Anyone who has ever played in an online poker tournament has probably heard at least something about the World Series of Poker, or the WSOP for short. As the premier event for poker players the world over, this tournament has been used to determine the world champion of poker since 1970. Of course, over the years there have been a lot of developments and changes in the world of poker, including the rise of online poker sites. This has even led to those playing online poker tournaments actually winning their way into a seat in the real cash main event.
Playing and winning a huge tournament, whether this is held at one of your online poker rooms or in a real live casino, is a dream come true for most people. But if you are not too familiar with the WSOP, then having some understanding will certainly help to improve your game. Everyone at most of the top poker online rooms are just looking for a chance to become like one of the professional or amateur players who have cashed in big at these real money events.
By the time you are finished reading our online guide to the WSOP, you will understand:
The World Series of Poker is actually not just one, but a series of poker tournaments held each year in Las Vegas. These tournaments began back in 1970 at a small casino called Binnion's Horseshoe, located just off the Strip. The first tournament was very small, with the top seven players invited by the owner of the casino to come and play. There were set starting and stopping times and the winner (Johnny Moss) was determined by a secret ballot vote.
Much has changed since then including the format, the number of entrants, and the prize money. Today, the tournament has a grand finale called the 'Main Event,' which is a $10,000 buy-in no-limit Texas Holdem tournament. Ever since 2004 this portion of the WSOP has attracted thousands of entrants and the winner received a multi-million dollar grand prize (yes, this is real cash) and a bracelet. Oh, the winner is also considered to be the World Champion of Poker.
Interestingly enough, the number of actual tournaments and events is continually changing. In the 2014 tournament, there were 65 different events and most of the major varieties of poker were featured. However, over half of them are some version of Texas Hold’em, which is also the most popular type of game on all the best online poker sites.
The growth in the number of participants in the WSOP has also reflected the changes in the American online poker laws. For example, the number of players grew from 2000 to 2006. In 2003, there were 839 entrants in the $10,000 buy-in Main Event. This number had increased to 8,773 in 2006. After laws began to change in the United States related to online poker rooms and in these websites handling real money transactions at their poker online sites, things cooled. This led to the number of participants actually declining in 2007. The next year did see another increase, but it was still not back at the 2006 level.
One of the top questions most players at internet poker rooms have is what they need to do in order to qualify for the World Series of Poker. After all, most of us will probably never be able to afford the $10,000 buy-in needed to play at the Main Event. It is very possible to play your way in. Certainly, this is still not a probable occurrence and it will require skill and a fair amount of luck. However, there have been not only a number of players winning an entry into the biggest of all poker tournaments, but there have even been several American online poker players who have gone this route and then won the whole thing.
Imagine playing in tournaments at your favorite online poker rooms and then going to Vegas...and winning a huge real money Main Event that makes you an instant millionaire? The trick to this is in finding online poker sites that offer what is known as a satellite tournament for the WSOP. As you can probably imagine, that label is bandied about a lot, so check and make sure this is actually a qualifier for the real deal.
Chances are you will have to win several tournaments. It might be a double or triple qualification in order to weed out the field of interested online poker players. If you do well and have a bit of luck, you might just end up sitting across the table from one of your poker idols at an event which could potentially make you an instant millionaire and the next big sensation in the online poker rooms.
The format and make-up of the World Series of Poker has changed quite a bit as well over the years since its beginning. Starting in 1971 (the second year) all of the events have been cash buy-ins with real cash prizes. In the beginning the format was a winner take all; that has since change to a formula based on how many entrants and the buy-in level. In 1973, side events started to be added, beginning with five-card stud. Beginning in 1976, winners of each event receive a bracelet indicating their victory. In fact, all pre-1976 winners were later given bracelets retroactively.
Ever since, events have been added and taken away according to the organizers wishes and the level of entrants. The growth in the number of events has also pretty much coincided with the growth in the number of participants. Starting with just seven players in 1970, there were 52 in 1982. This is also about the time that satellite tournaments began, allowing people to win their way into the various events. Of course, there were still no online poker sites to offer these way back then. But by 1987 there were more than 2,100 players (combined) in the WSOP. Participation peaked during the 2006 Series, with 8,773 players and 45 different events which covered most poker variations.
The actual prizes are really determined by the number of entrants. For example, the sponsoring casino will take a cut of the entry fee or buy-in of around 6 to 10 percent. Remaining funds are distributed as prize money. In the 2005 Main Event this came out to $52,818,610 in prize money being distributed among 560 players. Of that money, $7.5 million was the top prize. For those who are curious, the 2006 Main Event still stands as the largest single poker tournament on the basis of prize money, with the winner taking home a cool $12 million. The 2014 WSOP winner received a very nice $10 million for his efforts.
As you might expect, there have been some big name American winners of the WSOP tournament. The period of 2003 and 2004 is most interesting, especially for anyone who is playing at online poker rooms. The 2003 winner, Chris Moneymaker, made history as the first person to win the Main Event after gaining entry to the tournament through a satellite victory at an online poker site. Then, the same thing happened again in 2004 with Greg Raymer playing his way in through a series of qualifying victories in online poker sites and their satellite tournaments.
Many of the WSOP records are held by American players as well. For example the most bracelets (all events) is Phil Hellmuth, with 13 victories. Incidentally, he also holds the records for the most event cashes (meaning he won money) at 100 and the most final tables at 49. There have been many other big name American winners of the Main Event, like Dan Harrington (who is also a great poker writer and teacher), Jamie Gold, and even Doyle Brunson.