There are lots of poker tournaments held all around the world, and none bigger than those run by the World Series of Poker (WSOP). But how did these get started? And how did the WSOP make it to its iconic status today?
Where it started
The World Series of Poker started in 1970 when there were less than 50 poker tables in the whole of Las Vegas – almost impossible to imagine this scenario now! For an indepth history click here www.bgo.com/blog/post/2013/06/11/history-of-wsop, but we’ll cover the basics in this post.
The very first contest that ended up crowning the first world champion of poker wasn’t held in a huge glamorous casino at all, rather just in a small room with 30 gamblers wedged in around a few tables.
The owner of Horseshoe Casino, Benny Binion, is popularly considered to be the instigator but it’s likely that he did it along with two men called Tom Moore and Vic Vickery, both huge gambling men with a vision.
The early competitions
This very first WSOP had no attention from public or press, in fact, no one outside of Vegas even knew about it. Binion decided to make big improvements in order to get the prestige he wanted for his tournament.
Johnny Moss won the second year’s title after being voted the winner by the other players in the inaugural WSOP event.
In 1972, WSOP found its first spokesperson in Amarillo Slim Preston who became vocal to the media and embarked on a press tour which brought attention to the WSOP for the first time ever and it caught public attention. And then in 1973, the competition was televised by CBS and the competition was expanded to include different events.
The 80s and 90s
As the competition grew, the casinos next door to the Horseshoe tabled some of the competitors, spreading WSOP across the Golden Nugget and Four Queens. In 1989 the guy who had started it all died and the WSOP entered a new era. It was now four weeks long and included 20 tournaments with a huge amount of players – up to 300 fighting for the main prize that was now $1million.
It grew yet more over the next few years with prize money, reputation and the media finding poker fascinating. In 2004 it was sold to Harrah’s Entertainment who now run WSOP and in 2005 the competition moved to the huge RIO All-suites Casino and Hotel. Much more gaming space meant that it worked more smoothly and everyone had space.
By 2006, the WSOP had 45 tournaments all of which gave out the coveted gold bracelets to the winners and more than $100 million in prize money was given away. It’s now on a circuit and expanded across country with huge companies and brands involved in sponsorship and backing. It’s a behemoth of a poker tournament and it’s hard to believe it’s come such a long way from such tiny beginnings.