In the world of poker, there is no bigger event than the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event. It is the one tournament every player on the planet – be they full-time professional or occasional weekend amateur – wants to play in and win. Even celebrities like Seinfeld star Jason Alexander and Everybody Loves Raymond’s Ray Romano are regular attendees.
And with a first prize that usually sits somewhere between US$8 million and US$9 million, you can understand why thousands flock to Las Vegas and fork out the US$10,000 entry fee for this annual festival of poker.The 2013 WSOP Main Event got underway yesterday with 943 players taking their seats for the first three Day 1s and many more expected over the coming days, so we thought we would provide a brief history of this wonderful event and how it grew to become the biggest poker tournament on the planet.
The very first WSOP was held in 1970 when casino owner Benny Binion invited seven of the world’s best poker players to take part in a showdown to determine who was the best. The seven participants played a whole range of different cash games including various forms of Stud as well as Texas Hold’em with each player then casting their vote as to who performed. The legendary Johnny Moss was chosen and received a silver cup as his prize. It was 12 months later when the format was changed to a tournament structure to determine the winner and the WSOP as we know it today was born.
The event grew slowly over the years – it took five years to reach 20 entrants and by 1980 was only up to 83 although no one could ever have imagined just how enormous it would become in later years. The WSOP created a number of legends along the way with Doyle Brunson, Stu Ungar and Johnny Chan – who was immortalized in the cult poker film Rounders – all winning on multiple occasions.
However, the single biggest moment not only in the history of the WSOP but poker around the globe was Chris Moneymaker’s amazing win in 2003. An accountant from Tennessee, Moneymaker won his seat into the Main Event that year through a US$39 satellite tournament on online poker site PokerStars and proceeded to cut a swathe through the main event to be crowned champion and take a home a tidy US$2.5 million.
His unlikely success story sparked a poker boom as players around the world figured that, if Moneymaker could do it, perhaps they could too. From the 839 player-field of Moneymaker’s triumph in 2003, a massive 2,576 turned out 12 months later, 5,619 in 2005 and a record 8,773 in 2006. Although those number have fallen back to the mid-6000s in recent years, the WSOP still rates as the place to be this time each year.
And while the WSOP as a whole has become almost larger than life with a total of 62 events in Las Vegas this year as well as WSOP Europe and WSOP Asia-Pacific, the annual Main Event in Las Vegas each July remains the precipice. Over the next week we will see dreams made and other shattered, but for all who take part they will head home with a story to tell and the knowledge that they have played their part in the wonderful history of the World Series of Poker Main Event.