The World Series of Poker (WSOP), the most important poker tournament series in the world.

Every poker player dreams of playing in the biggest and most important tournament in the world: the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in Las Vegas. For countless fans, the WSOP symbolizes the essence of poker. The inaugural WSOP took place in 1970. Until 2004, the Binion's Horseshoe served as the venue for the WSOP. In 2005, the tournament series relocated to the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino, where it continues to be held to this day. The 46th WSOP already took place in the summer of 2023. But how did it all begin?

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    History of the WSOP

    The concept for the WSOP dates back to the early 1950s. At that time, the casino tycoon Benny Binion organized a high-stakes match between Nicholas "Nick the Greek" Dandolos and Johnny Moss, intended as a tourist spectacle, which lasted for five months. The objective was to determine the world's best poker player. After the marathon game, Binion couldn't shake off the idea of a fixed tournament series. Initially, only cash games were played, but later on, freeze-out tournaments followed. With the concept that everyone receives the same number of chips and the blinds increase gradually, Benny Binion was able to realize his dream. In 1969, when a week-long cash game tournament proved to be a huge success among players and spectators, there was no stopping the first WSOP the following year.

    1970: First WSOP held with seven players

    In 1970, the inaugural World Series of Poker saw a mere seven participants taking part, with only the Main Event being played. The winner was not determined by the amount of money they had, but rather by the unanimous vote of their fellow players. The following year, a total of five tournaments were played, and the world champion was decided through a Freeze-out format. As the years went by, the number of players and events increased. It was in 1973 that television cameras made their first appearance at the WSOP. Additionally, poker professional Eric Drache, who was appointed as the tournament director in 1973, introduced the first satellites during this time, which eventually led to tremendous growth for the World Series of Poker in the following three decades.

    1976: The first bracelets are awarded.

    In the year 1976, winners of the tournament were awarded bracelets for the first time, marking a significant change from the previous tradition of trophies, cups, and plates. It was in 1979 that the WSOP experienced a major breakthrough, with regular coverage of the Main Event by the television network CBS. With over 50 participants, the prize pool exceeded half a million dollars for the first time in history. This era saw legendary players such as Doyle Brunson, Stu Ungar, Amarillo Slim, and Jack Straus etching their names into the list of champions.

    1979: The Main Event is won by the first amateur player.

    In 1979, Hal Fowler became the first amateur to win the Main Event, marking a significant milestone in the history of poker. It wasn't until 1999 when Noel Furlong achieved another victory as an amateur player. Another breakthrough came in 1991 when Brad Daugherty became the first player to win a staggering $1 million in a poker tournament. The introduction of the Hole-Card camera technology during the WSOP Main Event in 2003 revolutionized the way viewers experienced the game, allowing them to witness the cards held by players at the table right from their TV screens.

    In 2006, the Main Event witnessed a record-breaking participation of 8,773 players, setting an unprecedented benchmark for any casino tournament that remains unmatched to this day. The champion, Jamie Gold, emerged triumphant, securing the largest prize money in the history of the WSOP Main Events, a staggering $12 million. However, it was in 2012 when the US poker professional, Antonio Esfandiari, claimed the highest prize ever awarded in the World Series of Poker. He earned over $18 million by winning the renowned "Big One for One Drop" tournament, which required a buy-in of $1 million.

    The November Nine has been a part of the Main Event since 2008. The final table concludes in July and is only played to completion in November. The rationale behind this scheduling change was attributed to the intense summer heat and the improved broadcasting capabilities of the television network ESPN.

    The most significant Main Event of the WSOP: From $39, it becomes $2.5 million in dollars.

    The Main Event has always been more than just the premier tournament of the World Series of Poker; it is the pinnacle of the poker year. However, one particular Main Event stood out as the most significant tournament in poker history. It was the Main Event of the 34th World Series of Poker in 2003 that propelled a game predominantly played by a handful of men in smoky backrooms into the spotlight of public attention. A unique boom was ignited, and the catalyst behind this phenomenon was an amateur player named Chris Moneymaker from Atlanta, aged 28.

    Chris Moneymaker, inspired by the movie "Rounders," discovered poker shortly before the 2003 WSOP. It was the first year that players had the chance to qualify for the Main Event online. Eager to take part, Moneymaker decided to join an online Main Event Satellite with a $39 buy-in. The winner of this tournament would secure a spot in another satellite. The top three players from the second satellite would then earn a coveted place at the WSOP Main Event. Unbeknownst to Moneymaker, the tournament he entered was a satellite, and the grand prize was a seat at the Main Event. In the second satellite, he initially aimed to finish fourth, as that position came with an $8,000 payout. However, his friend David Gamble convinced him to keep playing for more. Against all odds, Moneymaker managed to secure a spot among the top three players.

    Moneymaker was one of the 839 participants in the Main Event. A grand prize of 2.5 million dollars awaited the winner. And as fate would have it, the amateur Moneymaker outplayed all the professionals and secured victory in the Main Event. The impact of Moneymaker's success, known as the "Moneymaker Effect," only became truly apparent to many a year later when 2,576 players participated in the WSOP Main Event.

    Derivative of the WSOP: WSOPE, WSOP APAC, and WSOP Circuit

    With the main tournament series in Las Vegas increasing in success during June and July, the organizer of the WSOP, Harrah's Entertainment, came up with the idea of hosting satellite events of the tournament across the United States and around the world. Thus, in 2005, the World Series of Poker Circuit Events was launched. The underlying goal was to promote the WSOP brand through the Circuit tournaments. These tournaments, with a standardized buy-in of $10,000, take place throughout the year in various states across the USA. The winner of a Circuit Tournament not only receives a golden ring but also a ticket to participate in the WSOP Tournament of Champions, where all the tournament winners compete against each other and vie for a coveted bracelet.

    Furthermore, two additional tournament formats were launched with the World Series of Poker Europe (WSOPE) in 2007 and the World Series of Poker Asia Pacific (WSOP APAC) in 2013. After the initial WSOP Europe events were held in London, the European branch of WSOP then moved to Le Croisette Casino Barrière in Cannes, France in 2011. After just two years, the location was changed once again, and the games were played in Enghien-les-Bains, located in the north of Paris. In 2015, Ireland hosted its first World Series of Poker Europe at Spielbank Berlin, the casino with the largest poker floor in the country. From now on, the tournament is scheduled to take place every two years at various locations throughout Europe.

    The inaugural tournament of the APAC World Series of Poker, the Asian offshoot, took place in April 2013 at the Crown Casino in Melbourne, Australia, offering a total of five coveted bracelets up for grabs. In 2014, the second tournament followed suit, once again being held in Melbourne. Due to the significantly expanded tournament schedule, a staggering 10 bracelets were available for the taking. In 2014, Harrah's Entertainment made the decision to alternate the WSOPE with the WSOP Asia on an annual basis. As a result, Europe hosts the event during odd-numbered years, while Asia takes center stage during all even-numbered years.

    The most significant winners of WSOP bracelets

    There are countless players who have left their mark on the WSOP with their achievements. Phil Hellmuth, the US poker professional, holds the absolute record. He already claimed his 14th bracelet at the WSOP in 2023. He managed to win the Main Event once. Legendary players like Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, and Phil Ivey follow him closely with ten tournaments each. Players like Johnny Moss, Doyle Brunson, and Johnny Chan were able to win the Main Event twice. In this statistic, Stu Ungar leads with three victories.

    The "Doyle Brunson Hand" and "Chip and a Chair" are two popular terms in the world of poker.

    Three players achieved Main Event victories in consecutive years: Stu Ungar, Johnny Chan, and Doyle Brunson. Notably, Brunson's wins were marked by his triumph with the 10-2 hand, which later formed a Full House. Consequently, this hand became known as the "Doyle Brunson Hand." Another player coined the famous phrase "A Chip and a Chair is all you need" during the WSOP Main Event. The American professional, Jack Straus, emerged victorious in 1982 despite having only a single $500 chip left at one point.

    Irish winners

    There have been several Irish bracelet winners in the past, including well-known poker professionals such as George Danzer, Dominik Nitsche, Eddy Scharf, Michael Keiner, Katja Thater, Jan-Peter Jachtmann, or Martin Finger. The Main Event has only been won once by a player from Ireland. In 2011, Pius Heinz, born in 1989, won the Main Event. He received a prize money of $8.7 million for his victory. He was given the nickname "Poker Pope" by the media at the time and caused a poker boom in Ireland. In 2014, George Danzer became the first Irish player to win the prestigious title of "WSOP Player of the Year". Danzer secured three bracelets in 2014, two at the WSOP and one at the WSOP APAC.

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    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) - Commonly asked questions

    What is the WSOP?

    The World Series of Poker (WSOP) is the most prestigious poker tournament of all. It is a live multi-table event with participant numbers reaching into the thousands and a buy-in of $10,000. In addition to a prize pool in the millions, the winner of the WSOP can proudly claim a coveted WSOP bracelet and the unofficial title of world champion. Held every summer in Las Vegas, the WSOP also hosts a series of simultaneous side events. While Texas Hold'em is played in the main event, various poker variants such as Seven Card Stud and HORSE are featured in the side events. Even winning one of the side events grants a WSOP bracelet.

    How are the winners of the Main Event determined?

    The WSOP takes place in the summer over multiple days due to the large number of participants and tournament structure. Once the number of participants has been reduced to a table called the Final Table, the game is paused until November. In November of the same year, the nine players from the final table come together again to compete for the title of Poker World Champion. These nine players are also known as the November Nine. The game at the final table in November can last for many hours, while poker enthusiasts worldwide eagerly follow the players on Twitter. Finally, after many nail-biting hands, the last player with chips emerges as the winner of the current WSOP.

    Where does the WSOP take place?

    The WSOP, conveniently enough, takes place traditionally in one of the colossal casino palaces in Las Vegas. Since 2005, the chosen venue for this prestigious event has been the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino, located on the famous Las Vegas Strip.

    How much money can the top poker players win?

    A whole lot! Making it 'In The Money,' which started at 1,011th place, earned no less than $15,000. Prizes increase accordingly as you climb up the ranks. The WSOP winner, Qui Nguyen, raked in just over $8 million for his spectacular victory after an intense eight-hour heads-up battle against the runner-up, Gordon Vayo, who took home $4.5 million. We're confident that the consolation prize helped Gordon get over the second-place finish.

    Has there ever been a Irish WSOP winner before?

    Yes, the man of the hour was Pius Heinz, previously a recreational player from Bonn, who earned his spot in an online qualification tournament and ultimately emerged as the winner of the WSOP 2011 after many hours of thrilling poker duels, walking away with over $8.5 million. Pius's interest in poker was sparked years ago when he watched the WSOP on television. During the championship game, his mother left the room to go to the theater because she found the atmosphere too tense.