History of World Series of Poker
by Greg Cavouras  

The World Series of Poker is the most prestigious, hotly contested Poker event in the World. From a humble, and somewhat questionable, origin, the WSOP has evolved into a multi-week tournament that attracts the top players from all over the world, and rewards its champion with a multi-million dollar payday.


In the years leading up to the 1970s, Poker had a checkered reputation. The lack of legitimacy in card gambling, and the inherent difficulties in keeping cheats out of Poker rooms kept the game on the fringes of mainstream acceptability. This was all about to change.

The first World Series of Poker was the work of Riverside Casino boss Tom Morehead; it was held in the Riverside at Reno and was a purely invitational event. A young Benny Binion saw this event occurring and was inspired to develop the multi-week, multi-tournament format we have today. From this visionary idea, Binion hosted the first WSOP tournament in 1970 at his Horseshoe Casino in Las Vegas. There were only 7 players, and legend Johnny Moss was declared the victor; his prize was a silver cup and the title of first ever World Champion.


In 1970 Johnny Moss was elected as Champion by his peers; From 1971 on, the tournament would remain a Freezout format, meaning that at the end of the tournament all players except 1 has been eliminated. The main event of the Championship has always been No Limit Hold’em, and in 1973 Five Card Stud was added to the bill. Over the years, new games have been added and removed, but the number of events has grown steadily, peaking at the current total of 36. In addition to the standard games, there are also special events for seniors, women, and casino employees.


Why all the hype about this event? Two reasons: prestige and LOTS OF MONEY. In addition to the title of World’s Best, this includes bragging rights, winners get the special Golden Bracelet which identifies them as Champions and a considerable cash prize. In 2004 Main Event Champion Greg Raymer took home a cool $5 Million for his victory in $10,000 No Limit Texas Hold’em. In all, over $25 Million in prizes was distributed to the top players.


The World Series of Poker has shown phenomenal and consistent growth over the past years, and much of this is due to the popularity of the World Poker Tour, as well as a booming online Poker market. The 2005 event promises to be bigger than ever, and while the final two days main event will remain at the traditional Binion’s location, the other events will take place at the Rio Casino, owned by entertainment giant Harrah’s who recently purchased Binion’s Horseshoe.

Regardless of location, the WSOP can be counted on to deliver the biggest pots, and attract the very best players in the Poker World.

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