43 Things You Probably Don't Know About the World Series of Poker

Brunson historic WSOP
Photo courtesy of the UNLV Center for Gaming Research.

It’s the 43rd year of the World Series of Poker, which means poker’s largest tournament series has been around long enough to establish both a tradition and a heck of a lot of interesting trivia.

What follows are 43 items -- one from each year -- about the WSOP, some well-known, some less so.

Take a walk down WSOP memory lane to learn 43 things you probably don't know about the World Series of Poker.

The 70s

Everyone knows Johnny Moss was named champion of the 1970 WSOP following a players’ vote. Meanwhile, Jack “Treetop” Straus was voted “Most Congenial Participant.”

While the late “Amarillo Slim” Preston is often credited with having come up with the idea for the WSOP to starting holding a winner-take-all “freezout” tournament in 1971, Los Angeles Times reporter Ted Thackrey, Jr. who covered the first WSOP also advised the Binions that a tournament would “give it some structure” and “create some drama.”

The 1972 WSOP Main Event final table won by Preston saw eight players enter the $10,000 buy-in event, with half of each player’s buy-in contributed by Benny Binion. Apparently 12 players originally signed up to play, but four ultimately chose the side games over participating in the Main Event.

The 1973 WSOP Main Event was the first shown on television, with CBS filming a documentary narrated by Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder.

1976 wsop unlv
1976 WSOP Main Event (Courtesy of UNLV)

The last time five-card stud appeared on the schedule was in 1974, with Bill Boyd winning the $5,000 buy-in event. It was no surprise that Boyd won -- he won the five-card stud event all four times it was offered at the WSOP (his only four bracelets).

1975 was the first year the WSOP began awarding gold bracelets to all event winners. The previous year Brian “Sailor” Roberts was given the first WSOP gold bracelet as the Main Event champ.

With Doyle Brunson’s win in the 1976 WSOP Main Event, he became the last of the trio of Texas road gamblers with whom he “faded the white line” to capture the title, joining his former partners “Amarillo Slim” Preston (the 1972 winner) and Brian “Sailor” Roberts (who won in 1975) as champions.

The first ladies-only event was included in the WSOP schedule in 1977, a $100 buy-in seven-card stud event. The ladies event was changed to a limit hold’em/seven-card stud mix from 2000-2003, was LHE only in 2004, and become no-limit hold’em in 2005.

In 1978, a five-card stud event called “European poker” featuring a 32-card deck was originally included in the schedule, although it was cancelled prior to the start of the Series.

In 1979, a “mixed doubles” event was added to the WSOP schedule in which two-player teams (a man and woman) competed against one another. Doyle Brunson and Starlie Brodie won the first such event. The “mixed doubles” event was dropped after the 1983 WSOP.

The 80s

Bookmakers listed Stu Ungar as a 100-to-1 longshot to win the 1980 WSOP. (He did.)

Ungar won his second straight WSOP ME title in 1981. Jay Heimowitz was the only other player to make both of those final tables, too, finishing third in ’80 and sixth in ’81. And in 1997 -- the year Ungar won his third title -- Heimowitz finished 13th.

Tom McEvoy
1983 world champion Tom McEvoy.

1982 was the only year the WSOP awarded gold wristwatches to event winners. According to WSOP Media Director Nolan Dalla, the one-year experiment was a response “to early criticism that gold bracelets were too feminine and that no one wore them.”

We all remember Johnny Chan’s orange. Most of us probably remember Jamie Gold’s blueberries. But another WSOP Main Event champion had a favored fruit, too, Tom McEvoy, who ate a half-dozen apples on his way to winning the 1983 WSOP ME title.

The first ever pot-limit tournaments were offered at the 1984 WSOP, with two PLO events added to the schedule. The previous year had seen Omaha hi first introduced at the WSOP as a limit event (won by David Sklansky).

TV’s “Kojak,” Telly Savalas, made the first of his two Series final tables at the 1985 WSOP when he finished third in the $1,000 seven-card stud event. Two years later he’d finish fifth in the $1,000 stud hi/low event, and in 1992 finished 21st in the WSOP ME.

Wendeen Eolis became the first woman ever to cash in the WSOP Main Event in 1986, finishing 25th in a field of 141. She won back her $10,000 buy-in.

1987 marked the last time Johnny Moss would cash at the WSOP Main Event when he finished 26th. His final WSOP cash would come in 1992.

In 1988, Jesse Alto made the final table of the WSOP Main Event for the fifth time, finishing ninth. Alto’s best ever finish was third in 1984.

Phil Hellmuth won his 12th WSOP bracelet in 2012 in the $2,500 razz event, defeating Don Zewin heads-up. Zewin was also part of the story for Hellmuth’s first bracelet in the 1989 Main Event in which Zewin finished third. Hellmuth knocked him out then as well, eliminating both Zewin and fourth-place finisher Steve Lott in the same hand to get to heads-up versus Johnny Chan.

The 90s

In 1990, Mansour Matloubi of Iran became the first non-American citizen to win the WSOP Main Event. Two-time champ Johnny Chan had been the first ME winner born outside the U.S. (in China).

Donnacha O’Dea reached the 1991 Main Event final table, finishing ninth. He’d previously made a WSOP ME final table in 1983 when he finished sixth. Twenty years later in 2011, his son Eoghan would also finish sixth at the WSOP ME.

In 1992 there were 201 entrants in the Main Event, down from the previous year’s 215. That marked the first year the ME saw a decline in attendance since the tourney began in 1971. (There wouldn’t be a dip again until 2007.)

Matt Damon
Matt Damon and Ed Norton played the Main Event in 1998.

Ted Forrest won three WSOP bracelets in 1993, tying a record that still stands. Not only were they the only cashes Forrest had that year -- they were his first WSOP cashes ever.

To mark the 25th “silver” anniversary of the WSOP in 1994, that year’s winner, Russ Hamilton, was awarded his weight in silver -- a whopping 330 pounds, then worth $28,512. Incidentally, runner-up Hugh Vincent weighed but 178 pounds, and third-place finisher John Spadavecchia 174 lbs.

Chinese poker was contested for the first time at the WSOP in 1995, with both $1,500 and $5,000 events added to the schedule. The same events would be offered the following year, then dropped thereafter.

At the 1996 Main Event, eventual winner Huckleberry Seed was the very last of the 295 entrants to register. The story goes that Seed arrived a few minutes after the tourney had begun and was initially denied entry before being allowed to play. Seed’s winning hand -- 9d 8d -- was the exact same hand Dan Harrington had won the ME with the year before.

The 1997 WSOP Main Event final table was held just outside Binion’s on Fremont Street in 98-degree heat and occasionally windy conditions, a one-time only experiment.

Rounders stars Matt Damon and Edward Norton entered the 1998 WSOP Main Event as part of the effort to publicize the film. Both made early exits, with Damon being eliminated by Doyle Brunson after running pocket kings into Tex Dolly’s pocket aces.

When Noel Furlong won the 1999 WSOP Main Event, he was one of three Irishmen finishing in the top seven along with Padraig Parkinson (third) and George McKeever.

The 2000s

While “Casino Employees” events had occasionally been included before, 2000 saw it finally become a permanent part of the WSOP schedule. The tournament was contested as a limit hold’em event from 2000-2003, then as no-limit hold’em thereafter.

In 2001, Chris “Jesus” Ferguson followed up his WSOP Main Event win the year before by winning a bracelet in the $1,500 Omaha/8 event. Ferguson is the last ME winner to win a bracelet the following year.

Chris Moneymaker
The man that changed the poker world.

Billy Baxter won his seventh WSOP bracelet in 2002 by winning the $1,500 razz event. All seven of his bracelets have been won in “lowball” events (2-7 draw, A-5 draw, or razz).

According to Jonathan Grotenstein and Storms Reback, only 63 of the 839 entrants in 2003’s Main Event paid the full $10,000 entry fee, with all others winning their seats via satellites (both live and online).

In 2004, Dan Harrington followed up his third-place finish at the previous year’s Main Event the year before by finishing fourth at the Main Event out of 2,576. Harrington had made ME final tables two other times before, finishing sixth in 1987 and winning in 1995.

After 35 years at Binion’s Horseshoe Casino, all preliminary events in the 2005 WSOP were played at Rio’s All-Suite Hotel and Casino (where all events have been played ever since). The Main Event was played at the Rio, too, except for the final two days which took place back at Binion’s.

2006 was the first time players in the WSOP Main Event began with a starting stack that differed from the $10,000 buy-in, starting with 20,000 chips. In 2009 players would begin receiving “triple” stacks of 30,000 to start the Main Event.

When Jerry Yang won the 2007 Main Event, it marked the last time the final table was contested without a several months’ long delay, as the “November Nine” format was introduced the following year.

2008 was the last year the WSOP featured a rebuy tournament. Rebuy tourneys had been offered off and on at the WSOP since 1986.

In 2009 the Main Event drew 6,494 entrants. However, the total might have exceeded 7,000 if not for the fact that hundreds were turned away on the last of the four Day One flights once that day’s capacity was filled.

The 2010s

In 2010, 97-year-old Jack Ury established the record as the oldest participant ever at the WSOP when he played in the Main Event.

The 2011 Main Event final table saw seven different countries represented by the final nine players (Ireland, U.K., Germany, Czech Republic, Belize, Ukraine, U.S.), the most in WSOP history. Three more countries (Costa Rica, Canada, South Africa) were represented among those finishing 10th-13th.

As all winners of WSOP events are recognized as “bracelet winners” (even when watches and items other than bracelets were awarded), in 2012 the winner of Event #41 ($3,000 no-limit hold’em) will be recognized as having won the 1,000th bracelet in World Series of Poker history. 

For all the action from the WSOP in Las Vegas click through to our 2012 World Series of Poker Live Coverage section, brought to you by 888poker.com.

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