In 1969 a reunion of Texas gamblers held at the Holiday Hotel in Reno, would provide the idea for the birth of Poker’s equivalent to the World Cup or Olympic Games – except it would become an annual event as opposed to something undertaken every four years. One year later, the legendary Benny Binion invited 6 of the best known poker players to his famous Horseshoe casino and so the World Series of Poker had begun.
It took a while to catch on, indeed by the early 80’s there were still less than 100 participants taking part, but then towards the end of that decade it began to grow in popularity and by the beginning of the 90’s the numbers had swelled to above 2000. With the onset of online gambling there was a huge surge in the early part of the 21st century, peaking in 2006 at 8,773.
In its beginning there was just the one event, a Texas Hold’em showdown, and this continues to be the ‘main event’, but gradually over the years more and more games have been included; with 57 events being played in the 2009 series. Most major poker variations are covered, but over 50% of the events are variants of Texas Hold’em. The winner of each receives a monetary prize, but of greater value to the poker player is a bracelet that is handed out, with the ‘main event’ winner receiving what is regarded as the ultimate bracelet and an unofficial acknowledgement that they are the World Champion of poker. This has been challenged recently, with calls for the version played to be changed from no limit to pot limit, as there is a belief that the latter requires more skill. Phillip Hellmuth Junior holds the record for most bracelets won in WSOP with an impressive tally of 11.
The WSOP normally occurs throughout June and July, but recently the Main Event is held back until the November. The 2010 event will be held at the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas from 27th May until 17th July; with the Main Event returning on November 6th to 9th. Last years winner was a young man by the name of Joe Cada; a 21 year old from Michigan. Due to his tender years he wasn’t actually legally able to play on the American side of the border, so he’d nip across to Canada to learn his trade, initially at great cost to himself, but ultimately the best travel arrangements he’ll ever make.
The most successful players of the World Series of Poker are 2 completely different characters. Johnny Moss and Stu Unger have both won the title 3 times, but came from totally opposite backgrounds. Moss was well respected in poker circles right up to his death, aged 88, in 1995. Unger on the other hand was introduced to gambling by his loan shark father at a very early age and became heavily dependant on drugs, and although battling back from addiction he died aged 45 from a drug abuse related heart condition.