THE HISTORY OF THE WSOP MAIN EVENT (I)0 Comments
The WSOP had its origin in the mind of Benny Binion. The owner of Las Vegas Horseshoe Casino decided in 1970 to bring together the best high stakes cash players of the era, in order to decide who was the best.
The idea came from an initiative called the Texas Gamblers Reunion, promoted the previous year by Tom Moore and Vic Vickrey, who assembled in the Holiday Hotel of Reno to the best poker players of the moment. The call was successful that year, 1969, but the promoters decided not to repeat the experience the following year, and this gave to Binion the opportunity to organize a similar event in his casino in the city of sin.
The first WSOP took place in May 1970. For a week and a half, a small group of professional players were playing high stakes cash games, such as 5-Card Stud, 5-Card Draw or Ace-to-Five Lowball. The champion was elected by vote and the honour fell to Johnny Moss, who was considered the most complete player in the world.
Binion decided to organize the second World Series of Poker the following year. Following various opinions, Binion chose to change the format and included in the program a $ 5,000 entry tournament, a Main Event whose winner would be crowned the best player of the World Series. Johnny Moss came back to win and earned $30,000.
In 1972, Binion organized a new Main Event, but this time with a $10,000 of buy-in (a price that has remained until the present time). The tournament lasted 2 days and was won by “Amarillo Slim” Preston, not without controversy, since in the 3-handed, Doyle Brunson and “Puggy” Pearson decided that they didn’t want the fame of be named world champions and they started to play random until they were eliminated. On the contrary, “Amarillo Slim” did want to take advantage of the fame and dedicate for a year to appear to the media as the champion of the poker world. The WSOP gained much popularity, since Amarillo appeared in the main television shows of the country.
During the following years, both the number of participants and the prizes grew. After the victory of “Puggy” Pearson in 1973, Johnny Moss obtained its 3º triumph in the Main Event. In 1975, the number of participants rose to 21 and Brian “Sailor” Roberts took a prize of $ 210,000. The later years marked the birth of a world poker legend. Doyle Brunson won two consecutive main events in 1976 and 1977.
In 1979, Hal Fowler became the first amateur player to win the Main Event. The following year another star of the World Series was born: Stu Ungar, the best player in the history of live poker. Ungar won the Main Event in 1980, beating Doyle Brunson in the HU; and also won the main tournament in 1981.
The 1982 Main Event topped the 100 participants for the first time. The resolution of the tournament was perhaps the strangest of all the editions disputed so far, since Jack Straus achieved the victory and a prize of $ 520,000 (the largest to date), after being left with a single chip of 500 points.
The rise of Straus popularized the popular saying “a chip and a chair”, meaning that with just a seat and a single chip of the ME could win the tournament. That was the magic of poker. In 1983, Tom McEvoy was the winner, earning more than half a million dollars after getting its entry in a satellite. It came out him perfect.
During the following years, the Main Event continued to grow both in field and in prizes. In 1986, Wendeen Eolis became the first woman to arrive to itm in the ME. However, the most prominent figure of the late 1980s was Johnny Chan, who won two consecutive titles in 1987 and 1988. That same year, ESPN began to retransmit the Main Event, which further contributed to its growing popularity.
The last Main Event of the decade was won by a very peculiar 24-year-old guy who would become the biggest bracelet holder in World Series history: Phil Hellmuth Jr. The Poker Brat won a field of 178 Players and won a $ 755,000 prize. It was until 2008 the youngest winner of a WSOP Main Event.