history of the world series of poker

The history of the World Series of Poker, which necessarily is also history of the WSOP Main Event, is more colorful than a lot of people today probably imagine. Those who enjoy being able to "shuffle up and deal" and try to get one of them there bracelets (along with a $1 million prize) at the World Series of Poker enjoy more prestige and respect than ever before...and once upon a time they did not enjoy much of it at all in the eyes of the seemingly always jaded main stream public.

The 2008 WSOP proved this.

Held at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino, a record number of entrants showed up and the largest total prize pool of any World Series Of Poker in history was paid out. The 2008 WSOP featured nine events requiring $10,000 buy-ins, a $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event (taken by Scotty "The Prince of Poker" Nguyen), and seven distinct World Championship of Poker events (marking the first time that more variations of the game yielded a World Championship bracelet) all made sure that this WSOP was, itself, an historic event.

The first official World Series of Poker event took at Binion’s Horseshoe Casino in 1970. But, its origins have roots in the year 1949, when casino owner Benny Binion brought together poker players including "Nick the Greek" Dandolos and Johnny Moss, who went "face to face" in all sorts of cash games which were reported to have extended into an event that wound up lasting five months. The legendary Johnny Moss eventually won the grand prize, and it's said he took Dandalos for what was then an utterly staggering $2 million.

20 years later, Tom Moore held the "Texas Gamblers Reunion" at the Holiday Hotel in Reno, Nevada, that he had bought. Besides the Binion brothers (Benny and Jack), the poker legends that showed up for this event included: "Amarillo Slim" Preston and his close friend Doyle "the Texas Dolly" Brunson, Johnny Moss, Jimmy "The Greek", "Treetop" Straus, "Corky" McCorquodale, Aubrey Day, "Puggy" Pearson, Bill Boyd, Jimmy Casella, Long Diddie (no relation to a modern day hip-hop rapper), and Syd Wyman.

Tom Moore's reunion of the Texas Gamblers was the proto-WSOP, but it lacked a Main Event...and, for the general public with its love of spectator sports, it just was lacking.

The very next year, Benny Binion opened up a poker room in his own hotel and brought all the great ones of poker back together again. He also made sure other tavern athletes were there: the legendary pool tricksters Minnesota Fats and Titanic Thompson. But, at the end it all Johnny Moss got voted the champion by his gambling cohorts, there still was no true grand prize, still no real Main Event.

But, the "Los Angeles Times" paper was interested enough to send a feature journalist to the event, Ted Thackrey Jr. And that writer was interested enough to say to Amarillo Slim, "You got to have a winner, a real winner. You need to find some way to make it a contest. If you want to get the press involved and turn the World Series of Poker into a real sporting event, you need to give it some structure, create some drama, and make it like a real tournament." Famous last words, indeed.

history of world series of poker

Looking backward just a couple of years later, Benny Binion said, "So we enjoyed it very much, everybody enjoyed it so; good get together too, you know. So Tom Moore sold out, so I says, 'Well, we'll just put it on.' Arid Jack [who was my oldest son] took ahold of it, went to puttin' it on. So we've really improved it over what it did--we improve it every year."

In 1971, Binion made it so that six final players had to buy in for $5000 each. The grand prize that year? $30,000 of course! The winner? Johnny Moss. And this time, there was nothing democratic about it...there was no popularity vote; each player tried to really earn that money, to get back their investment and a whole lot more.

"This poker game here gets us a lot of attention. We had seven players last year, and this year we had 13. I look to have better than 20 next year. It's even liable to get up to be 50, might get up to be more than that...It will eventually," said Binion to an interviewer that year.

Spoken in the time of the prophets, indeed.

Amarillo Slim said of Benny Binion, who died in 1989, "He was either the gentlest bad guy or the baddest good guy you'd ever seen".

But without that baddest good guy ever, the history of the World Series of Poker never would have been written. For it would not exist. And if you want to get a visual on this incredible history, check out Learn to Win Holdem's world series of poker videos archives!

Exit History of World Series of Poker » Texas Holdem Poker

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