The History of the World Series of Poker
by PokerShark.com Reporter Javier Santana
The World Series of Poker is a renowned event held in Las Vegas, Nevada. Most recently, the tournament took place at the Rio, from late May until early July. Over time, the tournament has garnered many players and a large fan-following, with the Main Event of 2006 having close to 9,000 individuals competing.
So how did such an event get started? As the story goes, the first World Series Poker tournament was an invitation-only event for the best known poker players of the 1970's. Tom Morehead, owner of the Reno-based Riverside casino, had the intention of promoting a tournament that would attract similarly-interested poker aficionados to the table. The event had a small gathering but became quite newsworthy. Later, Benny Binion, picking up on how such a gathering could be quite lucrative, hosted the event at the Horseshoe Casino, known simply as "The Horseshoe", located in Las Vegas, Nevada. As time progressed, the tournament continued to draw participants, albeit slowly. However, by the late 1980's, there were thousands of participants eager to join the various tourneys being held under the title of the World Series of Poker. Over time, there have been many variations included in the World Series of Poker tournaments, branching from Seven Card Stud to Texas Holdem championships. The vast number of unique card games included in the tournament have helped usher in players from all branches of life. Players come seeking the prestige of winning the largely populated tournaments, as well as leaving with the lucrative pots placed each year.
The stakes for the various events have risen steadily each year, one event being the Texas Holdem Championship. The buy-in for the renowned Texas Holdem Championship alone is $10,000. The reason for the buy-in price being so steep is that the Texas Holdem Championship is unarguably the most sought-after champion title, a position which not only asserts the winner’s level of playing skill, but also bestows upon them a multi-million dollar fortune upon winning. In the various other events, winners receive a World Series of Poker bracelet and the buy-in amounts placed by all other entrees. The bracelets have been a recurring theme stemming from 1976, where they were then valued at a few hundred dollars. Today’s current bracelet design has been appraised upwards of $50,000. Aside from the monetary value, the bracelets symbolize the achievement and respect from winning the various events. In 2006, Jeffrey Pollack, a World Series of Poker Commissioner, likened the receiving of one of the WSOP bracelets to winning the Stanley Cup in hockey. Jeffrey stated, “It’s impossible to overstate the value of a World Series Poker gold bracelet to anyone who takes the game seriously.” Holding true to this statement, many of the bracelet winners, such as Jennifer Tilly and Johnny Chan, have maintained that the bracelets are one of their greatest accomplishments.
In 1973, the World Series of Poker had their event televised through CBS Sports. This signified the beginning of the expansion that the World Series of Poker was going to have into the televised tournaments. Following the first televised tournament, various other television companies were then interested in taping the various satellite tournaments held around the country. In 1981, NBC Sports was dispatched to record the World Series of Poker. This broadcast broke new ground, reaching millions of homes for the first time in poker history. As the series expanded, more and more events were able to be televised, partly in thanks to the satellite tournaments taking place. These satellite tournaments allowed aspiring amateur players to compete in events that provided stepping stones into the World Series, based on their skill level. The satellite tournaments proved to have a dedicated following, letting viewers watch everyday people slowly work their way through the ranks, giving way to some of the amateur fan favorites, such as Chris Moneymaker of the 2003 World Series Poker Championship. Chris has a tale regarding his humble entrance into the online poker tournaments and how it ended with him sitting across from some of the best poker players in the world at the championship.
The World Series of Poker has become a behemoth of enterprising in its current form, with dozens of casinos lining up to host the tournaments that sprang up from humble beginnings. The World Series of Poker will continue to thrive as long as players from all walks of life continue to appreciate the art of Poker.