first ever World Series of Poker [WSOP] was held at the Holiday Hotel
and Casino, in Reno, in 1969, by Tom Moore, of San Antonio, Texas. The
winner of this inaugural event was Crandell Addington, who later went
on to place in the top ten of the Main Event eight times, a record that
still stands. The set of tournaments that the World Series of Poker would
evolve into was the brainchild of Las Vegas casino owner and poker player
Benny Binion, as well as his two sons
Jack and Ted.
In 1970, the first WSOP at Binion's Horseshoe Casino took place as a series of cash games that included five-card stud, deuce to seven low-ball draw, razz, seven-card stud, and Texas hold 'em. The format for the Main Event as a freeze-out Texas hold 'em tournament came the following year. The winner in the 1970 WSOP was the now legendary Johnny Moss, who was later elected by his peers as the first World Champion of Poker.
From 1971 on, all WSOP events have been tournaments with cash prizes. The number of participants in the WSOP has grown almost every year. In 2000 there were 4,780 entrants in the various events, but in 2005, the number rose to over 23,000 players. In the Main Event alone, participants grew from 839 in 2003 to 8,773 in 2006. This was known as the "Moneymaker Effect" because after unknown amateur player Chris Moneymaker won the Main Event, everyone thought that they could do the same. Much of this growth can also be attributed to the WSOP being televised on ESPN and the World Poker Tour being shown on the Travel Channel.
In 2004, Harrah's Entertainment purchased the Binion's Horseshoe Casino. Harrah's kept the rights to the Horseshoe and WSOP brands and announced that the 2005 WSOP would be held at the Rio Hotel and Casino, in Las Vegas. The final two days of the 2005 WSOP Main Event were held downtown, at what is now the MTR-operated "Binion's" in celebration of the centennial of the founding of Las Vegas.
The Rio Hotel and Casino also hosted the 2006 WSOP. The first prize of $12 million was awarded to Jamie Gold.
Four players have won the main event multiple times, namely Johnny Moss (1970, 1971 and 1974), Doyle Brunson (1976 and 1977), Stu Ungar (1980, 1981 and 1997) and Johnny Chan (1987 and 1988.) The final round of the 1988 WSOP Main Event was featured in the popular movie Rounders, staring Matt Damon and Ed Norton.
Since 1972, the WSOP Main Event has always been the $10,000 buy-in, no-limit Texas Hold 'Em tournament. (In 1971, the buy-in was $5,000.) The winner of the Main Event has traditionally been given the unofficial title of World Champion, however the game's top professionals have stated that the recently-added $50,000 buy-in H.O.R.S.E> event (in which Hold 'em, Omaha, Razz, Seven Card Stud and Eight-or-better are all played) is the true event which ultimately decides the world's best poker player.
The 2006 H.O.R.S.E. tournament was won by Chip Reese. It should be
noted that the professional poker players played a major role in convincing
the WSOP management to stage an event with a buy-in much larger than the
Main Event. The growth of poker tournaments and the WSOP (by way of "Moneymaker
Effect") had resulted in fields with a far greater number of amateurs
in proportion to professional players. Hence, the Main Event now has a
much greater likelihood of producing winners who are rookies, amateurs
and/or unknown players, mostly as an outcome of chance, rather than true
poker skill. Professional poker players sought to create an event that
was more likely to produce a more well-rounded poker professional as the
eventual winner. The $50,000 buy-in has thus far managed to deter amateur
poker players from participating in the H.O.R.S.E. tournament.
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