US Visitors: You are being shown online poker rooms that are properly licensed and legal to play at within the US.

World Series of Poker 2007

 

History and Evolution

"We had 13 players this year. I look to have better than 20 next year. It's even liable to get up to be 50." Benny Binion, after the 1973 WSOP

The WSOP is the greatest annual event in the game of poker, and it constitutes the major aspiration for any poker player in terms of recognition, fame, and money. From its informal beginnings in Vegas, the WSOP has outgrown Benny Binion's wildest dreams and in spite of occasional setbacks it kept growing slowly but steadily.

And then came Moneymaker: while in 2000 there were only 4,780 participants in the different events, by 2006 that number had increased to over 48,400 entrants. This astonishing growth was dubbed "the Moneymaker Effect" in honor of the aptly named Chris Moneymaker, an unknown rookie who paid $39 to enter an online satellite and ended up winning the WSOP main event, starting a flood of wannabe champions that flock to the WSOP in greater numbers each year. The marketing efforts of the WSOP organizers have contributed to make it the most important worldwide poker event: the tournament is televised live and broadcast online, and the "boom" of online poker has also helped to increase public interest in poker's biggest event.

Another aspect that contributes to the WSOP's increasing popularity and legendary status is its ever-increasing prize pool, which has already reached astronomical proportions. The sponsoring casino charges a buy-in and an entry fee to participate on the tournament, and the collected buy-ins form the pool of prize money, so the more players there are, the bigger the pot. In the 2005 main event, $52,818,610 US in prize money were distributed among 560 players, and Joe Hachem won $7,500,000 with the World Championship. Last year's winner Jamie Gold took home the golden bracelet and $12,000,000 US dollars as the first prize winner, from a total prize pool of $161,359,192.

The Main Event

The WSOP main event has been a $10,000 buy-in no-limit Texas Hold 'Em tournament since 1972, and the winner of the main event takes the largest prize of the tournament and a legendary gold bracelet to signify their Champion status. This year's bracelets were redesigned by Swiss watchmaker Corum and are the most expensive and luxurious in the history of the WSOP.

There is a debate still going on about the number of entrants for this year's main event, and bets are on at the most respectable sportsbooks. This year's 38th version of WSOP is expecting 10,000 players in total, many more than the 8,773 that attended last year, and Harrah's Rio Casino is ready with 238 poker tables. Additional tables will be placed on a higher structure that will surround the Amazon lounge, where the WSOP has been held before. There are some high-profile skeptics: poker gurus Phil Gordon and Nolan Dalla predict the reach of this year's main Event will be similar to the 2003 tourney won by Chris Moneymaker with only 839 players, only 10% of 2006's attendees. The tournament starts on June 1rst and carries on until July 5th, with a total of 55 bracelets being awarded at the biggest and most prestigious poker gathering of the year.

This year will see the first time that the WSOP is run by Harrah's instead of at the traditional Binion's Horseshoe where it started. Another important change is that this year players will start with twice the chips as before. For example, instead of $1,000 in starting chips for the $1,000 events, they will start with $2,000 in chips to give players more time to play and show their game.

The World Championship

Traditionally, the winner of the Main Event has been given the unofficial title of World Champion, but the game's top professionals have started arguing that the recently added $50,000 H.O.R.S.E event should be the one to ultimately decide the world's best player, since H.O.R.S.E is a mixed event that includes Hold'em, Omaha, Razz, Seven Card Stud and Eight-or-better rather than just Hold'em.

It should be noted that the professionals played a major role in convincing WSOP management to stage an event with a much larger buy-in than the Main Event, probably due to the increasing number of amateurs entering the WSOP via online satellites and qualifiers. Since nowadays the winner of the Main Event has a much greater likelihood of being a relatively unknown player, poker pros argue that the H.O.R.S.E. tournament - with its much larger buy-in and multiple games- will be more likely to determine who the real world champion is.

Qualifying for WSOP Online

With online poker at its peak, now is a perfect time to qualify via online sites. It is a win-win situation, as online poker sites want the exposure derived from sending players to the WSOP, and players want to be the next Moneymaker. All online sites are doing their best to attract players, offering enticing WSOP satellites with increasingly smaller buy-ins. Also, online players seem to be doing really well at the WSOP, with Chris Moneymaker and Greg Raymer bagging the World Championship in consecutive years.

Below are a few of the many qualifying packages and offers available so that you can try to attend the main event. In most cases the poker site will give a satellite winner the buy-in for the main event, travel and accommodation, and even spending money to experience Vegas in style. These are two of the most popular ways to qualify via an online poker site: 

Freerolls

Many poker sites offer the chance to get to the World Series of Poker for free, via tournaments or special giveaways to their customers. While this is the cheapest option, it can also be the hardest, because the volume of players is massive and seats are limited. Nevertheless, it is worth checking these freeroll tournaments out. You have nothing to lose... and a World Championship to win! 

Satellite Tournaments

Satellite Tournaments are the most usual way for amateurs to win a WSOP seat, and the buy-in can range from a few cents to several hundred dollars. The strategy of the game will depend on the structure of the satellite game. There are three formats of satellite tournaments, and this is how you should play them to win: 

1) Winner Qualifies Only 

The strategy behind it is very simple: be aggressive because you have to be the chip leader. Play loose but smart, without being afraid of going all-in. If you are new to poker, this might be the structure that can get you to WSOP. Another big plus is the high factor of luck involved, which gives new players a fighting chance against more experienced ones. 

2) Low Buy-in Satellite Strategy

People will try to eliminate short stacked players, so try to prevent this by having a medium-sized or big stack at the end of each level. If you are able to get to the final stages with a fairly decent stack of chips you will probably make it to the end of the tournament. Don't be afraid to confront the opponent, even at early stages. 

3) High Buy-In Satellite Strategy

Some satellites with a high buy-in ($500 or more) award the top participants rather than just the winner. For example, they can have a ratio of 1 package per every 20 contestants, so you actually have a greater chance of getting one. Here the key is not to be aggressive with all players, but rather be selectively aggressive: you don't want to be out at an early stage, so play tight-aggressive and try to steal the blinds as often as possible to pad your stack.

Some Memorable Moments and Players

The WSOP was first televised in 1973. From the WSOP website: "The images of poker's fourth annual world championship are comical by modern standards. Wide polka-dotted lapels, lamb-chop sideburns, and burning cigars make the final table look more like a time capsule (...) than an exhibition of poker savvy."

Barbara Freer was the first woman to enter the WSOP, in 1978. Another shocking first took place the following year, when amateur Hal Fowler stole the championship from the pros.

Legendary player Stu Ungar caused another revolution by winning the WSOP in 1980 and 1981, and his New York ways created such a spectacular contrast with the leathery Texans that NBS Sports saw it fit to send a TV crew to report on the WSOP. 1982 saw another memorable moment: Jack Straus's comeback win. Straus had pushed all his chips in and lost the pot, and just when he thought he was out he realized he still had a $500 chip left, which he used to bounce back and win the tournament.

The final table of Johnny Chan's win at the 1988 main event was so memorable that it was featured in the movie Rounders starring Matt Damon and Edward Norton.

The 2002 WSOP changed the way poker was televised, since it was the first broadcast that included the "sneak peek" (later called the pocket cam), which allows TV viewers to see a player's hole cards through a window on the table.

In 2003, Chris Moneymaker changed the WSOP again, opening the eyes of thousands of poker players that never before thought they stood a chance with the pros.

These are a few WSOP records, two of which have just been broken again this year:

  • Top bracelet winner: Phil Hellmuth with 11 bracelets.
  • Top money winner: Jamie Gold with a whopping $12,000,000.
  • Most final table appearances: T. J. Cloutier with 39.
  • Youngest player to win: Steve Billirakis, who set a near-unbreakable record this year by winning at 21 years and 10 days of age.