The Story Behind the World’s Biggest Poker Tournament
In 1970, less than fifty poker tables could be found in all of Las Vegas. The celebrated Binion’s Horseshoe had no poker room at all. A poker contest was held in an alcove no bigger than a regular hotel room with about thirty gamblers squeezed around a few tables. They didn’t know they were launching a historic event called the World Series of Poker.
The very first World Series of Poker got little press coverage and no public attention. No one outside Vegas knew or cared. After several days of high-stakes poker, Johnny Moss, was declared “best all-around player.” The first world champion was awarded a gold cup.
Benny Binion understood that, if the World Series of Poker was to earn a reputation that matched its title, improvements were necessary. In 1971, the WSOP hosted just seven players who each paid the $5,000 entry fee. The winner-take-all prize went to Johnny Moss, retaining his world champion title.
Sixteen years later, the tiny Horseshoe could barely host what was becoming a global gambling spectacle. Fields were getting so big that some participants had to play at other nearby casinos, such as the Golden Nugget and Four Queens.
By 2006, the WSOP was featuring 45 tournaments and awarding winners with gold bracelets. More than $100 million was won to make it the richest event in all of sports.
WSOP’s Colorful Winners and Incredible Moments
Poker history is long and colorful, especially around the WSOP. “Amarillo Slim” Preston’s 1972 victory is one highly significant event. As one of only twelve entries, he turned his victory into a personal publicity campaign, bringing attention to the WSOP. He was a Tonight Show guest eleven times. He made movies, wrote a best-seller, and helped make the WSOP a worldwide phenomenon.
CBS Sports first televised the WSOP in 1973, flashing images of the fourth annual world championship that included super wide lapels, mutton-chop sideburns, and smoldering cigars. Capitalizing on the massive exposure, the WSOP expanded by adding four preliminary events: Seven-card Stud, Razz, Deuce-to-seven Draw, and No Limit Hold’em. Johnny Moss won a third championship the next year before Doyle Brunson won back-to-back titles and became one of the top players in poker.
In 1978, the first woman entered the WSOP when Barbara Freer broke the sex barrier to take her place in what had only ever been a men-only fraternity.
One of the more shocking occurrences at the WSOP came in 1979 when, Hal Fowler, the first amateur player to enter, became that year’s champion, embarrassing many veteran poker professionals. Fowler inspired more amateurs to enter, including numerous players from overseas. Unfortunately, his legacy faded quickly because he never played the WSOP again.
Binion’s Horseshoe was purchased by Harrah’s Entertainment in 2004, retaining the rights to the World Series of Poker, and announcing that, in 2005, the events would take place at the Rio Hotel and Casino just off the Vegas Strip, where the event continues to this day.
Poker Games Played at the WSOP
Television and movies seem to think that Texas Hold’em, certainly the most popular poker game for the last 15 years, is the only poker game in town. But, as they say on TV, there’s more! The wide range of games, structures and strategies are evident in the variety played at the World Series of Poker.
Yes, there’s Texas Hold’em, but the WSOP also features Omaha, seven-card stud, draw games, five-card draw, lowball draw, Badugi and Horse.
If you’re planning to enter the WSOP, those of us at Ignition applaud your courage and confidence. It’s a tournament for only the most skilled players, which is what makes the World Series of Poker the hottest game in town. Thousands of professionals and amateurs from all over the world meet on a colossal stage to pit their skills, tricks and strategies to win some of the biggest prizes in all of gambling.
We wish you luck and we encourage you to practice your poker skills online with us. Start honing your skills by downloading our Ignition poker app, which allows you to play anytime, anywhere from your mobile, tablet or desktop. You’ll get access to all the benefits Ignition poker has to offer, including Quick Seat, Anonymous Tables, Zone Poker, Ignition Poker tournaments and more. We even offer tips and strategies to get your playing muscles (your brain) toned.