970 and Binion took the opportunity to organize the first World Series of Poker in history.
The name of the first world poker champion was not decided with a tournament. Attendees voted who they considered the best and the chosen was Johnny Moss. Binion decided to bet on the idea and in 1971 organized the 2nd edition of the WSOP. In this occasion, the winner was decided by means of a tournament that had a buy-in of $ 5k and a field of 7 participants. Johnny Moss was the winner again.
In 1972, the Main Event field grew to 12 participants. The win was for “Amarillo Slim” Preston and had a great media impact in the USA .Amarillo Slim became the best poker ambassador for a decade.
In 1973, the WSOP broke into television. CBS Sports provided images of the series, which expanded its program of events. Puggy Pearson was the big star of this 4th edition.
Johny Moss extended his legend with a new triumph in the 1974 WSOP; an edition in which began to highlight a player who would also take part of the world poker history: Doyle “TexasDolly” Brunson.
The Series continued to grow during the following years. In 1978, Barbara Freer became the first woman to play the WSOP. And in 1979, an amateur player, Hal Fowler, managed to win the Main Event. The early ’80s were the golden age of the greatest genius in poker history: Stu Ungar. “The Kid” won the main events of 1980 and 1981.
In 1983, the tournament director Eric Drache introduced the first qualifying satellite for the Main Event. The initiative was a success as it gave many non-professional players the opportunity to fight to get a seat for the best tournament in the world. The WSOP grew so large that in 1987 the Horseshoe Casino facilities stayed small and nearby casinos such as the Golden Nugget or Four Queens lent their rooms to place tables for the Series events.
In 1989, Benny Binion, the father of the WSOP died. His son Jack assumed the direction of the competition. Throughout the 1990s, Jack Binion introduced several improvements, which began to attract international players. In fact, in 1990, Mansour Matloubi became the first non-American to win the Main Event.
In 1991, the main event handed its winner, Brad Daugherty, a prize of more than one million dollars. During the following years, the fields continued to grow and although the Horseshoe poker room was extended and new areas of play were enabled, the players couldn’t play comfortably in the big tournaments of the Series.
In 1997, Stu Ungar won his 3rd bracelet in the Main Event, equaling Johnny Moss. And he probably didn’t win more because the next year he died as a result of drug abuse over many years of addiction. Ungar is considered the best player in poker history, despite his untimely death.
In 2001, a Spaniard, Juan Carlos Mortensen, managed to win the WSOP Main Event. It was news that hardly had repercussion in Spain, where the poker still hadn’t exploded. In 2003 was the worldwide poker boom. A complete stranger called Chris Moneymaker, who had achieved his entry through a $40 online satellite, managed to win the WSOP Main Event and win a $2,500,000 prize. The victory of that amateur was seen by millions of viewers around the world, thanks to the replay of ESPN. The “Moneymaker Effect” marked the beginning of a new era for poker.
Over the next few years, both the fields and prize pools of the Series tournaments grew dramatically. The world’s largest gambling company, Harrah’s Entertainment, bought the rights to the WSOP and made it the biggest show in the poker world. In 2005, the Series moved to a new casino, Rio, where it still continues. In 2006, Jamie Gold won the biggest prize in the history of the Main Event: $12 million.
The WSOP continued to grow during the following years. There were more events in the programs, bigger fields, bigger prize pools and a greater impact in mass media. Players like Phil Hellmuth were able to become legend after winning 14 bracelets. Spanish participation also grew over the years. In 2016, the Spaniards won 2 bracelets (Adrián Mateos and César García) and 100 itm, nothing less. This year they are on track to overcome these spectacular brands.
To this day, poker is no longer understood without the WSOP. Getting a gold bracelet is the goal dreamed by most players around the world and visiting Las Vegas in July, something you cannot miss.