The WSOP (World Series of Poker) is the ultimate destination for every true poker player.
Taking place every summer, at the Rio Casino, in Las Vegas you get world record breaking numbers of players, and in turn, the biggest prizes available in live games. Every sports or games fanatic dreams of playing in the Superbowl, if they truly love the NFL – or World Cup – if into football, but for most it’ll never happen.
If you like poker however that dream can come true, regardless of age, gender or physical prowess. Pick up the rules of the game and are if you’re open to learning more, you have just as much chance as anybody else of pitching up in Sin City next year.
The biggest buy-in tournament is the Big One for One Drop. If you want to take part, you merely have to put up a million dollars. Very nice, if you can actually do it! For most of us, that’s out of reach, at least for now, but the Main Event is a more manageable $10,000. Again, that’s quite an amount to stump up, especially when you’ll be taking on roughly seven thousand others in the fight for the gold bracelet awarded to the winner.
However, you’ll find qualifying tournaments to suit every wallet, both online, at the Rio itself and quite possibly, at your local card room too. Very often, you’ll find free-to-enter tournaments, available to set you on the road to Vegas.
The Main Event has had a $10,000 buy-ins since 1972, when it was held at Binion’s Horseshoe, where it remained until 2004 before the move to the Rio. Each winner has received a coveted gold bracelet ever since.
As the WSOP grew to incorporate more tournaments in different buy-ins and disciplines, the awarding of bracelets was extended to every event. A worthy award for the skill and effort involved, as well as the prize money of course. Amarillo Slim won the ’72 event, beating just seven other players in a winner-takes-all affair, to pick up $80,000. In contrast, the 2017 winner – John Cynn – saw off 7,873 opponents to pick up the top prize of $8,800,000.
The Main Event and the WSOP really exploded in popularity in 2004. Credit for this is given to what’s known as the ‘Moneymaker Effect’, named after Chris Moneymaker, the 2003 Main Event winner.
Moneymaker qualified for the WSOP via a cheap online satellite and went on to beat 838 others to take the $2.5 million first prize. His win showed, as mentioned above, that glory in Vegas could be available to someone who was willing to put their mind to it.
As a result, online interest and the number of qualifiers boomed, and when 2004 came round, the field had more than trebled from the year before, and Greg Raymer picked up the then $5 million top prize. The peak was reached in 2006, when a staggering 8,773 took part, and Jamie Gold took the title and $12 million.
From the early days, the WSOP has grown in length and breadth, with 78 tournaments taking place across a great many of different poker disciplines throughout and beyond June. The sheer number of players means that most of them take several days to play out and will have several starting days in order to whittle down the field, before merging to play day 2.
In 2018, the biggest buy-in event was the aforementioned Big One for One Drop, but for the average player a number of $365 buy-in tournaments took place, along with a range of buy-ins in between. With regard to player numbers, the Colossus holds the world record for number of participants, guaranteeing $1 million to the winner – Roberly Felicio being the current bracelet-holder, prevailing in a field of 13,070.
If you’re thinking of going in 2019, which is technically the 50th anniversary, after the largely cash game early version of 1969, you should start planning now. It cannot be overstated how great a feeling it is to be in Vegas in summer, hanging around the halls of the Rio, as the players wait for their call to the tables.
The mix of poker professionals, holiday makers, stars of sport and screen, is a heady one, and even if you don’t win, there’s always another tournament about to start shortly, and of course, the rest of Las Vegas to explore and enjoy.