Even if you prefer playing online poker over playing in person, there’s no doubt that you’ve heard of the World Series of Poker (WSOP.) This series of poker tournaments is undoubtedly one of the pinnacles of competitive poker, with players from all over the world testing their skills against the best of the best.
This article will unpack what makes the WSOP such a thrilling poker championship — with a summary, a history of this prestigious event series, and six interesting facts you’ve never heard before.
How Does the World Series of Poker Work?
One of the aspects of the WSOP that makes it so great is that it’s open to both amateurs looking to try out some newly learned poker tournament tips and experienced players who can take advantage of weaker players through donk betting. This makes it a thrilling experience for spectators and participants, as unknown players can walk away with a life-changing win.
So, how does the WSOP work? Well, it is essentially a series of individual poker tournaments that take place over the course of about six weeks every year. Each event has a different buy-in and poker format; the ultimate goal is to get to the Main Event of the WSOP. Every player will start with the same number of chips, and the person left standing at the end wins a prize and one of the illustrious WSOP bracelets.
But does that mean anyone can play? Not exactly. There are two barriers to entry into the WSOP. First, you must be 21 or over. Second, you must be able to afford the buy-in or have secured a seat through a satellite tournament. If you can meet these two requirements, you’re free to participate in one of the most competitive poker tournament series on the planet.
A Brief History of the WSOP
According to the article “World Series of Poker: A Brief History,” a precursor event called the Texas Gamblers Reunion was the “seed” that would eventually grow into the first WSOP event. The first (and only) Texas Gamblers Reunion took place in 1969 and would bring together several of poker’s finest players, including Benny Binion. When it was announced that there wouldn’t be another Texas Gamblers Reunion, Binion decided to pick up the mantle and host his own event. This led to Binion creating the World Series of Poker, and while it wouldn’t be the roaring success he hoped it would be from the start, it was the start of something extraordinary in the world of poker.
Fast-forward many decades later, and in 2023, the WSOP hosted its 54th annual event. Daniel Weinman, who has been competing in the WSOP tournament for 16 years, came out ahead of more than 10,043 opponents to claim the $12.1 million grand prize for the Main Event. While that was undoubtedly one of the most impressive World Series of Poker payouts, even the “losing” players didn’t go home empty-handed. The first player eliminated from the nine-person Final Table won $900,000.That’s not so bad for a tournament that once only had seven attendees and didn’t even offer a first-place reward.
Interesting World Series of Poker Facts
Let’s explore six more of the incredible facts about the WSOP.
1. The First WSOP Wasn’t Even a Tournament
While the event may be synonymous with tournament play today, the first WSOP wasn’t even a tournament. It started as a series of poker games that ended with the players voting to decide who the best player was.
2. The Very First First-Place Prize Was $30,000
The player who won the first competition in the 1971 WSOP was given a $30,000 reward. Johnny Moss, who had also won the first official WSOP in 1970, took home the novel first-place prize at this event. While $30,000 may not sound like much money today, even for jackpots in some casino table games and live dealer casino games, it was quite a lot of money at the time.
3. The WSOP Bracelets Were Only Introduced In 1976
Another iconic part of the WSOP experience is the winners receiving their honorary bracelets. However, the iconic World Series of Poker bracelets were only introduced in 1976, with prior events offering other items to recognize a player’s victory.
4. The Bracelets Were (Temporarily) Replaced in 1982
Some players were unhappy to receive a bracelet in honor of their WSOP victory. Some believed these jewelry items were too feminine, so the now iconic bracelet was replaced with a gold wristwatch. Unfortunately for the organizers, the watches were even less favored, resulting in a return of the bracelet for WSOP winners in the 1983 event.
5. Phil Hellmuth Has Won the Most WSOP Bracelets (And Has Claim To Other WSOP Records)
With more than 50 years of history behind it, there’s no doubt that the WSOP has seen some incredible players take home the much-desired bracelets. However, when it comes to World Series of Poker winners, one player has taken home more bracelets than anyone else: Phil Hellmuth. He has walked away from the tournament with a world record of 17 bracelets and over $17 million. This is currently seven bracelets more than anyone else. To put these numbers in perspective, even Phil Ivey, widely regarded as one of the best poker players of all time, has not reached the bar of wins set by Hellmuth. Throughout his WSOP career, Ivey has won about $9.2 million, almost half of Hellmuth’s total WSOP earnings.
6. Apart From Hellmuth, Only Three Other Players Have Won 10 or More WSOP Bracelets
Being able to win more than you lose in poker shows that you truly understand the game. Even when luck is not on your side, you know how the game works and can produce good results. This ability separates the good poker players from the great ones. It’s also this ability that separates the good WSOP players from the best, as only four players have been able to claim 10 or more WSOP bracelets throughout their careers to date. They are Phil Hellmuth (of course,) Johnny Chan, Doyle Brunson, and Phil Ivey (the last three all have 10 apiece.)
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