40 Years of the WSOP: The 80s

Tom McEvoy
'Winning wasn't nearly as dramatic as it is now.'

As the World Series of Poker approaches its 40th anniversary in less than two weeks, PokerListings is looking back in a series of articles at how the event has evolved. This third part looks at the 1980s.

The first T.J. Cloutier is by far the more famous figure today.

Johnny Chan won his first bracelet that year and Johnny Moss, who went on to win his ninth and final bracelet three years later, made his last Main Event final table.

Twice runner-up Berry Johnston finally won the Main Event in 1986 and in 1987, ESPN took over coverage of the WSOP, introducing the viewing public to Johnny "The Orient Express" Chan for the first time.

A year later, a watershed moment in WSOP history occurred when ESPN aired Chan's final table showdown with Erik Seidel at the 1988 Main Event, bringing him back-to-back titles.

The scene was immortalized in the movie Rounders years later, becoming one of the main catalysts to poker's big boom with a whole new generation of players wanting to be Matt Damon and stare down Chan.

But even before Rounders came a win for the ages.

It was 1989 and a 24-year-old Wisconsin student named Phil Hellmuth became the youngest champion in WSOP history, derailing The Orient Express and closing out the 1980s.

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