June 7th, 2010 | Published in Inrodution
In only a month, the world’s largest live poker tournament will begin again for the 41st time. Of course we’re talking about the World Series of Poker. The widespread (and growing) popularity of the game of poker is due in large part to the televising of this tournament over the last several years. From the series opener on May 28 through the final table of the Main Event in November, poker pros will be the biggest celebrities in Las Vegas, and thousands of poker fanatics will flock to the city in hopes not only of cheering their favorite players on but also in some cases of beating them to claim life-changing cash prizes. Find out what all the hype’s about with our beginner’s guide to the WSOP.
The very first World Series of Poker, hosted in 1970 at Binion’s Horseshoe, was little more than a friendly one-table competition between the United States’ greatest poker pros. The men that played at that first table – Johnny Moss, Amarillo Slim, Doyle Brunson – have long since become legends (though Brunson continues to compete).
The WSOP grew steadily over the next four decades but started to stagnate in the 90s when Binion’s financial troubles prevented the company from properly advertising the tournament. When an online qualifier – Chris Moneymaker – won the main event in 2003 it revolutionized the tournament by attracting a massive new amateur audience. The rapidly expanding field of players necessitated a move from the tournament’s original home at the Horseshoe to its current off-Strip location at the RIO casino.
The tournament slowly grew from an exclusive invitational to a buy-in format. The tournament was first televised in 1973, and the international exposure helped the once-small affair to attract some of the world’s best players. The series has expanded over time to include dozens of different events, but the feature event is still a $10,000 buy-in No Limit Hold’em tournament. The Main Event transpires over several days of competition, and then when the field is finally narrowed down to the last nine players the game is stalled until November when the deciding hands are televised from a special table.
How to Play
Players may either qualify for WSOP events online via special satellite tournaments, or they may buy-in directly either via the WSOP’s official site or on-site at the actual WSOP tournament. Word to the wise though – the Main Event sold out early last year, leaving hundreds of latecomers disappointed.
Common WSOP Diversions
Not only is the WSOP the largest and most profitable poker tournament in the world, it’s also the most colorful. It’s not uncommon for some of the more eccentric players to make wild side bets (called prop bets) on everything from their own likelihood of winning to an opponent’s ability to do a standing back flip. One pro even played a vegetarian foe $10,000 to eat a hamburger.
Whether you’re watching at home, live, or from your own event seat don’t be surprised if you hear some trash talk. WSOP feuds are so common they’re pretty much expected, though floormen do their best to keep table talk PG for the cameras. These last few years the event has also attracted some showboating, like Phil Hellmuth’s memorable entrance to the 2009 Main Event when he dressed as Caesar and was carried in by a bevy of toga-clad servants.
Real celebrities are also a common feature at the WSOP, and some – like actress-turned-poker-pro Jennifer Tilly – have even taken titles.