The WSOP is still going strong after half a century

What began five decades ago with six gamblers became the largest and longest running annual poker event in the history of the game, with the number of tournaments being held over the years running to four figures, hundreds of thousands of participants and literally billions of dollars turned over.

And the WSOP continues to enjoy amazing popularity today, making a great success of keeping up with the times by teaming up with the forward-thinking, incredibly popular GGPoker Network to hold the 2021 series online after last year’s partnership (brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic bringing a halt to ‘live’ events) with GG proved so successful.

Here’s a bit of WSOP trivia that should put in perspective the invaluable role the organisation has played in both maintaining the popularity of the game and giving so many players over the years the chance of glory. Just reading the names below shows how important the WSOP has been to the biggest poker stars, year after year, with so many great players having the WSOP to thank for contributing in such a crucial way to their glittering careers.

Humble Beginnings

So few people knew about the very first, rather ambitiously named World Series of Poker back in 1970 that it attracted no public attention, barely no media coverage and, ironically, just a handful of players! Consequently, the inaugural World Champion, Johnny Moss, was awarded the title not by ploughing through the field in a blaze of glory as he bluffed and tricked his way through grueling sessions of complex hands, rather he was voted the “best all-around player” by his peers after days of high-stakes play.

An actual tournament took place the following year, with a whopping total of seven players each putting up a buy-in of $5,000 (a considerable sum even by today’s standard) and all the prize money going to the winner – a certain Johnny Moss!

The buy-in was then increased to a round $10,000 and has remained at that level since, but other aspects of the event have seen massive changes over the years, most notably in the sheer numbers of players from around the globe looking for fame and fortune.

The online poker boom that started over two decades ago spawned a whole new generation of players, many of whom had known only the internet version of the game. Indeed, after years of weathered, seasoned professionals dominating WSOP events, the whole landscape saw a sea change heralded by players whose first Bricks & Mortar poker experience was, in fact, the WSOP!

With more and more bracelet events to cater for the increased popularity of the WSOP, what was originally dozens of participants became hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands and, eventually, six-figures. Naturally, with record-breaking player numbers, the prize money – across many events – in turn rocketed to nose-bleed levels. From just $70,000 back in 1971, it’s now not unusual to see a quarter of a billion dollars up for grabs.

Events, players and prize money at the WSOP since 1970

YearEventsTotal EntriesTotal Prize Money

$10,000 then, and $10,000 now

For the vast majority of players, paying $10,000 to take part in a poker tournament – however prestigious – is a considerable financial commitment. Indeed, given the nature of No Limit Hold’em, it would be quite feasible to find yourself playing the very first hand perfectly yet still suffering a bad beat on the River. A five-figure sum spent on a single hand…

$10,000 has been the buy-in for the WSOP Main Event for a good five decades. Of course, there are more expensive, so-called high-roller tournaments where the buy-in levels dwarf this amount, but 10K is a nice ‘round’ number and, at least for the foreseeable future, there seems no reason to increase the buy-in for an event that is anyway guaranteed to provide an enormous prize pool thanks to the numbers that are inevitably drawn to what is the world’s most ‘famous’ poker tournament.

With this in mind, however much $10,000 looks today, imagine the comparative hole it would have left in the bankroll of the would-be champions of yesteryear. Using a US Bureau of Statistics inflation calculator, we find that $10,000 in 1972 would equate to almost $64,000 today – a staggering amount of money to potentially lose on the turn of a card! Indeed, this even exceeds the $50,000 buy-in for the WSOP High Roller fixture that many of the world’s elite players have over recent years treated like a more genuine ‘main event’…

Biggest Field in Poker History

Thanks to the COVID pandemic, we have to go back to 2019 for the last Bricks & Mortar edition of the WSOP. Perhaps not surprisingly, this saw numerous records being broken in terms of both the number of entries across a host of events, and the amount of prize money awarded. In fact, over a whopping 89 separate events, the total paid out in WSOP 2019 was a staggering $293,183,345!

Meanwhile, the Main Event drew 8,569 entries, the second highest of all time, just a couple of hundred short of the 2006 tally of 8,773 entries that was boosted so much by the then unfettered influx of online qualifiers. The prize pool for the ME was $80,548,600, again only slightly behind the $82,512,162 of 2006. The eventual winner, Hossein Ensan, took home a tidy $10 million for his efforts…

WSOP 2019 also saw the highest number of entries ever in a poker tournament, with record numbers attracted to the rake-free, $500 buy-in Big Fifty. The total entries came to an amazing 28,371!

The 187,298 total entries throughout the series was another all-time record. And there were others:

62 events had at least $1 million in prize money

34 events had at least $2 million in prize money

12 events had at least $5 million in prize money

As for the most successful WSOP players, here’s the Top 50…

1Phil Hellmuth15165$15,050,038
2Phil Ivey1070$7,140,151
3Johnny Chan1051$4,681,324
4Doyle Brunson1037$3,038,079
5Johnny Moss927$834,422
6Erik Seidel8130$5,768,657
7Men Nguyen7114$4,155,467
8Billy Baxter737$1,219,686
9Daniel Negreanu6169$19,550,955
10Chris Ferguson6168$6,875,576
11John Hennigan645$5,793,660
12TJ Cloutier697$4,710,417
13Jeff Lisandro684$4,422,383
14Layne Flack674$2,869,570
15Ted Forrest639$2,061,592
16Jay Heimowitz643$1,526,281
17Michael Mizrachi573$9,370,568
18Allen Cunningham578$7,914,058
19Scotty Nguyen564$6,001,267
20John Juanda568$5,714,127
21Jason Mercier573$5,039,501
22Daniel Alaei541$4,612,167
23David Chiu574$3,674,019
24Berry Johnston572$2,119,871
25Stu Ungar516$2,081,478
26Gary Berland511$220,390
27Joe Cada443$13,610,088
28Dominik Nitsche450$8,091,964
29Brian Rast444$6,031,994
30Shaun Deeb494$4,975,588
31Mike Matusow482$4,281,704
32Robert Mizrachi471$3,816,587
33Huck Seed454$3,653,465
34Jeff Madsen4104$3,178,999
35Loren Klein449$2,764,837
36Brian Hastings446$2,700,478
37Max Pescatori4101$2,685,917
38Asi Moshe443$2,244,508
39George Danzer424$2,224,901
40Eli Elezra467$2,137,326
41Michael Gathy433$2,134,880
42Bobby Baldwin420$2,100,311
43Tom Schneider450$1,779,645
44Tom McEvoy454$1,386,393
45Mickey Appleman451$1,237,002
46Artie Cobb437$881,915
47Amarillo Slim Preston413$437,958
48Puggy Pearson412$265,580
49Lakewood Louie44$100,800
50Bill Boyd44$80,00

When the WSOP went online…

When it became evident in 2020 that the COVID-19 pandemic was so serious that it would mean countless events around the globe would have to be postponed or cancelled until such time as life could once again approach normalcy, the WSOP, like so many other major sporting fixtures, faced a dilemma.

Given the aforementioned success of the previous year, this was a particularly unfortunate problem. But all was not lost! With the internet to thank for the continued healthy state of the WSOP via the very high level of popularity of online poker around the world, it didn’t take much of a mental leap to look to the World Wide Web for a solution.

And so began the partnership with the forward-thinking GGPoker, who hosted a veritable smorgasbord of events that attracted so many players and paid out so much in prizes that 2020’s online edition of the WSOP was a fantastic success. So, much so, in fact, that it’s happening all over again in 2021!

In terms of sheer numbers, the 2020 WSOP online series was very impressive indeed. A total of $147,789,550 was paid out in prizes, with 54 gold bracelets awarded on GGPoker and another 31 from in July, 2020.

GGPoker’s online Main Event ended up being the biggest ever online poker tournament, generating a $27,559,500 prize pool, from which the eventual winner, Stoyan Madanzhiev, took for his efforts a cool $3,904,685 – also a record!

Even more startling, perhaps, was the tally of entries for the so-called BIG 50 event, which had a buy-in of only $50. As a testament to both the success of the WSOP’s adjustment to switching to online, and the amazing popularity of online poker itself, the tournament’s total entries reached a stratospheric figure of 44,576…

By the time the proverbial dust had settled, the first ever online WSOP attracted a total of 239,754 entries. That it was a truly global worldwide web event was confirmed by the number of countries represented – 166. Despite all these hopefuls, only one player – Alex Stasiask – managed to win two bracelets.

Also interesting was that only five players achieved the feat of reaching three final tables. However, 281 were consistent enough to cash at least 10 times in GGPoker events, while 203 succeeded in cashing for over $100,000.

As for GG hosting the 2021 online WSOP, we wish our YourPokerDream players the best of luck!

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The last changes of the page “YPD Guide to the World Series of Poker (WSOP)” was made by YPD on May 29, 2021