The World Series of Poker is among the top ten richest sporting events in the world.
Having recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, it's also one of the oldest events on that same list. With that kind of history and that kind of money, it's also a complex tournament for the beginner poker player to understand.
If you're new to the world of high stakes poker, there's a lot you have to learn about the WSOP. If you want to hold any type of conversation with your fellow players, then you should know about the tournament's origins, how much money is on the line, and how you can get yourself into the World Series of Poker Main Event.
For all of that and more, keep reading this guide to the WSOP.
Origins of WSOP
The first WSOP took place in 1970, where there were less than 50 poker tables across all of Las Vegas. It had only 30 players and it wasn't a poker tournament as we understand it today. Instead, the inaugural world champion of poker was voted "best all-around player" by his peers after the event had concluded.
Outside of Las Vegas, nobody knew about the first WSOP. By the following year, a $5,000 entry fee was added and a winner-take-all prize was introduced. The same Johnny Moss won the tournament for the second year in a row and the poker event began to take off.
By 1973, the World Series was broadcast on CBS Sports and by 1982, there were 11 preliminary events. The organizers added a Ladies World Championship as well as the World Series of Poker Main Event. That year, 13 events in total awarded over $2.5 million to the top players.
Throughout the 1990s, organizers made improvements to the atmosphere and structure of the tournament. By then it spanned four weeks and involved more than 20 tournaments. In 1991, the Main Events broke the 200-player mark and the first million-dollar cash price was awarded.
By 2003, a new tournament began taking a bit of the spotlight from the WSOP. The World Poker Tour was direct competition, and the number of attendees in the first weeks of the WSOP reflected that.
But that same year, Chris Moneymaker won and changed the future of the tournament. Thousands of players flocked to the tournament in the years following.
Who Plays The World Series of Poker Main Event?
In 2019, more than 7,000 players were expected to participate in the Main Event alone. While anybody that can make the $10,000 buy-in can enter, it also draws poker legends such as Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hell Smith, Phil Ivey, and former champion John Cynn.
Winning the Main Event puts your name in the poker hall of fame. That's because it comes with the unofficial title of the "World Champion" of poker.
Some dispute this title because poker involves as much luck as it does skill. And that's how the WSOP has demonstrated time and time again that inexperienced players and even beginners can find themselves in a deep run at their first tournament.
What Are the Tournaments Prize Amounts?
How much is on the table at the WSOP varies. It depends on how big the entry of the tournament is, how large the field is, and of course, how far you make it into the tournament.
At the very least, you can be guaranteed a pretty good payout if you win any of the tournaments. For example, the Main Event in 2018 awarded a prize of $8,800,000. Not to mention the much-coveted golden bracelet.
But the biggest payout that the tournament ever saw was in 2006. That year, the WSOP had a record of 8,773 entries. That created a final prize amount of $12,000,000, which was awarded to Jamie Gold.
Tournament Structure in Recent Years
The 2019 WSOP event had 66 events in total. That same year, the record for attendance was shattered. There were more than 147,330 entrants in the entire tournament.
But the WSOP has also expanded outside the walls of Las Vegas casinos. Tournaments take place in almost 12 casinos across the US. This is part of the World Series of Poker Circuit where players across the nation can participate.
But the WSOP Main Event is still the main event. It's the most popular and coveted title in the world of poker, thanks to its structure and the ability for experienced players to show off their skill. And with a buy-in that has sat at $10,000 since the 1980s, anybody is eligible for entry.
Are There Other Ways of Getting to the Main Event?
Not everybody can afford to pay a $10,000 buy-in to test their skills. As such, there are other ways of getting into the Main Event that doesn't involve a $10,000 investment. You can try your hand at live and online satellites.
Satellites are sit-n-go or mini-tournaments. The winner of these satellites is awarded a ticket to bigger competitions, which can be an event at the WSOP up to and including the Main Event.
What Type of Poker Is Played At WSOP?
The World Series of Poker involves all types of poker, played at all levels. Each year, you'll find at least one tournament for every type of poker. However, most of the competitions, including the Main Event, are No Limit Hold'Em style.
Trying Your Hand At Poker
The WSOP tournaments are open to anybody that can make the buy-in. And while the World Series of Poker Main Event is a steep $10,000, playing satellites can get you in on this coveted tournament.
It's not limited to experienced players, either. Plenty of beginner or novice players have tried their hand in these tournaments, and some have even come out of it with a decent payout - or at least a lot more experience than they would have got elsewhere.
But before you go spending that kind of money to get yourself some experience, why not try your hand at some online poker. Check out all of the games we have available online.