There isn't a poker player alive who isn't glued to his or her seat when the World Series of Poker (WSOP) is on. In fact, there seems to be very few alive who don't go to Las Vegas to enter in the main event. Almost 9,000 poker players entered the main event, making this more of a donkey-fest than an actual testament to one's skill-set.
But nevertheless, professional players such as Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, Phil Hellmuth, Johnny Chan, and many more pros will test their grit and determination against a field of over 8,000 players who seemingly stay in hands just to catch a river card. Not taking anything away from an amateur player, but percentages can be extremely cruel. The last time a "pro" won the WSOP was in 2001 when Carlos Mortensen took down the prize.
The game of poker wasn't played above the table with yelling and flailing limbs in the beginning of WSOP history. In fact, one of the great players at time, such as Johnny Moss, would have quickly put a stop to any insurrection or untimely outbursts. Poker has been played for centuries now, and has ended in injury or death for many cheaters, big-talkers, and owners of outlandish personalities. Texas Hold 'Em hasn't been around quite as long. But once upon a time, it was a highly respected game.
The first World Series of Poker began as a small gathering between some great poker players who also happened to be friends. It was organized by Jack Binion, who owned the Horseshoe in Las Vegas at the time. It was 1970, and Hold 'Em wasn't a very popular game. There weren't even 10 players in the tournament, but the men who played are forever a part of poker lure.
Among the greats in the game were Doyle Brunson, Amarillo Slim, and Johnny Moss. Moss was ultimately voted as the best player and won the inaugural WSOP. In 1971, Moss won the winner-take-all event, beating the entire field. The mid-70s is when the WSOP started to pick up steam. Doyle Brunson won his back-to-back titles in 1976-77, holding the now famous 10 2.
More side events were put in during the 1980s, including limit HE, Stud, and H.O.R.S.E NBC began their coverage of the event in 1981 as Stu Ungar was making his mark on the poker world. He took back-to-back titles in 1980-81. The WSOP continued to flourish throughout the 80s, and was at an all-time high in popularity when Johnny Chan took back-to-back titles in 1987-88. He also made it to a final table for a third consecutive year, only to lose to a 24-year-old Phil Hellmuth and finish 2nd overall.
By 1991, the exposure had increased along with the prize pool. The first-place finisher was taking home over a million dollars. In 1997, Stu Ungar appeared from a long hiatus to take the title down, making him the only player in history to earn 3 WSOP Main Event titles. In 2000, Chris Ferguson took the title away from T.J. Cloutier, and Mortensen won it a year later. Since then, the field has been completely dominated by amateurs. The WSOP is now more of a lottery than a poker tournament. For $10,000, you can buy your ticket.