The World Series of Poker is the most famous poker tournament in the world. Although it officially began in 1970, some poker historians will point towards an event that happened two decades earlier, which planted the seed in Benny Binion’s mind. Nick the Greek, a notorious high stakes gambler, played a heads up poker match against the best poker player in the world at the time, Johnny Moss. The legendary battle lasted over five months in the lobby of the Horseshoe Casino and Benny Binion milked all the publicity he could out of that epic game. Every day, tourists and locals gathered to watch the two men play in the most famous heads up match of all time.
During the first ever World Series of Poker in 1970, at the end of the week all the players who participated voted on the best overall player. Johnny Moss won by an unanimous decision. In 1971, the best player was decided over a No Limit Hold'em freezeout tournament and Johnny Moss won. Every year since then, the fields have grown bigger and bigger. One week of special tournaments has now turned into six weeks of non-stop action featuring the best players in the world.
In the 1980s, Benny Binion introduced satellite tournaments that afforded players with smaller bankrolls the opportunity to win a seat in the $10,000 main event with a smaller investment. The past two years, gentlemen like Chris Moneymaker and Greg "Fossilman" Raymer have both qualified online. They quickly became household names all because they won the World Series of Poker.
Chris Moneymaker was the winner of the 2003 World Series of Poker (WSoP). Chris, an accountant from Tennessee, was an amateur poker player and only 27 years old at the time. One of the most amazing things about his win was that he won his entry into the WSoP in a $40 online satellite tournament at PokerStars.com. He actually had to borrow the money to be able to afford the travel expenses to reach Las Vegas for the tournament.
Chris walked away with $2,500,000 (yes, 2.5 million) for the win. The professional players claimed Chris’ success was a lucky fluke, but he soon proved them wrong. He followed up his World Series win with a 2nd Place finish on the World Poker Tour in March of 2004 at the San Jose’s Bay 101 Shooting Star. Chris has become rich and famous virtually overnight and is now doing interviews with everyone from ESPN to Sport’s Illustrated.
Even more unbelievable is what happened in the 2004 WSoP. Greg Raymer, an attorney from Connecticut, and another amateur poker player, won the tournament and the grand prize of $5 Million. Amazingly he won his seat in the WSoP by playing in the same $40 online satellite tournament that Chris Moneymaker had won the year before. The 2004 tournament had a total prize pool of $49 million, more than twice the amount from the previous year. Hundreds of the 2,576 players won their entries into the tournament online in the same way.
Chris and Greg’s success has inspired people from all over the World to start playing online poker. Almost every poker site now offers big name poker tournament satellites with the grand prize being an entry into the WSoP.