Seven WSOP Bracelet Wins that Changed Poker History

Jennifer Tilly
Jennifer Tilly: More impact on WSOP than you think.

There are two types of professional poker players -- those with a WSOP bracelet, and those without.

Fair or not, overvalued or not, arbitrary or not -- it's just how the game has evolved so far. WSOP gold is a highly sought-after benchmark for poker legitimacy.

While the WSOP bracelet is considered the top prize in the game, some bracelet wins have more lasting impact than others.

As today's poker superstars continue to chase down bracelets at the Rio, guest poster James Guill reminds us of some of the most significant bracelet wins in WSOP history.

Vera Richmond is First Woman to Win Open Event Bracelet

Barbara Enright
Enright broke ground but not technically first.

Revisionist poker historians would have you believe that Barbara Enright was the first woman to win an open-event bracelet at the WSOP in 1996.

That pushes aside the fact that Vera Richmond actually won a bracelet in the $1,000 Limit Ace to Five Draw event in 1982.

Richmond was the daughter of Alfred Neiman of Neiman Marcus and was a true groundbreaker. Given her bottomless bankroll and cantankerous attitude, she wasn't remotely intimidated by the top poker players of the day and she played like it.

Richmond's victory showed that women could beat the top players in the world and opened the door for champions such as Enright, Jennifer Harman and Vanessa Selbst.

Unfortunately, the "boys club" that was poker at the time refused to acknowledge Richmond won the bracelet and many still believe Enright was the first open bracelet winner.

Chip Reese Wins $50,000 HORSE Event

Chip Reese
Reese: True poker player's champion.

In 2006, the World Series of Poker offered a $50,000 buy-in event to satisfy the demand of poker players wanting a high buy-in event.

The result was the $50,000 HORSE Event and the first final table produced the strongest final table in the history of the WSOP.

Chip Reese would eventually win the event after an epic heads-up battle with Andy Bloch but the event would pave the way for a virtual revival of mixed-game poker.

While it is true that No-Limit Hold'em is still the king of poker, mixed-game action has risen dramatically since 2006 and numerous mixed games are offered at the WSOP.

It also helped pave the way for large buy-in events, including last year's $1m Big One for One Drop event that saw Antonio Esfandiari become the all-time money winner in poker.

The $50,000 Event is now known as the Poker Player's Championship and outside the Main Event it is the most coveted title at the WSOP. It's also considered by many to be the true test of poker prowess as players must be competent in eight variants of poker. 

Howard Andrew Wins First-Ever Bracelet in 1976

Prior to 1976 the winner of a WSOP event either received a trophy or a Sterling silver plate.

Not quite like this in 1976.

In 1976, Binion's Horseshoe decided to standardize the prize for a WSOP winner and award a gold bracelet to the winner of each event.

Howard Andrew won the first two events of the 1976 World Series of Poker and was officially the first "bracelet winner."

While winners of events prior to 1976 are retroactively considered bracelet winners, Howard was technically the first.

Since his wins that year the WSOP bracelet has become the most coveted prize in the game. 

Phil Hellmuth Wins His First Bracelet

When Phil Hellmuth won the 1989 WSOP Main Event the only thing the poker world knew was that a young, brash poker player had toppled two-time champion Johnny Chan and made an indelible mark on poker that year.

Jeff Lisandro vs Phil Hellmuth
Who knew what Hellmuth would unleash in 1989?

What we didn't know was just how big of a franchise Hellmuth would become at the WSOP.

Since then Hellmuth has won 12 more bracelets for 13 total and is the only player in history to win both the WSOP Main Event and the WSOP Europe Main Event.

While many do not like Hellmuth for his antics at the table, they still can't overlook his dominance at the WSOP for close to 25 years.

Unless Phil Ivey edges closer in the next couple of years, odds are that Hellmuth will finish his career as the all-time bracelet winner.

Chris Moneymaker Kicks Off the Poker Boom

Chris Moneymaker
Kind of a big deal.

Sure, this is an obvious choice for this list. But it's one that still needs mentioning.

The combination of hole-card cameras, his too-good-to-be-true name (no, really, that's his name) and Moneymaker's satellite-to-riches story led to millions of players flocking to the game and kicking off the poker boom.

Many Almost all of us are in the game in one form or another thanks to the aftermath of his bracelet victory.

Jennifer Tilly Wins 2005 Ladies Event

When Hollywood bombshell Jennifer Tilly defeated Anh Le in 2005 for the Ladies Event title, the poker world got both its first celebrity bracelet winner and an important new face for female poker.

J. Tilla, pied piper.

Tilly's win would inspire other women to come out and try their hand at not just the Ladies Event but also other WSOP events.

The year after Tilly's win, attendance at the Ladies Event grew from 601 players in 2005 to 1,128 players in 2006 and 1,286 players in 2007.

Tilly has had a degree of success after her bracelet victory in 2005 but the impact from her win can still be seen in the number of women who come out annually to try and recreate their own poker magic.

Amarillo Slim Wins the 1972 World Series of Poker Main Event

It's technically not a "bracelet" win, as bracelets weren't handed out until 1976, but it might be the second-most important Main Event win ever.

Amarillo Slim Preston
Poker still owes Slim's hustle.

With three players left in the 1972 World Series of Poker Main Event, a deal was struck between Doyle Brunson, Puggy Pearson and Amarillo Slim Preston to let Slim win the event so the other two could avoid a tax audit.

Binion's owner Jack Binion initially did not approve of the deal but the aftermath of Slim's victory could not have gone any better for Binion and his fledgling WSOP.

Slim was invited to appear on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson to discuss his victory.

Following that appearance Slim showed up on iconic news journalism program 60 Minutes. Slim then proceeded to hit the media circuit to hype not only his win but the WSOP in general.

In 1973, the WSOP was covered by CBS. In addition, there were over 7,000 newspaper articles about the event and Slim was featured in Time magazine.

Slim's bracelet win was more than money or even the title. It lead to major media exposure for the WSOP and an explosion of publicity that it would not see the likes of again until 2003.

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