The World Series of Poker (WSOP) is a series of poker tournaments held annually in Las Vegas and, since 2005, sponsored by Caesars Entertainment Corporation (known as Harrah’s Entertainment until 2010). It dates its origins to 1970, when Benny Binion invited seven of the best-known poker players to the Horseshoe Casino for a single tournament, with a set start and stop time, and a winner determined by a secret ballot of the seven players.
The winner of each event receives a World Series of Poker bracelet and a monetary prize based on the number of entrants and buy-in amounts. Over the years, the tournament has grown in both the number of events and in the number of participants. Each year, the WSOP culminates with the $10,000 no-limit hold’em “Main Event,” which, since 2004, has attracted entrants numbering in the thousands. The victor receives a multi-million dollar cash prize and a bracelet, which has become the most coveted award a poker player can win. The winner of the World Series of Poker Main Event is considered to be the World Champion of Poker.
As of May 2017, the World Series of Poker has done away with the November Nine concept
As of 2017, the WSOP consists of 74 events, with most major poker variants featured. However, in recent years, over half of the events have been variants of Texas hold ’em. Events traditionally take place during one day or over several consecutive days during the series in June and July. However, starting in 2008, the Main Event final table was delayed until November. The 2012 and 2016 Main Event final tables commenced in October because of the United States presidential election.
As of May 2017, the World Series of Poker has done away with the November Nine concept and will instead crown the Main Event winner in July. Poker Central and ESPN have plans to provide live event coverage
The number of participants in the WSOP grew every year from 2000 until 2006. Following 2006, new online gambling legislation restricted the number of online qualifiers to the event. 2007 was the first dip in numbers in the 21st century while in 2008 more people participated than the previous year. In 2000, there were 4,780 entrants in the various events, but in 2005, the number rose to over 23,000 players. In the main event alone, the number of participants grew from 839 in 2003 to 8,773 in 2006.
The idea of a World Series of Poker began in 1969 with an event called the Texas Gambling Reunion.
Phil Hellmuth has won the most bracelets with 14 followed by Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, and Phil Ivey with ten bracelets each. Crandell Addington is the only player to place in the top ten of the World Series of Poker Main Event eight times, albeit in earlier years with small fields compared to modern times. Four players have won the Main Event multiple times: Johnny Moss (1970, 1971, and 1974), Doyle Brunson (1976 and 1977), Stu Ungar (1980, 1981, and 1997) and Johnny Chan (1987 and 1988).
The idea of a World Series of Poker began in 1969 with an event called the Texas Gambling Reunion. It was an invitational event sponsored by Tom Moore of San Antonio, Texas, and held at the Holiday Hotel and Casino in Reno. This inaugural event was won by Crandell Addington. The set of tournaments that the World Series of Poker (WSOP) would evolve into was the brainchild of Las Vegas casino owner and poker player Benny Binion. In 1970, the first WSOP at Binion’s Horseshoe took place as a series of cash games that included five-card stud, deuce to seven low-ball draw, razz, seven-card stud, and Texas hold ’em. The format for the Main Event as a freeze-out Texas hold ’em game came the next year. The winner in 1970, Johnny Moss, was elected by his peers as the first “World Champion of Poker” and received a silver cup as a prize.
In 2004, Harrah’s Entertainment (now Caesars Entertainment) purchased Binion’s Horseshoe, retained the rights to the Horseshoe and World Series of Poker brands, sold the hotel and casino to MTR Gaming Group, and announced that the 2005 Series events would be held at the Harrah’s-owned Rio Hotel and Casino, located just off the Las Vegas Strip. The final two days of the main event in 2005 were held downtown at what is now the MTR-operated “Binion’s” in celebration of the centennial of the founding of Las Vegas. The WSOP also added a made-for-television $2 million “freeroll” invitational Tournament of Champions (TOC) event first won by Annie Duke as a “winner-take-all” event.
Μany of the game’s top professionals have stated that the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E./Poker Player’s Championship event is the one which ultimately decides the world’s best player.
Starting in 2005, the WSOP began a tournament “circuit” at Harrah’s-owned properties in the United States where, in addition to the $10,000 buy-in tournament at each site, qualifying players became eligible for a revamped Tournament of Champions. The 2005 TOC, made up of the top twenty qualifying players at each circuit event, along with the final table from the 2005 Main Event and the winners of nine or more bracelets (Johnny Chan, Doyle Brunson, and Phil Hellmuth) would participate in the revamped TOC at Caesars Palace. Mike Matusow won the first prize of $1 million (US), and all the players at the final table were guaranteed a minimum of $25,000 for the eighth and ninth-place finishers.
Since 1972, the Main Event of the WSOP has been the $10,000 buy-in no-limit Texas Hold ’em (NLHE) tournament (in 1971 the buy-in was $5,000 and the inaugural 1970 event was an invitational with winner determined by a vote from the players). Winners of the event not only get the largest prize of the tournament and a gold bracelet, but additionally their picture is placed in the Gallery of Champions at Binion’s. The winner of the Main Event has traditionally been given the unofficial title of World Champion. However, some believe that no-limit hold ’em is not the optimal structure for determining a champion poker player. In 2002, Daniel Negreanu argued that the Main Event should switch to pot-limit hold ’em, believing that pot-limit required a more complete set of poker skills than no-limit, although he admitted that such a change would likely never be made. However, many of the game’s top professionals, including Negreanu, have since stated that the recently added $50,000 H.O.R.S.E./Poker Player’s Championship event is the one which ultimately decides the world’s best player. The $50,000 buy-in, being five times larger than the buy-in for the Main Event, has thus far tended to deter amateurs from playing in this event, and the variety of games played require a broader knowledge of poker. The first $50,000 event, conducted as a H.O.R.S.E. tournament, was won by Chip Reese in 2006. In 2010, the $50,000 event changed from H.O.R.S.E. to an “8-game” format, adding no-limit hold ’em, pot-limit Omaha, and 2–7 triple draw to the mix, and was rechristened The Poker Player’s Championship, with Michael Mizrachi winning the first edition of the revamped event. Since Reese’s death in December 2007, the winner of this event receives the David ‘Chip’ Reese Memorial Trophy in addition to the bracelet and the prize money.
Phil Hellmuth holds multiple WSOP records including most bracelets, most WSOP cashes, and most WSOP final tables.
There have been many memorable moments during the main events, including Jack Straus’s 1982 comeback win after discovering he had one $500 chip left when he thought he was out of the tournament. The end of the 1988 main event was featured in the movie Rounders. Chris Moneymaker and Greg Raymer, the winners in 2003 and 2004, both qualified for the main event through satellite tournaments at the PokerStars online card room. Jerry Yang, the winner in 2007, had only been playing poker for two years prior to his victory. He won his seat at a $225 satellite tournament at Pechanga Resort & Casino, in California. With passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 online poker sites have been barred from purchasing entrance directly for their users.
Since its inception, Stu Ungar and Johnny Moss are the only players to have won the Main Event three times. However, Moss’s first victory came in a different format, as he was elected winner by vote of his fellow players at the conclusion of what was then a timed event. Moss (if the first time win by vote is counted), Ungar, Doyle Brunson, and Johnny Chan are the only people who have won the Main Event in consecutive years. Johnny Chan’s second victory in 1988 was featured in the 1998 film Rounders.
Phil Hellmuth holds multiple WSOP records including most bracelets, most WSOP cashes, and most WSOP final tables. He is also the only player to have won the Main Events of both the WSOP and WSOP Europe.
In recent years, the prize pool for the WSOP Main Event has become so large that the winner instantly becomes one of the top money winners of WSOP and even in tournament poker history. Before July 2012, the top seven players on the all-time WSOP Earnings list were Main Event champions from 2005 to 2011, among whom Jamie Gold topped those seven, he won the 2006 Main Event, which had then the biggest first prize for a single tournament, and still is the largest poker tournament by prize pool in history. However, the all-time leader is currently poker professional Daniel Negreanu, who has not won a Main Event, although he won the inaugural WSOP Asia Pacific Main Event in 2013. He is followed by professionals Antonio Esfandiari and Daniel Colman, both also yet to win a Main Event in Las Vegas.
Player of the Year
Since 2004, a Player of the Year (POY) award has been given to the player with the most points accumulated throughout the WSOP. As of 2013, nine different players have won the ten awards, with Daniel Negreanu as the only two-time winner.
Only “open” events in which all players can participate count in the standings; this eliminates the Seniors, Ladies, and Casino Employee events. Beginning with the 2006 World Series of Poker, the Main Event and the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. competition had no effect on the outcome of the winner of the Player of the Year award. In the 2008 World Series of Poker, the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event counted toward the Player of the Year award, but the Main Event did not. Since 2009, all open events, including the Main Event, count towards Player of the Year. The Player of the Year standings were based upon performance solely at the WSOP in Las Vegas up until 2010, but beginning in 2011 have also taken the World Series of Poker Europe into account, and starting in 2013 also include events in the World Series of Poker Asia Pacific. The 2011 WSOP Player of the Year organized by Bluff Magazine used a different scoring system which took into account field sizes and buy-in amounts when calculating points earned. This scoring system has been used ever since.