The WSOP is the largest set of poker tournaments in the world. Beginning in 1970, the tournament was hosted at Binion's Horseshoe casino in downtown Las Vegas on Freemont Street. In 2004, Harrah's Entertainment (now Caesars Entertainment) purchased Binion's Horseshoe. They retained the rights to the "Horseshoe" and "World Series of Poker" brands, but sold the physical hotel and casino to MTR Gaming Group. Beginning in 2005, the WSOP events were 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 the now-MTR-operated Binion's in celebration of the centennial of the founding of Las Vegas.
The winner of a World Series of Poker event receives a bracelet and a cash prize based on the buy-in and the number of entrants into that particular tournament. Each events traditionally took place during one day or several consecutive days during the series in June and July. However, starting in 2008, the final table of the Main Event was delayed until November.
The most popular event is the $10,000 no-limit hold'em "Main Event", which is held at the end of the WSOP. The winner of the Main Event, besides receiving a multi-million cash payout and a WSOP bracelet, is considered to be the "poker champion" for that year. This term is used very loosely, since the Main Event is still only a single tournament. Ever since the field sizes grew tremendously, and the influx of amateur players, winning the Main Event has lost a bit of its symbolic importance as an indicator of being a great poker player. Back in the 1970s and 80s (when poker legends such as Moss, Ungar, and Chan won) and the 1990s (when the modern legends such as Hellmuth and Harrington won), winning the WSOP was seen as an undeniable sign of poker greatness. But some of the recent WSOP Main Event winners (specifically Robert Varkonyi in 2002 and Chris Moneymaker in 2003) received heavy criticism for being "bad" players who simply got lucky. Despite this, winning the Main Event still retains much of its caché and is still a badge of success.
Many poker professionals, as well as many old-time players who are more well-versed on non-Hold 'Em games, have stated that a more reliable indicator of poker skill would be an event where a wide variety of games is played, which requires a much broader poker skillset. This belief became more popular after the WSOP added a $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. tournament in 2006, which was won by well-respected poker legend Chip Reese. The higher buy-in amount of the tournament also had the added benefit of deterring amateur players. 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) and was re-named "The Poker Player's Championship". Michael Mizrachi won the first edition of the reworked event. Since Chip 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.
The much higher $50,000 buy-in requirement for the H.O.R.S.E. event was also in response to the fact that the $10,000 buy-in amount of the original World Series is now much lower adjusted for inflation. The cost of entering the Main Event in 1972, adjusted or inflation, would be $55,360. The 2012 Main Event first-place prize of $8.5 million would be worth $47 million if paid in 1972.
The Main Event prize has become so large that the winner immediately becomes one of the highest-ranking players on the WSOP all-time money list - not to mention one of the highest-ranking on the list of the total lifetime tournament winnings.
There have been many memorable moments during the main events, including:
There have only been four players to win the Main Event more than once. Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan have both won it twice; Stu Ungar and Johnny Moss are the only players to win it three times (one of Moss's wins was elected by vote). All four of them also had consecutive wins. Stu Ungar's third victory was notable because it occurred 16 year after his previous win.
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