World Series of Poker History

World Series of Poker history started in 1970, when Benny Binion invited a small set of elite poker players to participate in high-stakes poker at his famous Binion’s Horseshoe Casino. The buy-in then was $5,000, and the tournament included five events – featuring the games Five-Card Stud, Deuce to Seven Lowball Draw, Razz, Seven-Card Stud and Texas Hold ’em. All five events played in the first year were won by poker legend Johnny Moss, who won the Main Event again in 1974.

The popularity of the World Series continued to grow slowly but steadily through the 1970s and 1980s. Then, with the growth in Internet poker, the introduction of satellite tournaments and much greater television coverage of poker tournaments generally, its popularity truly exploded.

In 2000, there were over 4,700 entrants in the various events. By 2005, this number had risen to over 23,000 – and for 2007, there were a phenomenal 54,288 entrants (including well over 6,000 entrants for the Main Event).

Right up to 2005, the World Series continued to be played at Binion’s Horseshoe. In 2005, however, the casino was bought by Harrah’s Entertainment, which sold the rights to the hotel and casino to the MTR Gaming Group but kept the rights to the World Series of Poker branding. Since then, the World Series of Poker events have been played at different Harrah’s-owned properties.

As the number of entrants in the Main Event has gone up, so has the prize. Setting the record for the biggest ever pot in World Series of Poker history was the 2006 Main Event, for which every player at the final table won a minimum of $1.5 million. The winner, Jamie Gold, won a staggering total of $12 million.

Stricter legislation limiting online poker in the United States led to a slightly smaller field for the 2007 Main Event. The winner, Jerry Yang, walked away with a pot of $8,250,000.

We’ll be waiting to see who makes World Series of Poker history at the Main Event in 2008.