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The World Series of Poker (WSOP) is an annual poker event that is held in Las Vegas. The world's best poker players come together and fight it out in one tournament where the prize money runs in the millions of dollars. At least, that was the case for years.

Nowadays the WSOP has more than 100 tournaments spread all over the world. Some tournaments also have different poker variants. By far the largest tournament is the main event. To participate in this you have to deposit $ 10,000. In 2021 the winner defeated 6650 other players and won $ 8,000,000. The winner of the main event, whereby Texas Hold ‘em is played, is also considered world champion Poker. However, this spectacular events has a modest origin.

The Horseshoe Casino

The WSOP has its origins in the year 1970 in the Horseshoe Casino. Gok icon Benny Binion invited the seven best -known poker players for a tournament in his casino. There was a start in advance and an end time. The winner was determined by the other players, who wrote a name on an anonymous note. The players chose Johnny Moss as the winner. The next year he won the tournament again. After the third edition in 1973, the founder Benny Binion was interviewed extensively. In this he tells a lot about his life and took the WSOP more a supporting role. From his stories, however, you can paint a good picture of the run -up to the first tournament.

Poker Duel

In 1951 Binion became partner of the Horseshoe Casino. The poker player Nick Dandalos then asked him to organize a poker game with a high bet. It was said of Dandalos at the time that he had ties with the Mafia. Binion ed his friend Tony Moss, one of the best poker players in America at the time. The idea was that there was a poker match between these two titans of the game. This happened in January of 1951. The game lasted a few months. In the meantime, Binion earned money from paying spectators who came to the event en masse.

For $ 10,000 it was even possible to play with. In May, Dandalos had had enough and withdrew from the game. He thanked Moss who, according to strong stories, left the table with $ 2,500,000 in his pockets. The game was over. Binion is also said to earn millions from this. In this way he got the taste for organizing poker games. And it tasted like more.

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A dangerous industry

Benny Binion was certainly not a sweetheart. Before he took on the role of casino boss, he was a burglar and a (suspected) murderer. He also discovered taxes and this ensured that he had to go to jail two years after the iconic poker duel. His sons Jack and Ted arranged it in the meantime Horseshoe Casino. But from prison, Binion will also have had a role in this.

The life of a criminal is not always about roses. Binion therefore had many enemies. This was a good reason for him to grab his bags in 1946 and to move to Las Vegas.

A new tournament

Binion eventually became a free man and returned to it Horseshoe Casino. However, the casino no longer had an official poker space. Nothing more than a few simple poker competitions happened. In 1969 an invitation suddenly appeared to attend a poker competition in Reno. This competition was organized by Tom Moore. Moore owned it Holiday Hotel. A well -known marketer in the gambling industry called Vic Vickrey came up with the idea.

It was his intention to lure customers to the new hotel with a competition. The match was given the name Texas Gamblers Reunion. Binion, born in Texas, meets his old friend Tony Moss here again. The other people came directly from a Scorsese film. For example, the assassin Charles Harrelson was present. Charles's son, Woody, later became a well -known actor.

The competition lasted a week. The players played different poker variants. This way the opportunities were distributed fairly. Variants like Caribbean Stud Poker, Low Ball in Five Card Stud. However, there was one variant that was most popular with the spectators. This variant is better known as Texas Hold ‘em. This is still extremely popular and the most played variant at the WSOP. In the main event is not for nothing Texas Hold ‘em played. It is still the king of the poker.

A new round

Binion had a good time and thought back to the poker duel that he organized in 1951. Especially the thought of the money brought a smile to his face. Tom Moore announced Binion that he did not want to continue the tournament. Binion then continued with the idea and brought it to it Horseshoe Casino.

This idea got more speed when he received the support of a number of big names. Including the rich industrial man Howard Hughes and the sports commentator Jimmy Snyder. This also made more publicity for the tournament. With the wind in his back, he sent invitations to the best poker players in the country. The story goes that he called it the World Series of Poker at the time.

The first tournament

Binion had the idea to turn the WSOP into a one -off event. Because his casino had no poker space, he had to make room for this. This was a risk, because if bank he might not earn back the costs. The first WSOP also had a prize pool for the winner. As mentioned earlier, the winner would be chosen by the other players. However, this was changed later and one came freeze-out system. After ten days of poker, Johnny Moss was designated as the winner. He also received a cup for the effort.

The Flop

Binion did not spend much money on the first tournament. He already had a space in the casino and Jimmy Snyder arranged the publicity. Binion only had to compensate for the reporters who came to the tournament. One of these reporters was Ted Thackrey. He wrote that the event was a thunderous ... boring event.

The title of World Series of Poker sounded impressive, but according to him the event was the opposite. "For days you see emotionless people sliding back and forth, "He mentioned. The fact that the winner showed little charisma and was chosen by the others was also not ideal. He missed the tension of a competition. He missed a spectacle.

The Turn

Thackrey's words reached Thomas Preston, one of the players of the tournament. He advised Binion to make it a competition more. A freeze-out System where an undisputed winner could be crowned. Binion was satisfied with the publicity that his casino received and organized a sequel to the World Series of Poker. In the following May, the WSOP took place as a freeze-out tournament. Several competitions were held with different poker variants. In the end, Johnny Moss also won this edition again. This time he won $ 30,000.

The effect of the World Series or Poker

Also outside it Horseshoe Casino Poker tournaments took place. Texas in particular was known for its weekly competitions. In the 1950s and 60s there are already players who travel America to poke. So there were already professional poker players at the time. The World Series of Poker soon became an iconic tournament. This was partly due to Binion's marketing skills. The interest that the media showed was also an important factor for the success of the WSOP. It was a favorable coincidence.


The sheets that are played in the World Series of Poker are only valid for the tournament. During the tournament, many other competitions are organized where you can play with real money. The WSOP also provides a lot of spectacle outside the playroom. A lot has happened in the tournament over the years. At the first edition, in 1970, there were only a handful of participants present. The winner, Johnny Moss, got a silver cup at the time. Since 1976 the winner has also received a silver bracelet. This is now a coveted and iconic price.

Slim yellow

From 1972 Thomas Preston contributed a lot to the WSOP by sharing his enthusiastic stories with the media. He was also known under the nickname Amarillo Slim. For example, he joined the legendary Johnny Carson several times The Tonight Show. He got a role in the film from director Robert Altman California Split. He would also serve as inspiration for the Kenny Rogers number The Gambler. In addition, Preston also wrote the popular book Play Poker to Win. For example, even Hollywood had the spotlights aimed at it poker.

Evolution of the World Series of Poker

Over the years a lot has happened in the WSOP. So CBS News of Sports A documentary about the tournament in 1973. Jimmy Snyder was the narrator in this. In 1979 Hal Fowler won the WSOP. This was remarkable since he was an amateur. He made the road for more amateurs who later participated in the WSOP. In 1979 Thomas Preston himself also started a tournament that he Superbowl of Poker mentioned. This tournament equaled the popularity of the WSOP in the 1980s and was a great success.

A player named Stu "The Kid" Unggar won the WSOP in 1980 and 1981. Many years later he won it again in 1997. This made him, besides Johnny Moss, one of the two people who managed to win the event three times. Due to long -term drug use, "The Kid" died a year later. In 1982, 11 preparatory events were added and a WSOP tournament for women was created.

Satellite tournaments

In 1983, tournament director Eric Drache came up with the idea of holding satellite tournaments for the WSOP. Thanks to these tournaments, the average poker player could participate in the event and get the chance to play against the very best. These tournaments also helped the popularity of the WSOP, which increased the prize pool.

The success of this also spread to other countries. This way you can participate internationally at the WSOP. Everyone can play for an invitation from the WSOP Final Tournament in Las Vegas. These satellite tournaments were further expanded and since 2013 they can also be played online.

Further growth of the WSOP

A disadvantage of the popularity of the WSOP was it Horseshoe Casino No more room had enough space. In 1988 the Binion bought family The Mint, the casino and hotel that along the Horseshoe Casino lay. This gave them a new large poker space. However, Benny Binion could not enjoy it for long. He died in 1989 and the business leadership went to his son Jack.

In 1990 there is the first WSOP winner from outside America. The Iranian Mansour Matloubi, who then lived in England, was too smart for everyone. In 1994 he reached the final table again, but this time ends in fourth place. In 1991 the prize money reached the $ 1,000,000 limit for the first time. The player Brad Daughty took this amount home. The World Series of Poker has only become more popular over the years and this is reflected in the prize money. In 2004 it was five million dollars and two years later, in 2006, this had already risen to twelve million.


Of Superbowl of Poker More and more provided competition, so there were not many players present at the WSOP. However, that changed in 2003. The amateur player Chris Moneymaker won the tournament that year. He called on a lot of sympathy and millions of players from all over the world saw him as a personification of the American dream. This led to a considerable stream of new participants from the WSOP.

As a result, there was also more interest in online poker. Today the prize money of the WSOP equals that of other professional sports. For example, the winner won eight million dollars in 2021. Due to the coronavirus, the WSOP had to be reduced in recent years and large parts took place online.


The World Series of Poker is the largest and most famous poker tournament in the world. From a modest poker match between a handful of players, it has grown into a million tournament. Thousands of players from all over the world test their agility against the very best. They all hope for the prestigious title of WSOP winner. The millions of dollars prize money in particular will motivate many people to play their best game.

When Benny Binion started the tournament, he could never know that the WSOP would become so big. Every fanatic poker player sometimes fantasizes about winning The World Series of Poker. And for some of them, that dream has become reality.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the World Series or Poker?

The World Series of Poker (WSOP) is a prestigious poker tournament in which thousands of people from all over the world participate. Nowadays it consists of more than 100 tournaments. The main prize is winning the main event In Las Vegas. Here thousands of people are the variant Texas Hold ‘em Played until only one table remains. Under the eye of millions of spectators, this final table is played for the win. In addition to a silver bracelet and the title, the winner also receives millions of dollars in prize money.

How did the World Series or Poker come about?

The WSOP started as a small tournament in it Horseshoe Casino In Las Vegas. However, the first edition proved to be very profitable for casino boss Benny Binion. Soon there was a lot of interest from the press. In addition to many players, it mainly attracted a lot of money. Over the years, it continued to grow until it Horseshoe Casino was too small for the tournament. Nowadays you will find the WSOP all over the world and you can even participate in the event online.

How do you participate in the World Series or Poker?

Everyone can participate in the WSOP. In principle, it doesn't matter where in the world you are. Due to one of the many satellite tournaments, this is even easier than ever before. Participating in the main event is not cheap, however. A place in Las Vegas costs $ 10,000. However, if you have faith in your poker skills, you can go for the ultimate poker glory here. This can give you millions of dollars.

Written by Henry Scheffers

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