The World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet is awarded to the winner of every event at the annual WSOP. It is widely considered to be the most valuable non-monetary prize that a poker player can win. Although the WSOP goes back to 1970, bracelets were not given out until 1976 - but even victories that occurred before 1976 are now considered to be "bracelets". In 1970, the winner received only a silver cup (besides the cash prize). From 1971 to 1974, the winners only received a trophy. In 1975, the winners received a sterling plate. In 1980 and 1981, "Oklahoma Johny" Hale and Chip Reese, respectively, received a bracelet for being the "Best All Around Player" at the WSOP. These bracelets, however, are not considered in the WSOP bracelet counts.
During the earlier years of the WSOP there were only a few bracelets awarded each year since there were not that many events. But as the number of events have increased substantially over the years, the number of bracelets given out has also increased substantially. There were only 14 bracelet events given out at the 1990 WSOP, but there were 58 given out in 2011 (in Las Vegas). Similarly, the number of bracelets has also increased as the WSOP-branded events has expanded worldwide. Some of the other worldwide WSOP tournaments where bracelets are now awarded (along with the year of the first bracelet) are:
In 2005, the WSOP started hosting "Circuit Events" at many of their casino locations around the country. In order to differentiate these events, and to maintain the prestige of the WSOP Bracelet, the circuit events presented the winner with a ring instead of a bracelet. In 2011, the WSOP did award a bracelet to the winner of the Circuit Event National Champion, which was an invitation only event that used the standings of players from the various circuit events to determine who was invited.
The company who has manufactured the bracelets has changed many times over the years. The bracelet in 1976 cost approximately $500. In the early years, the bracelet had a very basic design - it was basically a solid piece of unadorned metal. During the 2000s the bracelets were designed with various stones, including: diamonds, white gold, yellow gold, rubies, sapphires, and black diamonds. In recent years though, the design has returned to the classic simple design without much bling because they wanted to create a bracelet that somebody would actually want to wear. A special platinum bracelet was awarded in 2012 to Antonio Esfandiari, the winner of the "The Big One for One Drop", a special $1 million buy-in tournament created as a fundraiser for the One Drop Foundation, a charity created by Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté.
In recent years, there have been occasional non-bracelet events at the WSOP; the most notable were the "World Series of Rock Paper Scissors" and "Ante Up for Africa."
Many professional and amateur players aspire to win a bracelet for the undeniable prestige that comes along with it. It's interesting though that the bracelets did not carry much prestige in the early years. Doyle Brunson said that his first bracelet didn't mean anything to him and that he did not even pick up two of them. I believe the lack of interest the bracelets held in the early years was due to the fact that there wasn't much history behind them. It wasn't until they had 20 years of history behind them that poker players understood the historical significance of them. Freddy Deeb said that he did not appreciate his first bracelet because he did not recognize what it meant. He said his 2007 bracelet, however, meant everything to him. Jennifer Tilly said that winning her 2005 Women's Championship bracelet was "better than an Oscar".
There is a belief by some people that winning a bracelet is a factor that separates good players from the truly great. This is similar to the popular belief that winning a championship separates a professional athlete in team sports - and that a player who has never won a championship should not be considered one of the greatest players. Although this is probably a general truism, it shouldn't be interpreted too literally.
|(1970, 1971 (2), 1974, 1975, 1976, 1979)
|(1980, 1981 (2), 1983)
|(1992, 1993 (3), 1997)
|(2000, 2002 (3), 2005, 2009 (2))
Given that the WSOP brand is expanding globally and the resultant increase in the number of bracelet events will be increasing along with it, it will be interesting to see if the bracelets will retain their prestige as a symbol of poker excellence. Another interesting question is whether or not online tournaments will ever become bracelet tournaments.
HPG ADMIN on March 5, 2013