10 Things You Didn’t Know About the World Series of Poker

By in Poker on

Prior to 2003, most people probably didn’t even know that there was such a thing as World Series of Poker. That’s the year that Chris Moneymaker won the Main Event after winning his way into the tournament through an online satellite.

In the almost two decades since then, the World Series of Poker has become almost as well-known as any other sporting event, including baseball’s World Series and football’s Super Bowl.

And even though you’ve probably heard about the WSOP, there’s probably still a lot you don’t know about the tournament. Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about the World Series of Poker.

1 – The World Series of Poker Isn’t Just One Tournament

The World Series of Poker actually consists of 74 different events with varying buy-ins. They also feature multiple games. The buy-ins vary from event to event, too.

The number and variety of events change from year to year. The prizes for each event are based on the number of entries and the buy-in for that event.

In 2019, the cheapest buy-in was $400, but there were several events with a $500 or $600 buy-in. There were also multiple events with a buy-in of around $1500.

2 – The World Series of Poker Has Been Going on Since 1970

WSOP-Two Men at Poker Table-Waitress

The World Series of Poker is the heir of a one-time event called the Texas Gambling Reunion, which was an invitational tournament held in 1969 and won by Crandell Addington. It was not held in Las Vegas, either, it was hosted in Reno at the Holiday Inn.

Benny Binion was the brainiac responsible for the first World Series of Poker in 1970, which was held at Binion’s Horseshoe. That first year, it wasn’t even played as a tournament. Instead, it consisted of multiple cash games. The winner of the WSOP in 1970 (Johnny Moss) was chosen in an election.

The tournament format began the following year.

3 – The World Series of Poker Is a Brand Name

“The World Series of Poker” was a trademark owned by Binion’s Horseshoe until 2004, when Harrah’s Entertainment acquired the casino and all its property. Even though Harrah’s sold the casino, they retained the rights to the World Series of Poker brand name.

As a brand name, the World Series of Poker consists of more than just poker tournaments held annually in Las Vegas. Video games, instructional videos, and lottery games have all licensed the WSOP brand name.

4 – World Series of Poker Winners Get More Than Just Money

Of course, the winners of the various tournaments in the World Series of Poker get monetary prizes. But they also get a bracelet, which would be the poker equivalent of a Super Bowl ring.

Bracelets have been awarded since the 1976 event. The designs of the bracelets have changed through the years, too. In 1976, the bracelets themselves cost $500 to make.

Circuit events for the World Series of Poker include rings as prizes in addition to money.

5 – Phil Hellmuth Has More WSOP Bracelets than ANYONE

Phill-Hellmuth-Sitting at Poker Table

Phil Hellmuth has won 15 World Series of Poker bracelets, which is more than anyone by a good stretch. Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, and Phil Ivey each have 10 WSOP bracelets, and no one else even comes close.

Hellmuth also holds the record for most final table finishes. He’s been to the final table at WSOP events 59 times during his career. And he has the most money finishes, having made the money in 147 different WSOP events.

Love him or hate him, the “Poker Brat” has made a name for himself in the World Series of Poker.

6 – The World Series of Poker Is Almost Entirely a Male Competition

95% of the players in the World Series of Poker are male, that’s 19 out of 20. It might be instinctive to compare this with the number of pro football players who are women, but the difference is significant.

In poker, women are often just as good (or better) than men. I sure don’t want to play at the same table as Annie Duke, I can tell you that.

My guess is that the ratio will change over time as more women start to play poker.

7 – Entry in the Main Event Costs a Whopping $10,000

The entry fees vary from event to event, but the Main Event has an entry fee of $10,000. The prize pool for the Main Event is determined by the total number of entries. In 2019, there were 8,659 entries, which means the prize pool had $86,590,000 in it.

Of course, the tournament organizers keep a percentage of the entry fees, so the actual prize pool amounted to $80,548,600 after the “rake.”

This means that on the Main Event alone, the operators of the World Series of Poker made $6,041,400. And there were 73 more events besides the Main Event.

8 – The Field Was Really Small for a Long Time

Sure, there were 8,659 entrants in 2019, but for the first decade of the event, there were fewer than 50 players each year.

Throughout the 1980s and the 1990s, there were fewer than 300 entrants in most of the Main Events.

Things picked up during the first half of the 2000s, but the big jump happened after 2003. That year there were 839 entrants, which was a record.

That was also the year that Chris Moneymaker won the Main Event. The following year, the Main Event of the World Series of Poker saw 2576 entrants.

That number doubled in 2005 when the WSOP saw 5619 entrants. The following year, the number of entrants peaked at 8,773 entrants. The number of entrants since has hovered between 6000 and 8000.

9 – Antonio Esfandiari Has Won More Money in the World Series of Poker Than Anyone Else

Antonio Esfandiari- At Poker Table

Antonio Esfandiari only has three WSOP bracelets, but he’s won more money than anyone else in World Series of Poker history: $21,917,460.

Nicknamed “The Magician,” Esfandiari used to represent Ultimate Poker. If you’ve watched any amount of poker on television, you’ve probably seen him play. He’s a regular on such shows.

10 – More Than Half the Events Are Texas Holdem, But That Means Half the Events Are Different Games

Of course, Texas Hold’em is the big game, but the World Series of Poker also has events for different games.

  • Omaha
  • Omaha 8 or Better
  • Five-Card Stud
  • Seven-Card Stud
  • Badugi

Regardless of which game is played, the prize pool is based on the number of entrants and the entry fee, minus a rake charged by the operators of the tournament.


The World Series of Poker is the biggest and most famous poker tournament series in the world. You could easily list 10 other facts about the history of the WSOP that most people don’t know.

Did anything on this list surprise you? Or are you surprised at what I left out? Let me know in the comments.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...

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