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The brainchild of legendary casino owner and poker player Benny Binion, the WSOP has now become the annual Olympics for poker fans the world over.
The World Series of Poker, or WSOP was established in 1968 as an invitation-only promotion by Tom Moore of San Antonio, Texas. It was held in the Holiday Hotel and Casino in Reno, Nevada, the "biggest little city in the world." That inaugural event was won by veteran poker player Crandell "the Dandy" Addington.
Two years later, in 1970, the WSOP took place at the Binion's Horseshoe casino where a series of cash games including five-card stud, deuce to seven, low-ball draw, razz, seven-card stud and Texas holdem were introduced. That year, Johnny Moss took home the prize money. He was subsequently elected as the first World Champion of Poker by his fellow players, receiving a silver cup as a prize.
Harrah's steps in
Harrah's Entertainment, Inc. purchased the Binion's Horseshoe casino in 2004, and retained the rights to the World Series of Poker. Harrah's is a private gaming company based in Nevada, which operates casinos, hotels, and golf courses. It is currently the largest gaming company in the world with annual revenue in excess of $7 billion.
In 2005, the WSOP venue moved from Binion's to the Rio Hotel and Casino, which is situated just off the Las Vegas Strip. In addition to the regular gaming event, a $2 million free roll Tournament of Champions was held, the event being won by Annie Duke in a "winner-takes-all" event.
Million dollar prizes
The first million dollar jackpot appeared during the WSOP in 2005. Under Harrah's sponsorship, the normal $10,000 buy-in tournament provided a chance for entrants to compete in a revamped Tournament of Champions, which was held at Caesar's Palace. This event was won by Mike Matusow who walked away with a $1 million purse.
However, this prize fades in comparison to the prize that featured in the Tournament of Champions in June, 2006, where Jamie Gold walked away with a cool $12 million first prize.