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1980 World Series of Poker Champion Stu Ungar (center), Benny Binion (left), and Doyle Brunson (right). Ungar would win again in 1981 and then in 1997. He's still the only 3-time WSOP Main Event winner.

1980 World Series of Poker Champion Stu Ungar (center), Benny Binion (left), and Doyle Brunson (right). Ungar would win again in 1981 and then in 1997. He’s still the only 3-time WSOP Main Event winner.

Past World Series of Poker Winners

YearWinnerPrize Money (in USD)EntrantsWinning Hand
2015Joe McKeehen7,683,3466,420A♥ 10♦
2014Martin Jacobson10,000,0006,68310♥ 10♦
2013Ryan Riess8,359,5316,352A♥ K♥
2012Greg Merson8,531,8536,598K♦ 5♦
2011Pius Heinz8,715,6386,865A♠ K♣
2010Jonathan Duhamel8,944,1387,319A♠ J♥
2009Joe Cada8,574,6496,4949♦ 9♣
2008Peter Eastgate9,152,4166,844A♦ 5♠
2007Jerry Yang 8,250,0006,3588♦ 8♣
2006Jamie Gold12,000,0008,773Q♠ 9♣
2005Joe Hachem7,500,0005,6197♣ 3♠
2004Greg Raymer5,000,0002,5768♠ 8♦
2003Chris Moneymaker2,500,0008395♦ 4♠
2002Robert Varkonyi2,000,000631Q♦ 10♠
2001Carlos Mortensen1,500,000613K♣ Q♣
2000Chris Ferguson1,500,000512A♠ 9♣
1999Noel Furlong1,000,0003935♣ 5♦
1998Scotty Nguyen1,000,000350J♦ 9♣
1997Stu Ungar1,000,000312A♥ 4♣
1996Huck Seed1,000,0002959♦ 8♦
1995Dan Harrington1,000,0002739♦ 8♦
1994Russ Hamilton1,000,000268K♠ 8♥
1993Jim Bechtel1,000,000220J♠ 6♠
1992Hamid Dastmalchi1,000,0002018♥ 4♣
1991Brad Daugherty1,000,000215K♠ J♠
1990Mansour Matloubi895,0001946♥ 6♠
1989Phil Hellmouth755,0001789♠ 9♣
1988Johnny Chan700,000167J♣ 9♣
1987Johnny Chan625,000152A♠ 9♣
1986Berry Johnston570,000141A♠ 10♥
1985Bill Smith700,0001403♠ 3♥
1984Jack Keller660,00013210♥ 10♠
1983Tom McEvoy540,000108Q♦ Q♠
1982Jack Straus520,000104A♥ 10♠
1981Stu Ungar375,00075A♥ Q♥
1980Stu Ungar385,000735♠ 4♠
1979Hal Fowler270,000547♠ 6♦
1978Bobby Baldwin210,00042Q♦ Q♣
1977Doyle Brunson340,0003410♠ 2♥
1976Doyle Brunson220,0002210♠ 2♠
1975Brian "Sailor" Roberts210,00021J♠ J♥
1974Johnny Moss160,000163♥ 3♠
1973Walter "Puggy" Pearson130,00013A♠ 7♠
1972Thomas "Amarillo Slim" Preston80,0008K J
1971Johnny Moss30,00066 6
1970Johnny MossN/A7N/A

Here I honor the past WSOP winners of the Holy Grail of poker: the Main Event. It’s had a $10,000 buy-in since the beginning and No-Limit Hold’em has always been the game. If you win the Big One you join an elite fraternity of players, take home millions of dollars, and enter a state of poker immortality.

The WSOP originated with a handful of players in 1970 and, in fact, didn’t even start to award prize money until the following year. In the last decade and a half the field and prize money has skyrocketed. In 2016, the WSOP winner’s share for the Main Event is expected to again exceed $9 million.

wsop-champions-3

Every WSOP Main Event winner since 1991 has won at least $1 million and every champion since 2002 has won at least $2 million.

The History of the WSOP

1970’s

The World Series of Poker began as a modest gathering of sorts between poker buddies. It was organized by Jack Binion – the longtime owner of the Horseshoe in downtown Las Vegas. The year was 1970 and the players numbered less than 10.

Many participants would continue on to legendary poker status, including names like Doyle Brunson, Amarillo Slim Preston, and Johnny Moss. That first year, Moss was voted best player amongst his peers and thus technically was the first WSOP Champion.

The humble foundation of the World Series of Poker was laid in 1970

The humble foundation of the World Series of Poker was laid in 1970. Left-to-right: Puggy Pearson, Jack Binion, Amarillo Slim Preston, Chill Willis, and Johnny Moss.

In 1971, Johnny Moss won the winner-take-all event and $30,000. Since the inaugural days the Main Event has has a $10,000 buy-in and has always been No-Limit Texas Hold’em. Moss beat out familiar faces from the previous year: Pug Pearson, Doyle Brunson, and Sailor Roberts to name a few.

Around the mid-70s, the event finally started to attract more players and Doyle Brunson won back-to-back titles in 1976-77 and took over half a million for his wins. Both of his titles were sealed with the “Doyle Brunson” holding: 10-2.

The annual World Series of Poker (WSOP) has been the crown jewel of the poker world since 1970.

The annual World Series of Poker (WSOP) has been the crown jewel of the poker world since its inception in 1970.

1980’s

During the 1980s, the World Series began to incorporate more side events into the mix including games like Limit Hold’em, Stud, and H.O.R.S.E – a mixed game. NBC began to air coverage of the Championship in 1981. Stuey “The Kid” Ungar took back-to-back titles in 1980-81.

A few years later, Johnny “The Orient Express” Chan captured back-to-back titles in ’87 and ’88 and has been a force in poker ever since. Chan defeated Erik Seidel in 1988 with what proved to be a famous hand because of its exposure in the 1997 film Rounders.

The next year, Chan finished second to Phil Hellmuth, who become the youngest player to win the Championship at age 24.

I'm fond of my old WSOP marker from the last year it had a presence at The Horseshoe

I’m fond of my old WSOP marker from 2005, the last year it had a presence at The Horseshoe.

1990’s

The 1990s featured increasing exposure, prize pools, and entrants with first place money topping $1 million by 1991. Some notable finishes include Dan Harrington’s title in 1995 in which he only entered 2 WSOP events – and won both.

Stu Ungar made a surprising appearance in 1997 and became the only three-time WSOP Champion in history. He did it against a then-record field of 311 opponents.

During the late ’90s, the Horseshoe ran a promotion to hold the final table outdoors on Fremont Street. Heck, even I could’ve told you that hosting an outdoor poker event in August in Las Vegas wasn’t such a good idea.

2000’s

The new millennium was ushered in with enormous prizes and the advent of online poker. Chris “Jesus” Ferguson took the title away from T.J. Cloutier in 2000 as a 3-to-1 underdog. The aggressive Carlos Mortensen captured the title in 2001. Robert Varkonyi, 2002’s Champion, is often overlooked, but he captured a $2,000,000 prize for his efforts. Then, everything changed.

In 2003, Chris Moneymaker turned a $40 satellite at Poker Stars into a $2.5 million first prize when he beat out Sammy Farha for the title. Prior to the 2003 WSOP, Moneymaker had only played online.

Following his footsteps, Greg “Fossilman” Raymer also won a satellite from Poker Stars and took the $5 million prize from a 2,000+ field of opponents in 2004. Finally, a record 5,600 entrants lost out to Australian Joseph Hachem in 2005 who won an enormous $7,500,000 for the finish.

Late 2000’s

2006 was the year that awarded the biggest first place prize in the history of the Main Event. As popularity of poker kept growing, that year saw a record turnout of 8,773 players. The eventual winner, TV producer Jamie Gold took home $12,000,000 for his efforts after defeating Paul Wasicka in the heads-up duel.

The following year, 2007, saw one of the most memorable WSOP champions, but it was not his play that made him memorable as much as his table antics. Jerry Yang triumphed in the field of 6,358 players for the payday of $8,250,000.

The 2008 Main Event saw the title of youngest-ever winner taken away from Phil Hellmuth by the young Dane Peter Eastgate. Being the last man with chips in the field of 6,844 players, the 22-year old earned himself a hefty sum of $9,152,000. As for his record, it didn’t last very long.

In 2009 another youngster claimed the most coveted WSOP bracelet as 21-year old Joe Cada ascended to the poker throne by outlasting 6,493 other entrants, earning $8,575,000 in the process.

Joe Cada, the youngest Main Event champion to date (source: pokerstars.com)

Joe Cada, the youngest Main Event champion to date (source: pokerstars.com)

2010’s

The domination of youth continued in the Main Events, as 2010 saw the Canadian Jonathan Duhamel seize the day. The field saw a significant increase once again, as the Canadian had to navigate his way around 7,318 players to win the bracelet (becoming the first Canadian player to do so). In fact, it was the second biggest Main Event field, eclipsed only by the one from 2006. Accordingly, Duhamel claimed the first prize of $8,944,000.

In 2011, it was another youngster, Pius Heinz, who claimed the title. By outlasting the filed of 6,864 other players, Heinz earned the grand prize of $8,715,000, becoming the first German player to win the WSOP Main Event. After him, Greg Merson took over the throne.

The 2012 Main Event saw a turnout of 6,598 players and Merson took home $8,532,000 for his victory.

He was followed by Ryan “The Beast” Riess whose 2013 victory in the field of 6,352 players brought him a nice sum of $8,360,000.

The 2014 World Series of Poker was special because there was a $10,000,000 guarantee for the winner. Although this caused some mixed opinions in the poker community, the WSOP organizers believed it would be a great marketing tool and the decision stood.

Consequentially, the Swede Martin Jacobson earned himself a nice, round amount of $10 million. As for the effectiveness of the marketing, the total field was 6,683 players, which was decent, but statistically speaking only the fifth biggest field in the Main Event history.

In 2015, the idea about $10 million first place was abandoned. There was no significant drop in player numbers, as 6,420 showed up to play. The one who outlasted them all was Joe McKeehen who came into the final table with a dominant chip-lead, leaving little doubt about who would stand tall in the end. For his victory, McKeehen earned $7,683,000.

The WSOP has become an absolute spectacle, taking over Las Vegas every summer

The WSOP has become an absolute spectacle, a beautiful chaos of dreams, felt, and clattering poker chips.

Previous WSOP Schedules

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

World Series of Poker FAQs

How does the WSOP work?

• The World Series of Poker is simply a collection of nearly 70 poker tournaments that take place each summer at the Rio Hotel and Casino is Las Vegas. It is no different than a tournament series run by a local cardroom except, of course, that the WSOP is the largest poker event in the world.

The World Series of Poker has become an absolute spectacle drawing hundreds of thousands of players, including nearly every top pro, and prize pools totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. Each event has its own buy-in, type of poker game, and gold bracelet awaiting each winner.

The World Series of Poker starts every June and is a marathon of nearly 70 poker tournaments

The World Series of Poker starts every June and is a marathon of nearly 70 poker tournaments.

Where is the World Series of Poker held?

The World Series of Poker takes place annually starting in late-May to early June in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Since 2005 it has been held at the Rio Hotel and Casino, just off of The Strip. From 1970-2004 the WSOP was held at The Horseshoe (now Binion’s) on Fremont Street in classic downtown Las Vegas.

The World Series of Poker has taken place at the Rio in Las Vegas since 2005

The World Series of Poker has taken place at the Rio in Las Vegas since 2005.

What is the WSOP buy-in?

The World Series of Poker features nearly 70 distinct tournaments, each with its own buy-in. The Colossus event, which has the smallest buy-in of the Series, offers players a seat for just $565. The most famous WSOP tournament is the No-Limit Hold’em Main Event, which has a $10,000 buy-in.

There are buy-ins for just about every amount in between with the most common these days being $1,000-$1,500 to accommodate smaller players.

The biggest ever buy-in featured at the WSOP was $1,000,000 for The Big One for one Drop tournaments, which took place in 2012 and 2014.

When does the WSOP start?

WSOP usually starts at the beginning of June (June 1st, traditionally) every year and lasts around 45 days in total. This is the period of crazy poker action in Las Vegas as apart from the WSOP tournaments, there are numerous side events in different casinos on the strip, and the cash game action is usually very juicy.

Who owns the WSOP?

Currently, World Series of Poker is owned and operated by Caesar’s Interactive Entertainment, which is a subsidiary of Caesar’s Entertainment, Ltd. Up until 2010, the company was known as Harrah’s Entertainment, which sometimes causes confusion. The name change was not a result of any merger or similar event, but simply an attempt at re-branding.

Until 2004, the WSOP was owned by the Binion’s Horseshoe, but when the Harrash acquired the Horseshoe, they also received the rights to the Series as a part of the package.

What channel is the WSOP on?

The Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (ESPN) has traditionally been the official channel of the World Series. ESPN regularly broadcasts both latest and old WSOP events around the year. During recent years, some fans have been complaining that ESPN is moving their poker shows to less desirable time slots as during the poker boom years, the WSOP was usually broadcast during peak hours.

The WSOP coverage is traditionally provided by the ESPN but you will rarely find any non-Hold'em events on air because they are not as popular with the audience

The WSOP coverage is traditionally provided by the ESPN but you will rarely find any non-Hold’em events on air because they are not as popular with the audience

Which WSOP events are televised?

While television crews are around for the entire duration of the WSOP, only the biggest events get televised. Traditionally, this entails the Main Event, sometimes Poker Players Championship, and the big events like $1,000,000 Big One for One Drop.

As a rule, producers are not very keen on showing any events that are not Texas Hold’em because they are afraid that these would not do well with the audience.

What does the WSOP winner get?

Every World Series of Poker winner receives a WSOP bracelet together with the first prize money. The prize amount depends on the number of entrants and the price of buy-in. The winner does not receive the entire prize pool, of course, but he or she does receive a significant portion of it.

Are WSOP winnings taxed?

Gambling taxation issues is a large and complex one and probably worth of an entire article in its own right. However, to try and answer this in short: yes, WSOP winnings are taxed.

Citizens of the USA are obliged to pay federal alongside state tax and other possible taxes, depending on their place of residence. When it comes to foreigners, the casino will keep 30% of your winnings as a default, even if you have to pay tax in your country.

You can file forms and submit necessary documentation so you could claim the tax return from the U.S. government but the important thing to note is that paying this tax does not exempt you from paying tax in your country.

There are certain European countries that the U.S. has a taxation treaty with. Some of these countries are UK, Belgium, Germany, etc. If there is a treaty in place, then you will not have to pay the taxes in the States.

You will get to keep all the winnings and deal with paying taxes in your home country. If you happen to reside in a country that doesn’t tax gambling winnings, like the UK, all the better.

Taxation on WSOP winnings can be quite complicated, so you are best off asking someone who understands particular law and regulations in your country pertaining to gambling taxes

Taxation on WSOP winnings can be quite complicated, so you are best off asking someone who understands particular law and regulations in your country pertaining to gambling taxes

How do you qualify for the WSOP?

You can earn your seat in a number of WSOP events via WSOP satellites. Satellites are simply poker tournaments awarding seats to the target event with a bigger buy-in. There is a large number of WSOP satellites (or qualifiers, as they are also called sometimes) on online poker rooms like PokerStars or 888poker, where you can earn a World Series seat for as little as $1.

Some casinos also organize live satellites. This depends greatly on where you live and how big your local casino is. During the WSOP, there is a great number of satellites running at the Rio around the clock as well.

How do you register for the WSOP?

The most traditional way of registering for any of WSOP events is at a cage in the Rio. Since WSOP schedule is always released ahead of time, you can plan for the events you want to play. However, the registration process can sometimes take a while because of long lines during the Series.

Alternatively, you can use one of the online methods. As of this year, the WSOP improved their remote registration possibilities to accommodate most players and give them a possibility to spend their time in Las Vegas doing something other than waiting in line.

Why is the final table in November?

The idea of the November Nine, the WSOP Main Event final table being moved to November, was first introduced in 2008. The reasoning behind this concept was that the four month delay would create a lot of hype for the final table and would allow viewers to get to learn about the players.

Since the Main Event has grown so big, the final tables were no longer populated with start players. TV producers believed that allowing people to get to know these players would help viewers root for them and increase the viewership.

Although there have been a lot of criticism directed towards November Nine idea, the organizers decided to stick with it and since 2008 the Main Event final table takes place four months after the end of the Series.

The WSOP Main Event final table has been taking place in November since 2008 to help build up the suspense and give the audience a chance to get to know the players

The WSOP Main Event final table has been taking place in November since 2008 to help build up the suspense and give the audience a chance to get to know the players

What is a WSOP ring?

World Series of Poker awards bracelets, while the WSOP Circuit (WSOPc) awards rings. WSOP Circuit was first started in 2005 as a year-long series of tournament taking place at different venues, mostly in the United States, but lately it’s been spreading to other countries as well.

Many famous players have started their careers playing on the WSOP Circuit and some, like Antonio Esfandiari, still enjoy playing in them occasionally, despite the relatively low buy-in for high roller standards.

What is the WSOP Main Event?

The WSOP Main Event is in fact another name for the $10,000 WSOP No Limit Hold’em Championship. This has been the flagship event of the Series since its inception and despite the dollar value changing and other events adjusting their buy-ins, the Main Event has always kept its $10,000 entry fee.

The Main Event bracelet is arguably the most prestigious and coveted of all the bracelets and the only one that comes close in terms of desirability is the $50k Players Championship one.

Who has won the most WSOP Main Events?

Stu Ungar and Johnny Moss with 3 each

Troubled in his personal life, Stu Ungar was believed by many to be the best No-Limit Hold’em player ever. In his prime, he had an uncanny ability to read his opponents, put on the right amount of aggression, and recall past hands.

After winning back-to-back Main Events in both 1980 and ’81, drugs and other addictions took him away from the limelight of poker for 16 years. Making a seemingly heroic comeback in 1997, “The Kid” took home the $1,000,000 grand prize and stood on top of the poker world once again.

Unfortunately, addictions once again consumed Ungar and he died in 1998 shortly after failing to even attempt to defend his title.

Johnny Moss also took half of the first 6 WSOPs beginning in 1970 and earned less than $200,000 for the combined wins. Johnny Chan had a chance at his third title in 1989 but he lost the heads-up to the young up and coming poker star Phil Hellmuth.

Who has gone back-to-back in the WSOP Main Event?

Johnny Moss, Doyle Brunson, Stu Ungar, and Johnny Chan

There have been 3 players to date who’ve won back-to-back WSOP Championship Events. Doyle Brunson did in in 1976-77, Stu Ungar in 1980-81, Johnny Chan in 1987-88, and Johnny Moss in the inaugural events in 1970-71.

What are some of the most impressive WSOP Main Event accomplishments?

Dan Harrington and Greg Raymer going back-to-back for WSOP final tables in massive fields

With online poker exploding in popularity, 2003 was the breakout year for the World Series of Poker. It featured a then-record field of over 800 opponents with Chris Moneymaker eventually raking in the $2.5 million prize. Dan Harrington, a seasoned veteran who won the 1995 Main Event, managed to work his way to the final table of this huge tournament.

However, what many consider to be one of the best showings in the history of the WSOP, Harrington beat out an even larger field of over 2,000 in 2004 to again return to the final table!

With the insane style of thousands of internet newcomers waiting to put on the bad beats, it really was an impressive feat for tight-aggressive Dan Harrington. Perhaps even more astonishing was Greg Raymer’s run in 2004-05 when he came a bad beat shy of possibly repeating as Main Event champion.

Prior to a suck out flush draw in 2005’s Main Event, Raymer survived to the final 3 tables and had enough chips to realistically make a run at the title. Considering the he beat over 2,500 players in 2004 and over 5,500 in 2005, his consistency was simply astonishing.

Phil Hellmuth and Ted Forrest winning three bracelets each in 1993

The World Series of Poker in 1993 comprised of only 21 events. Both Phil Hellmuth and Ted Forrest were able to capture three WSOP bracelets, winning almost 30% of the entire schedule. Although fields were smaller back then, this is still quite an impressive feat. Similarly, in 2002, Phil Ivey took home three bracelets appearing at the Series only for the third time.

Greg Merson overcoming drug addiction and seizing the Main Event title in 2012

Winning the Main Event is hard as it is, but to win while struggling with a drug addiction is impressive. Merson lost his bankroll in 2011 and pretty much hit the bottom. However, he stayed determined to turn his life around and in 2012 went on a sick heater that saw him win the Main Event and another bracelet that year. His overall results earned him the Player of the Year title.

What is a WSOP cash?

A WSOP cash is the term used to indicate that someone “made the money” in any WSOP event. In tournament poker, a certain percentage of the starting field gets paid (between 10 – 20 % usually, depending on the tournament structure).

Once a player outlasts the necessary number of players and gets in that magic percentage, he has cashed in a tournament.

It is important to note that even a victory in a tournament is still counted as a “cash” and considered when making stats for someone overall WSOP cashes. Every time you receive a prize, you’ve cashed.

Who has won the most total in WSOP cashes?

Sitting at the top of the WSOP All Time Money List (as of 2016) is the 2012 The Big One for One Drop winner Antonio Esfandiari with earnings of $21,200,000. Antonio captured the biggest prize in the history of the Series, as he picked up more than $18.3 million for his win in the Big One.

Antonio Esfandiari, the man with the biggest amount of money earned playing WSOP tournaments

Antonio Esfandiari, the man with the biggest amount of money earned playing WSOP tournaments

Next in line is Daniel Colman who, not surprisingly, also won the Big One for One Drop, but in 2014. Colman’s total WSOP earnings amount to $17,000,000, more than $15,000,000 of which came from that one victory.

Daniel Negreanu finished second to Colman that year and he sits in third place on the WSOP All Time Money List. The Canadian has $15.3 million in WSOP cashes, and his finish in the Big One accounts for some $8,000,000.

The 2010 Main Event champion Jonathan Duhamel sits in fourth, with total earnings of $14.5 million. Duhamel’s biggest cash by far was his 2010 triumph, which brought him close to $9,000,000.

The fifth spot on the leaderboard is currently kept by none other than Phil Hellmuth Jr., the man who firmly holds the record for most WSOP bracelets won. The ‘Poker Brat’ has a total of $13.5 million in WSOP cashes.

Jamie Gold, while often criticized for his rash demeanor and legal woes, did beat out over 8,800 opponents in the summer of 2006 to take home a $12,000,000 prize. Although this happened ten years ago and Gold barely made any other cashes in that period, he still sits in sixth place with total WSOP earnings of $12.2 million.

What is the WSOP Twitter account?

The official World Series of Poker account is @WSOP. Here, you will find all the relevant updates regarding the tournaments, announcements, and similar.

Another important account for the WSOP is @WSOPTD. This is the official Twitter account of Jack Eiffel, the World Series of Poker Director and Vice President of Internal Poker Operations.

From this year (2016), you can also tune in to the account @WSOPCzar, which belongs to Kevin Mathers. Mathers is a poker journalist known for offering his assistance to numerous poker players via his personal Twitter and during this year’s Series, he will be the person handling WSOP’s social media channels (on both @WSOP and @WSOPCzar).

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Josh H
Josh H
Owner and Editor-in-chief at Beat The Fish
A lifelong poker player who moved online in 2004, Josh founded Beat The Fish in 2005 to help online poker players make more-informed decisions on where to play and how to win once they got there. He hopes to cut through the rampant dishonesty in online gaming media with objective reviews and relevant features. Tech nostalgic. Nintendo apologist. You can reach Josh directly at support@beatthefish.com.
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