There’s a reason the World Series of Poker (WSOP) is the most prestigious name in the game – because of its history.
For more than three decades before the “Poker Boom” years of the mid-2000s, the WSOP was the place to go for poker players. The idea for the WSOP was planted in 1969 when Tom Moore and Vic Vickrey invited the best players in the world to the Holiday Casino in Reno, Nevada for the Texas Gamblers Reunion.
At the time, only cash games were played, and as Benny Binion, owner of Binion’s Horseshoe, observed the action, he had an idea – to hold an annual event at his joint in Las Vegas. After confirming with Moore and Vickery that they didn’t plan to hold another reunion, Binion got their blessing to take the show south.
In 1970, the WSOP as the world knows it was born, well sort of. That first year, Binion invited seven of the best players in the world to compete – Doyle Brunson, Johnny Moss, Sailor Roberts, Crandell Addington, Carl Cannon, Puggy Pearson, and “Amarillo” Slim Preston. Once again, they just played cash games, and in the end, they were asked to vote on who they thought was the best player.
Not surprisingly, everyone voted for themselves. Binion then called for a second vote with the caveat they had to vote for another player. Moss received the most votes and became the winner of the first annual WSOP, receiving a silver cup as an award.
It was after that first gathering a reporter suggest Binion spice it up by making the players compete in something with a beginning, middle, and end. Cash games really didn’t fit that bill, but a freezeout tournament did. So, in 1971 a half a dozen players ponied up $5,000 to buy into the first WSOP tournament (it would increase to $10,000 the following year and has remained the buy-in ever since). Amazingly, Moss won again to the tune of $30,000.
From there, the WSOP grew year by year. Before long, additional tournaments were added to the schedule, and in 1976 the silver cup was done way with in favor of the now coveted bracelet (though anyone who won a WSOP tournament from 1970-75 is still considered to have “won a bracelet”).
For more than 50 years, winning the WSOP Main Event (AKA “The Big One”) has been the dream of every poker player. Two players have won it three times in Moss and Stu Ungar, while Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan have won it twice. All four of them did it in back-to-back years.