Poker news | Nov 29, 2021
The 1970 WSOP
By RTR Jamie
Unlike the way the WSOP works today, the tournament was different when it first began in 1970.
The Idea of the WSOP
Although it debuted in 1970, the idea had sprung a couple decades before in 1949 when Nicholas Dandolos came up with the idea to challenge the best poker players to a poker marathon. He went to Benny Binion about this idea, so he set up a match between Dandolos and Johnny Moss with the exception that the public were allowed to watch. They played all available poker games at that time, with the marathon lasting 5 months with breaks just for sleep.
The marathon came to an end when Dandolos lost his last pot meaning Moss won around $2 million in prize money. When Dandolos lost he famously bowed and said to Moss “Mr Moss, I have to let you go”.
This marathon is what inspired Binion to create the WSOP after the popular attention that it had received. He moulded the idea of the World Series of Poker around this marathon, he kept the idea of the battle between the best through a range of different poker cash games. The games that were played include Five-card stud, Seven-card stud hi-lo, deuce-to-seven and ace-to-five lowball, and Texas Holdem’.
The Very First WSOP
The very first WSOP was held at Binion's Horseshoe Casino Hotel in Las Vegas. Due to the hotel not having a poker room it was held in a regular sized hotel room with just a handful of players. Including Doyle Brunson, “Puggy” Pearson, “Amarillos Slim” (Thomas Preston), “Sailor” Roberts, “Titanic” Thompson, Carl Cannon, and Crandell Addington, all paying a fee of $5,000
Contrasting to the way winners are picked in the modern WSOP, at the very first Binion asked all the players to vote for who they believed was the best all-round player. It is said that all of the players voted themselves leaving them with no winner. Jack Binion, Benny Binion’s son came up with the solution to vote again but for the player they thought was second best to them. This resulted in WSOP legend Johnny Moore being voted the first ever World Series of Poker world champion and was rewarded with a silver cup.
Not only was Johnny Moore the player of the year in 1970 but the first player to win three WSOP tournaments and not so far apart, his second in 1971 and his third in 1974.
Where Did The WSOP Go From Here?
The World Series of Poker was first televised on CBS in 1973, just three years after its debut. Puggy Pearson won at the final table winning a huge $130,000 and a WSOP bracelet, along with winning a total of $49,000 in other tournaments, making him one of the best players in the world at the time.
It didn’t take long for Johnny Moss to regain his title as one of the best poker players at the time after winning the very first WSOP. Just a year later in 1974 Moss won the main WSOP event and kept his winning streak in 1975 and 1976 in other tournaments.
It wasn’t until 1978 that the Main Event prize money was split between the top five finishers as it is today between the final nine players. This was also the first year that a woman (Barbara Freer) entered the tournament. A year later in 1979 Freer won the $400 ladies Limit 7 card Stud with a prize of $12,720.
With help from Stu “The Kid” Ungar, the tournament gained more publicity due to him being from a completely different background and his uniqueness to the other players. He came into the tournament with full force and became champion in 1980 and again in 1981.
In 1982, there was an upgrade in the variety of events including, a Woman’s World Championship and the Main Event saw a $10,000 buy-in price, which it has kept to this day.
As the years went by, the tournament gained more and more popularity in the public eye which meant the amount of participants grew and grew. In 1982 there were just 50 participants with the amount increasing to 2,141 just five years later and 123,222 in 2021.
By 2006, the World Series of Poker was made up of 45 tournaments with a bracelet for each of them up for grabs and a total that exceeded over $100 million dollars in prize money.
At this year's WSOP 2021, there was a total of almost $238 million and 99 bracelets won. This year’s winner was German poker player Koray Aldemir, his winnings calculated to $8,000,000 with the runner up American George Holmes winning just over half of this with $4,300,000.
It's impressive to see how far the tournament has come, with just a small number of players and games played in 1970 to what the tournament has today. You can even compete in events online, something you would have not expected 1970.