Since its inception in 1970, the World Series of Poker (WSOP) has been the largest, most prestigious, and most famous poker tournament series in history. It’s no surprise that a tournament of its status has been home to some of the greatest and most memorable poker games ever played. From the first WSOP vote to Doyle Brunson’s insane back-to-back wins, the WSOP has provided plenty of excitement for poker fans worldwide. Here are just a few of the most notable events in WSOP history.
1970: The very first World Series of Poker
After being inspired by a 1969 event known as the Texas Gambling Reunion, casino owner and poker player Benny Binion decided to start his event the following year. He was enthralled by the idea of a high-stakes tournament between the best players, so he started the first WSOP in 1970. However, this WSOP was not quite what it is today. No bracelets, no large cash prize, and it wasn’t even a real tournament. Seven of the best players at the time were invited to play high-stakes cash games over a few days. Ultimately, they were asked to vote for who they considered the best player. After it was specified they shouldn’t vote for themselves, Johnny Moss won the vote, also winning a silver cup. While this tournament was a far cry from the modern-day WSOP, it is still an iconic part of poker history since it was the foundation for the WSOP becoming as large as it is today.
1976 – 1977: The Doyle Brunson
Hands with specific names are incredibly rare in poker. Hands being named after a specific player are even rarer and a testament to the player’s experience with that hand and that player’s impact on poker. There are two mainstream names, the dead man’s hand, and the Doyle Brunson. You may wonder how the Doyle Brunson earned its name since the dead man’s hand resulted from a famous player getting shot while playing. While it’s not as violent, the circumstances surrounding the Doyle Brunson are just as, if not more absurd than, the dead man’s hand.
In the 1976 main event, Brunson was heads-up at the final table against Jesse Alto. Alto bet early pre-flop with AJo, a strong pre-flop hand, certainly much stronger than the 10-2s Brunson had. When the flop came, things looked even worse for Brunson, with a flop of ace, jack, and ten giving Alto two pairs compared to Brunson’s weak single pair. Brunson decided to go all in, and it looked like that was it. The turn came, a two. The river came, bringing another two and giving Doyle Brunson a backdoor full house and the win.
Usually, that would be it. A legendary story about a famous player’s insane luck, but poker hands don’t get named just because of one lucky event. In 1977, Brunson was again heads-up against Gary Berland at the WSOP main event final table. Berland had 8-5 while Brunson had his signature 10-2. The flop was ten, eight, and five, giving Berland two pairs to Brunson’s one. Again, Brunson hit a two on the turn; this time, he was already ahead. On the river, somehow, Brunson got a ten, giving him a second full house to win his second WSOP main event in a row. Once was already a miracle, but twice? That’s poker history.
1982: Jack Straus’ underdog story
A common saying in poker is, “as long as you’ve got a chip and chair, you’re not out.” It means that no matter how badly you’ve been doing, you can come back as long as you still have your seat in the tournament. Nobody is a better example of this than Jack Straus, who inspired the saying with his miraculous run at the 1982 WSOP. It was day two, and he had just lost what he thought was all his chips. Standing up from the table, he noticed a 500 chip beneath a napkin. He had not gone all-in, so he was allowed to sit back down and play. His opponents all folded to his big blind, increasing his stack slightly. Soon after, he had the most chips at the table, thanks to consistently good gameplay. At the end of day two, Straus had 90 thousand chips. By day three, he had the most chips in the tournament, with a staggering 341,500. He went on to win the tournament
2003: Chris Moneymaker and the rise of online poker
The main reason for poker’s rise in popularity, particularly online, was an event from 2003-2006 known as the poker boom. Chris Moneymaker was at its forefront, inspiring a new generation of poker players. An amateur player and accountant, he wasn’t well-known in poker. He was, essentially, just a regular guy. That made it all the more impressive and inspiring when he turned a $39 satellite tournament entry into the $2.5 million WSOP win. Poker’s popularity skyrocketed because of that and the introduction of hole-card cameras, becoming the giant we know today.
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The World Series of Poker never fails to excite poker enthusiasts. If you want to become a professional poker player, remember that it takes time and effort. You must practice poker, master the basics like poker hand rankings, and even learn complicated concepts like the Independent Chip Model for tournaments. If you’re looking for a place to practice,GGPoker is also a fantastic site to play online poker on. It offers games of all stakes and several poker variants, and it even comes with a free poker tracker and a smart heads-up display built into the site.