Evolution of the WSOP

It’s late March, but you wouldn’t know by the way poker rooms are already hawking their World Series of Poker prize packages.  And with the way the new WSOP format plays out with the final table taking place in June, it seems like it wasn’t that long ago when the Main Event ended.  All of this got me thinking about the WSOP and how far it has come since it’s inception in 1970.

Back in ‘70 the WSOP began as nothing more than a small invitation event that satisfied Benny Binion’s curiosity of who the world’s best poker player was.  The funny thing about this event was that it had start and stop times and the winner was not determined by who had the most chips, but rather a secret vote among players.  And the WSOP would remain in this low key fashion for well over a decade.

In fact, it was not until the 80’s that the WSOP’s number of participants would break the century mark (no wonder Layne Flack questions Doyle Brunson’s gold bracelet total).  Eventually, the WSOP Main Event would start being featured on television and on mainstream networks such as ESPN.  The movie Rounders further popularized the WSOP by showing footage from the ‘88 Main Event during the flick.

But no one would have ever guessed what the WSOP would become after 2003 when a little known accountant by the name of Chris Moneymaker lived up to his name by winning the ‘03 Main Event and $2.5 million.  This victory set off a phenomenon where everyone thought they could be a WSOP champion and poker rooms played it to perfection.  Now many of poker’s biggest stars make their name through the Main Event and the number of participants is over 6,000 as of ‘08.  I can’t wait to see how much it will grow in 2009!

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