World Series of Poker History


In 1949, famous gambler Nicholas "Nick the Greek" Dandolos approached Benny Binion with an interesting request - to challenge the best poker player in a high-stakes poker marathon. So Binion set up a match between Dandolos and Johnny Moss, which was to be played in full public view. During the course of the ongoing match, which lasted five months with breaks only for sleep, the two men played every form of poker imaginable. Johnny Moss eventually won and pocketed an estimated $2 million. When Nick the Greek lost the last hand, he rose from his chair, bowed slightly, and uttered the now-famous words, "Mr. Moss, I have to let you go." He then went upstairs to bed.

The Early Years

The poker marathon gave Benny Binion the idea to start the World Series of Poker because he noticed big crowds gathering outside the casino every day to watch the game. The first World Series of Poker was held in 1970 when Benny Binion invited seven of the best-known poker players to the Horseshoe Casino to play in a tournament with a set start and stop time. The winner, Johnny Moss, was determined by a secret vote. Beginning the following year, the winner was determined using today's format - where everyone plays until one player has all the chips. Moss won again the second year. The third year, Amarillo Slim won the title. The WSOP, and the game of poker in general, gained some added publicity from Amarillo Slim going on popular talk shows, such as Johnny Carson.

Growth in the 2000s

After steady growth during the 1980s and 90s, the popularity of the tournament soared in the 2000s, due to the coincidental combination of the rise of Internet poker and the creation of televised poker shows, such as The World Poker Tour. The World Poker Tour motivated millions of amateur viewers to learn about the game of poker, while the rise of Internet poker made it much easier for prospective players to win their way into the WSOP through cheap satellites.

Also having a large influence on the growth of poker was "The Moneymaker Effect", which refers to the increase in the popularity of poker due to Chris Moneymaker winning $2.5 million in the Main Event in 2003. Moneymaker, an accountant at the time, was able to enter the $10,000 buy-in Main Event by winning a $39 online satellite at PokerStars. Moneymaker's victory gave everyone the impression that anyone could win millions of dollars the WSOP. After receiving 839 entrants during the year Moneymaker won, the Main Event received 2,576 entrants the next year, and 8,773 only three years later. Jaime Gold's $12 million victory in 2006 represented the peak Main Event payout.

During this time, the number of events also grew. Whereas there were only 15 events in 1990, there were 61 in 2012, feature a wider variety of games and buy-ins.

The Growth Levels Off

The popularity of the World Series (measured by entries into the Main Event) peaked in 2006 due to the online poker crackdown leading to fewer online satellites, and the concurrent peaking of the poker fad. Although the popularity of the WSOP tapered off slightly in the following years, the WSOP still remains immensely popular. In 2012, the Main Event still received 6,865 entrants.


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Poker Events - WSOP History

HPG ADMIN on March 5, 2013