The World Series of Poker is the biggest event in the poker world and one of the biggest competitions in the world. It is definitely the richest with its $12 million prize for the main event the biggest in the world. Then poker playing wasn’t as glamorous as it is today so only a few seasoned gamblers and card players took part in it. Then Benny Binion got involved and in 1970 invited the seven best poker players in the world to compete in it. You had household names such as Amarillo Slim, Doyle Brunson and Johnny Moss participate. This is a far cry from the 2006 World Series of Poker which had 8,773 entrants and required eight playing days to complete.
To give you some idea about the gravity and size of the World Series of Poker. In addition to the main event, there were 40 other events and around 30,000 poker players competed in them.
With the massive popularity of contemporary poker, there are so many competitions and poker tournaments with new ones springing up all the time and claiming to be the best. Thus it is hard to know which results actually mean anything. Given this, it is good that poker acts as a litmus test. With everyone under one roof at the same time and everyone who is anyone in the poker world present, the World Series of Poker is the definitive test and success is measured by bracelets. Currently, Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan and Phil Hellmuth have the most each tied on 10 with Johnny Moss next on eight. Of the next generation, Phil Ivey has five and may one day become the all-time bracelet winner.
Media exposure to the World Series of Poker has increased significantly in recent years with their wall-to-wall coverage of it. ESPN has been covering it since 1988 although it did take a four-year hiatus after 1998. Their lipstick cameras which show what the players have in the hole have been a major innovation in increasing the popularity of poker on television. Seeing what each of the players had given extra significance to the bets and the people at home could see if there was bluffing taking place or not.
The World Series of Poker faces the threat of being the victim of its own success. The growth in the last few years has been staggering and has seen the tournament go from 3,000 players to 10,000 in a number of years. And many players are bemoaning how the increased numbers mean the World Series isn’t the same kind of tournament it used to be. That it has lost much of its charm and in turn has become more of a chore.
If it continues on this track it is going to become simply unmanageable. The powers that be have to seriously look into and consider the number of players. That or have qualifiers. The first round of the Main Event took four days to complete. Having anyone in the world compete as long as they pony up may have worked in the past but with the growth of poker, the World Series of Poker has to rethink this policy.