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The World Series of Poker – A Brief History Lesson

Author: Neha Agrawal

Poker is arguably the most famous card game of them all; and if it that is true, then the World Series of Poker is without a shadow of a doubt, the most popular and famous poker tournament of them all. Having been in existence for over forty years, this poker tournament has seen its fortunes change with time, from relative obscurity to media entertainment – the World Series of Poker has constantly evolved with the times.

It all began way back in 1970, when Las Vegas has less than fifty poker tables in its entirety. The severe lack of tables caused keen and avid poker players to cluster together around one or two tables, and before long a few gentleman named Benny Binion, Tom Moore, and Vic Vickery had unwittingly drafted up the format for the future tournament.

Only a handful of players competed in the very first World Series of Poker tournament, and there was no press or media coverage of the tournament. Johnny Moss was chosen as the best all round player for the inaugural tournament, but very few people cared. In order to gain more coverage the next tournament was a freeze-out of five thousand dollars, and Johnny Moss went to “retain” his poker crown.

“Amraillo Slim” Preston’s victory in the third tournament really enhanced the game and the tournament however; Preston took great pride in the media and made certain that publicity followed him, and in so doing, the tournament itself.

One year later, the media was interested in the tournament and CBS Sports made certain that the show become televised for the very first year, a mere four years after its creation. A year later, Johnny Moss made a hat-trick of victories with his third crown, whilst gradually each year, more participants competed.

By 1982 there were eleven preliminary events alone, and a ladies tournament was even added to the championship roster. By 1987 the Horseshoe Casino which had hosted all the previous tournaments were deemed too small to host the World Series of Poker. The Horseshoe expanded and it did so again in 1997. Struggles and difficulties and a small bit of controversy caused players to boycott both casino and tournament between 1999 and 2002, and even in 2003 many were predicting the end of the tournament.

Chris Moneymaker changed all that after his victory, when the tournament was no longer regarded as an old man’s game, but a place for the young and fresh to try their luck too. Overnight the tournament regained its prestige and its buy-out (the Horseshoe Casino) in 2004 by Harrah’s Entertainment ensured its lasting legacy.

The World Series of Poker is now broadcast on many European sports channels, and it is even followed in Asia and Australia. The World Series of Poker has had to evolve to survive and change with the times, but despite its small beginning and the dip in the middle, it remains today, arguably the worlds most popular and prestigious poker tournament of them all.