Welcome to the final instalment of our brief guide to the history of the World Series of Poker. We concluded the last post by describing how the ailing series had been given a huge boost by the win of Chris Moneymaker, an internet qualifier, in 2003. The previous couple of years had been dogged by infighting and competition from the World Poker Tour but the interest Moneymaker engendered gave it a new lease of life. Moneymaker won $2.5million, the following year’s winner won $5 million – it was on its way again.
Now all it needed was a new venue and when Binion’s Horseshoe was sold in 2004, Harrah’s
Entertainment acquired the rights to the WSOP and in 2005 the tournament was held in the gigantic Rio All-Suites Casino and Hotel. More tables meant more games, more players, more entrance fees and of course more prize money and the first Rio tournament awarded a huge final payout of $7.5 million. In 2006 the biggest prize ever was awarded (still unbeaten today) when Jamie Gold won $12 million.
The tournament expanded in other ways too, Texas Hold’em was no longer the only game played, although it was the main one – a multitude of other varieties of poker were included and this gave aficionados of these games the chance to get their hands on the famous WSOP bracelets.
The WSOP is now firmly established as the world’s premier poker tournament. The European version has its inaugural event in 2007 and their are many WSOP Circuit events on the poker calendar which take place not just in the U.S. but around the world.
Where previously advertisers treated gambling as something of a hot potato, the level of poker sophistication has now reached a level where some of the biggest brands actively want to get involved with the game. In fact the only time the competition took a slight knock was in 2006 and the passing of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) which effectively put a stop to online poker in the U.S. Poker players will always find a way though.