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World Series of Poker

World Series of Poker: A Concise History

If you own a television and ever watch ESPN, chances are that you have seen the World Series of Poker. The popularity of poker has exploded on the international scene during the last few years and ESPN’s original broadcast of the World Series is responsible for much of poker’s recent popularity.

If you have ever tried watching poker as a spectator, or went broke too early on your Saturday night poker game and had to sit and watch your friends play, than you know that poker isn’t the greatest spectator game in the world. However, something is different about ESPN’s broadcast of the WSOP. What is this difference that has changed poker forever? Well you probably already know, it is the small cameras that have been installed into each of the poker tables, thus allowing viewers to see exactly what cards each player is holding. The ability to see what cards the pros are playing completely changes everything. For one, it makes poker 100% more exciting to watch. The fans at home can now watch how the best players in the world play pocket aces, KQ suited, and how to bluff your way into winning a monster pot with the famed seven deuce off suit, which is statistically the worst hand you can be dealt. Now viewers at home can actually improve their game simply from watching the professional’s on television. This concept has permanently changed the home gamer, and is partially responsible the recent explosion of poker’s recent popularity.

Since ESPN has begun broadcasting the WSOP with the whole cameras installed into each table, many other networks have jumped on the wagon and have begun to broadcast other poker events on television in the same style as ESPN. Fox Sports channel airs the Super Stars of Poker which is an invitational event of the best players in the world, who play a series or small single table tournaments and compete for points, in order to move on to future rounds. Recently, CBS has joined in with The National Heads-Up Poker Championship. In this tournament, the best players are invited to play in a one on one match until there is only one player left. The Travel Channel has scored their own success story with the World Poker Tour. The WPT follows some of the biggest poker tournaments in the world, and broadcasts the six player final table. Regardless of the tournament, as well as which network is broadcasting it, they have all taken advantage of the tiny hole cameras that are used to capture each players cards. In any event, all these tournaments have combined to make poker immensely popular and have created millions of player’s world wide with, who all share the same dream, to win the World Series of Poker.

It all started back in the early 1970’s when a few of the best poker players in the world, including Doyle Brunson, Amarillo Slim, and Johnny Moss had an idea to all get together, put up $10,000 each, and play in a tournament style game where the blinds and ante’s go up until only a single player remained. The lucky player would then forever be known as the world champion of poker. Back in the old days there were just a handful of players involved in the WSOP. Though more players join each year, the competition never really resembled what it is today until the mid 1980’s, and even then, the number of players who put up the ten grand to play is just a fraction to the amount of people who now participate.

Though history is made each year with the new winner of the main event, certain events in WSOP past stand out as true legends of the game. Perhaps probably the earliest of these legendary events occurred in 1976 and 1977 where Doyle Brunson, the godfather of poker won back to back championships. Winning the main event two years in a row in is an unbelievable accomplishment on its own. However the way in which Brunson won the series would forever put “Texas Dolly” into the history books. In an absolutely unbelievable ending that defies even the greatest statistical odds, Doyle Brunson won the championship two years in a row by turning a measly 10-2 off suit into a full house to win in both 1976, and 1977 and since then the hand 10-2 has forever been known as the “Brunson”. Since Brunson’s back to back victories, only a few players have been able to duplicate his feat. Stu “the kid” Ungar did it in 1980 and 1981; and Johnny Chan also known as the “perfect player” also did it in 1987 and 1988. Since Chan’s back to back victories, no player has been able to complete repeat wins.

Today the WSOP vaguely resembles the early days of the series. For one month in the spring, thousands of players from all over the world congregate to Las Vegas, and into Binions Horseshoe casino to take part in over forty different events including tournaments in Texas Holdem, Stud, Omaha, Draw and Razz, and of course the big daddy of them all, the $10,000 buy in No Limit Texas Holdem main event. The dream of winning the main event is the ultimate goal of any serious card player, and this dream has attracted over 2,500 players to the main event in 2004, and estimates of upwards of 5,000 players expected in 2005.

One thing is certain when it comes to the main event, its no joke, and winning it is said to be one of the hardest feats of all time. After almost one week of playing upwards of fifteen hours of grueling no limit holdem each day, it is finally narrowed down to the final table. Just to make it to the final ten, is an unbelievable accomplishment by any means, and now with the huge number of entrants, each player at the final table is guaranteed at least one million dollars. In 2004, the lucky winner of the main event was Greg Raymer, a self proclaimed dead money armature and patent attorney from small town Connecticut, took home a cool five million dollars for his first place victory. Yes you read it correctly, five million dollars! If it sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. Aside from the lottery, the five million dollar first prize was officially the largest payoff of any sporting or gaming event in history.

In 2003, the year before Greg Raymer won the main event and secured his place in history, another part time amature player took top honors as well. His name was Chris Moneymaker, yes you also read that correctly, his name really is Moneymaker, and in 2003 he definitely proved that he was one by taking home a 2.5 million dollar first prize. Moneymaker was an accountant from Tennessee, who won his way into the series by winning a satellite tournament on the internet. Each year many amateur players are obtaining their seats into the event by winning satellite tournaments online. A satellite is a smaller tournament where players only have to ante up a fraction of the $10,000 buy in to try for a seat in the Main event. Depending on the satellite, a player can win his or her seat by either winning the satellite or finishing in a top position.

Regardless of how players ultimately get to the World Series of Poker, once they are there, it is said to be a dream come true, a chance to play with the best, and a chance to go down in history as one of the all time greats of poker. Whether they win or loose, a chance to play in the series is a true opportunity of a life time, and one thing is absolutely certain; The World Series of Poker is here to stay, and continue to be a part of the history of the greatest game in the world, Poker.

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