The World Series of Poker (WSOP) is the largest set of poker tournaments in the world. It is held annually in Las Vegas, and since 2007 has consisted of 55 events, of which all but the "Main Event" are finished in just over a month.
The winner of each event wins a World Series of Poker bracelet and a prize based on the number of entrants. Most of the major poker variants are featured, though in recent years over half of the events have been variants of Texas hold 'em.
The series culminates with the $10,000 no-limit hold'em "Main Event", which since 2004 has attracted entrants numbering in the thousands, with the victor receiving a multi-million dollar prize.
Since 2005, the WSOP has been sponsored by Harrah's Entertainment.
Since 1971, all WSOP events have been tournaments with cash prizes. In 1973 a five-card stud event was added. Since then, new events have been added and removed. In 2006 there were 45 events at the WSOP, covering the majority of poker variants. Currently, Texas hold 'Em, Omaha hold 'em and Seven-card stud and their lowball variants (if any) are played. H.O.R.S.E. has been played in the past and returned in 2006. Also, S.H.O.E. has been played in the past, and returned in 2007. Other events played in the past include Chinese poker, Five card stud, and many others.
Like most tournaments, the sponsoring casino takes an entry fee (a percentage between 6% and 10%, depending on the buy-in) and distributes the rest, hence the prize money increases with more players. In the 2005 main event US$52,818,610 in prize money was distributed among 560 players, with US$7.5 million to first prize.
The number of participants in the WSOP has grown almost every year, and in recent years the growth has exploded. 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, the number of participants grew from 839 in 2003 to 8,773 in 2006.
Phil Hellmuth has the most bracelets with eleven. Runners-up Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan have each won ten bracelets. Doyle's son, Todd Brunson, won a bracelet in a $2,500 Omaha Eight-or-better event in 2005, making them the first (and so far only) father/son pair to win at least one event at the WSOP. Crandell Addington is the only player to place in the top ten of the World Series of Poker Main Event eight times.
Four players have won the main event multiple times: Johnny Moss (1971 and 1974), Doyle Brunson (1976 and 1977), Stu Ungar (1980, 1981 and 1997) and Johnny Chan (1987 and 1988).
Bracelet winners who first achieved fame in other fields include French actor/singer Patrick Bruel (in 1998), Danish soccer player Jan Vang Sørensen (in 2002) and American actress Jennifer Tilly (in 2005).
The World Series of Poker began in 1968 as an invitational event sponsored by Tom Moore of San Antonio, Texas, and held at the Holiday Hotel and Casino in Reno. This inaugural event was won by Crandell Addington. The set of tournaments that the World Series of Poker (WSOP) would evolve into was the brainchild of Las Vegas casino owner and poker player Benny Binion.
In 1970, the first WSOP at Binion's Horseshoe 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 game came the next year. The winner in 1970, Johnny Moss, was elected by his peers as the first World Champion of Poker and received a silver cup as a prize.
Since acquisition by Harrah's
A Binion's poker table signed by WSOP Champions and other professional players after the casino hosted its final WSOP.
In 2004, Harrah's Entertainment purchased Binion's Horseshoe, kept the rights to the Horseshoe and World Series of Poker brands, sold the hotel and casino to MTR Gaming Group, and announced that the 2005 Series events would be held at the Harrah's-owned Rio Hotel and Casino, located just off the Las Vegas Strip. The final two days of the main event in 2005 were held downtown at what is now the MTR operated "Binion's" in celebration of the centennial of the founding of Las Vegas. It also added a made-for-television $2 million "freeroll" invitational "Tournament of Champions" (TOC) event first won by Annie Duke as a "winner-take-all" event.
Starting in 2005, the WSOP began a tournament "circuit" at Harrah's-owned properties in the United States where in addition to the $10,000 buy-in tournament at each site, qualifying players became eligible for a revamped Tournament of Champions. The 2005 TOC, made up of the top twenty qualifying players at each circuit event, along with the final table from the 2005 Main Event and the winners of nine or more bracelets (Johnny Chan, Doyle Brunson, and Phil Hellmuth) would participate in the revamped TOC at Caesar's Palace. Mike "The Mouth" Matusow won the first prize of $1 million (US), and all the players at the final table were guaranteed a minimum of $25,000 for the eighth and ninth place finishers. During a break in the final table of the 2005 Main Event on July 16, Harrah's announced that eleven properties — including the recently added Bally's and Caesar's properties — would host 2005-06 WSOP Circuit events that started on August 11 in Tunica, Mississippi. One event, that was scheduled for Biloxi, Mississippi was canceled after the Grand Casino Biloxi, which was scheduled to host the event, suffered major damage from Hurricane Katrina.
The Rio also hosted the 2006 World Series of Poker, which began on June 25 with satellite events and formally began the day after with the annual Casino Employee event, won in 2006 by Chris Gros. 2006 featured the "Tournament of Champions" on June 25 and 26, won by Mike Sexton. Various events led up to the main event, which was held from July 28 until August 10. The first prize of $12 million was awarded to Jamie Gold.
The Main Event of the WSOP has been the $10,000 buy-in no-limit Texas Hold 'Em (TXHE) tournament since 1972. (In 1971, the buy-in was $5,000.) Winners of the event not only get the largest prize of the tournament and a gold bracelet, but additionally their picture is placed into the Gallery of Champions at Binion's.
The winner of the Main Event has traditionally been given the unofficial title of World Champion. However the game's top professionals[who?] have stated that the recently-added $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event is the one which ultimately decides the world's best player. The $50,000 buy-in, being five times larger than the buy-in for the Main Event, has thus far tended to deter amateurs from playing in the H.O.R.S.E. The H.O.R.S.E. tournament was won by Chip Reese in 2006, Freddy Deeb in 2007, and Scotty Nguyen in 2008. Since Reese's death in December 2007, the winner of this event wins the David 'Chip' Reese Memorial Trophy in addition to the bracelet and the prize money.
The Gallery of Champions in 1979
There have been many memorable moments during the main events, including Jack Straus's 1982 comeback win after discovering he had one $500 chip left when he thought he was out of the tournament.
The end of the 1988 main event was featured in the movie Rounders.
Chris Moneymaker and Greg Raymer, the winners in 2003 and 2004, both qualified for the main event through satellite tournaments at the PokerStars online cardroom.
Jerry Yang, the winner in 2007, had only been playing poker for two years prior to his victory. He won his seat at a $225 satellite tournament at Pechanga Resort & Casino.
With passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 online poker sites have been barred from purchasing entrance directly for their users. This may have been the cause of the smaller field size in 2007.
With the exception of winners of the World Series Of Poker Main Event satellite tournaments (who automatically win a spot in the main event), all remaining players (including former champions, celebrities, and professional poker players) must supply the $10,000 buy-in in order to participate.
Player of the Year
Since 2004, a Player of the Year Award has been given to the player with the most points accumulated throughout the World Series. Only "open" events in which all players can participate count in the standings. Beginning with the 2006 World Series of Poker, the Main Event and the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. competition had no effect on the outcome of the winner of the Player of the Year award. However, in the 2008 World Series of Poker, the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event counted toward the Player of the Year award.
Like any event or sports league, the WSOP also has corporate sponsors and licensed products which pay fees to market themselves as an official sponsor and/or licensee and exclusively use the WSOP insignia and cross-promote with their events. Besides the Harrah's properties and ESPN, major sponsors have included Miller Brewing's "Milwaukee's Best" brand of beers, Pepsi's SoBe Adrenaline Rush energy drink (sponsors of the 2005 TOC), Helene Curtis' Degree brand of anti-perspirant/deodorant, United States Playing Card's Bicycle Pro Cards, Bluff magazine, GlaxoSmithKline/Bayer's Levitra erectile dysfunction medicine, and The Hershey Company. Licensees include Glu Mobile, Activision (video games for different platforms such as Nintendo's GameCube, Microsoft's Xbox, Sony's PlayStation 2 and PC featuring computer generated versions of stars like Ferguson among others), and products made by different companies ranging from chip sets, playing cards, hand held games and clothing like caps and shirts. The fees and licenses bring in more than a million dollars to Harrah's.
WSOP television coverage
The earliest filming of the World Series was a special produced by Binion's Horseshoe in 1973 and narrated by Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder. CBS began covering the World Series in the late 1970s. In the early 1980s, the event was again broadcast as specials. In the late 1980s, the World Series returned to television as ESPN took over broadcasting. Initially, coverage consisted of just a single one hour taped delay broadcast of the main event.
ESPN Classic currently airs many of the old broadcasts, especially from the mid 1990s and beyond. The most striking thing about the early coverage is how little was actually shown, since no "pocket cam" existed. Generally, ESPN used poker-playing actors such as Dick Van Patten, Vince Van Patten, and Gabe Kaplan, with either the tournament director (usually Jim Albrecht) or a poker pro like Phil Hellmuth joining the team. Early coverage was relatively primitive compared to what ESPN does now, with no pre-taped interviews or profiles on the players. The commentators were actually on the casino floor itself. The 2002 WSOP was the first with the "sneak peek" (later called the pocket cam, or hole cam). 2003 was the first year that the broadcast covered action preceding the final table.
Since then, ESPN has greatly expanded its coverage to include many of the preliminary events of the WSOP, especially Texas Hold 'Em. Also, their coverage of the main event now typically includes at least one hour program on each day. For the first two years of its existence, ESPN was broadcasting one hour programs of the "circuit" events that the WSOP has at various Harrah's-owned casinos, but ESPN did not renew these events. ESPN's coverage now includes many of the trappings of sports coverage, such as lighter segments (called "The Nuts") and interviews.
ESPN's coverage has been largely driven by Matt Maranz, Executive Producer for the WSOP telecasts. Maranz leads 441 Productions, which produces the telecast under contract to ESPN's unit ESPN Original Entertainment (EOE). Maranz has significant sports production experience, having previously worked on ESPN's football pre-game show, and has also produced taped segments for NBC's Olympic coverage.
In 2000 and 2001, the World Series of Poker was broadcast by The Discovery Channel. These hour long programs presented more of an overview or recap of the WSOP as opposed to broadcasting an actual live event with play-by-play analysis and color commentary. The Discovery Channel's broadcast also featured final table players interviews interlaced throughout the show. ESPN would resume coverage the following year.
ESPN's coverage in 2002 was typical of their coverage in the 1990s (recorded in video, little or no post-production commentary or player profiles, no card cams). However, the final table broadcast was expanded over two one-hour episodes.
In 2003, ESPN expanded their coverage to new heights with their coverage of the WSOP. They included coverage of the entire tournament, with a "Featured Table". At this table, the viewers could see the player's hole cards and subsequent strategy. The action was also broadcast as if live, though on tape-delay. This level of coverage arguably led to the popularity boom of No-Limit Texas Hold 'Em.
Coverage would increase in 2004 and 2005 to include preliminary events from the WSOP, in addition to the "Main Event".
ESPN has expanded poker to all-new levels, especially with their coverage of the 2006 WSOP, including providing the entire final table of the 2006 Main Event via pay-per-view airing.
In 2008, ESPN is experimenting with the idea of a delayed final table. This year's Main Event champion will not be determined until November. This idea presents greater sponsorship opportunities for the players and builds up a great amount of excitement that culminates in a recap of the Main Event and the conclusion of the 2008 Main Event final table.
* 1973 (special) - Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder
* 1978 (CBS) - Brent Musburger and Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder
* 1979 (CBS) - Frank Glieber and Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder
* 1981 (special) - Curt Gowdy
* 1983 (special) - Curt Gowdy and Bobby Baldwin
* 1987 (special) - Ted Robinson
* 1988 (ESPN) - Chris Marlowe
* 1989 (ESPN) - Chris Marlowe
* 1990 (ESPN) - Chris Marlowe
* 1991 (ESPN) - Chris Marlowe
* 1992 (ESPN) - Chris Marlowe
* 1993 (ESPN) - Dick Van Patten and Jim Albrecht
* 1994 (ESPN) - Dick Van Patten and Jim Albrecht
* 1995 (ESPN) - Dick Van Patten and Jim Albrecht
* 1996 - Was not televised
* 1997 (ESPN) - Gabe Kaplan and Jim Albrecht
* 1998 (ESPN) - Vince Van Patten and Jim Albrecht
* 2000 (The Discovery Channel)
* 2001 (The Discovery Channel)
* 2002 (ESPN) - Lon McEachern and Gabe Kaplan; (ESPN Latin America - Spanish) - Gabriela Hill
* 2003 (ESPN) - Lon McEachern and Norman Chad; (ESPN Latin America - Spanish) - Gabriela Hill
* 2004 (ESPN) - Lon McEachern and Norman Chad; (ESPN Deportes/ESPN Latin America - Spanish) - Gabriela Hill
* 2005 (ESPN) - Lon McEachern and Norman Chad; (ESPN Deportes/ESPN Latin America - Spanish) - Gabriela Hill and Andrés Agulla
* 2006 (ESPN) - Lon McEachern and Norman Chad;
* Phil Gordon and Ali Nejad in Main Event Pay-per-view; (ESPN Deportes/ESPN Latin America - Spanish) - Gabriela Hill and Andrés Agulla
* 2007 (ESPN) - Lon McEachern and Norman Chad; Phil Gordon and Ali Nejad in Main Event Pay-per-view; (ESPN Deportes/ESPN Latin America - Spanish) - Gabriela Hill and Fernando Alvarez
* 2008 (ESPN) - Lon McEachern and Norman Chad; (ESPN Deportes/ESPN Latin America - Spanish) - Gabriela Hill and Fernando Alvarez
World Series of Poker Europe
The World Series of Poker Europe (WSOPE) is the first expansion of the World Series of Poker. Since 1970, the event has occurred every year in Las Vegas. In September 2007, the first WSOP championship events outside of Las Vegas, complete with bracelets, were held. The inaugural WSOPE consisted of three events held in London from September 6-17, 2007. The main event, a GBP 10,000 buy-in no-limit hold 'em tournament, was won by Norwegian online prodigy Annette Obrestad on the day before her 19th birthday. This made her the youngest person ever to win a WSOP bracelet, a record that cannot be broken in the Las Vegas WSOP under current laws because the minimum legal age for casino gaming in Nevada is 21. Obrestad could play in the WSOPE because the minimum age for casino gaming in the United Kingdom is 18.
While no definitive plans have been announced, WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack has indicated that in the next one to three years that other venues may start holding WSOP events. Two locations that have been mentioned as possible expansion sites are Egypt and South Africa.
In 2005, a video game based on the tournament, titled World Series of Poker, was released for several consoles and the computer. A sequel called World Series of Poker: Tournament of Champions came out in 2006. In 2007, World Series of Poker: Battle for the Bracelets was released.
WSOP video poker machines now appear at some Harrah's casinos; the machines are standard video poker machines, but have a bonus feature which allows a player to play a modified game of Texas Hold 'em against the machine.
Beginning in 2007, Harrah's announced the creation of the World Series of Poker Academy, a poker school aimed at providing poker players with the skills needed to win a WSOP Bracelet. The instructors for the Academy include Phil Hellmuth, Greg Raymer, Scott Fischman and Mark Seif. Initial academies were launched in Tunica, Indiana and Las Vegas. (Credit: Wikipedia)
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