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What has the WSOP got to do with rakeback? – you may ask. Well, if you’re planning on winning a seat online, quite a lot actually.

Many of the rakeback poker rooms featured on this site offer WSOP packages (for the main event as well as for other tourneys). What’s better than winning a WSOP package online? Winning one and earning rakeback in the process, that’s what.


The biggest and most prestigious set of live poker tournaments in the world, the World Series of Poker is indeed a true world championship. The different poker events that make up the Series are spread over a period of little more than a month.

The Main Event (also known as the Big Dance) is the highlight of the series. Starting with 2008, the Main Event format will be changed. It will feature NL Texas Holdem like it always has, and play will go down in a similar fashion right up to the final table.

When the final table is set though, the tournament stops and takes a long break right till November the 9th when play resumes.This Main Event break has stirred a lot of controversy recently. Many people decry the fact that the WSOP keeps drifting farther and farther away from its origins, assuming more and more of the features of a corporate enterprise.

Sure, back in the days when Benny Binion used to give all participants free food and drinks, the whole feel about the event was different, but as Daniel Negreanu put it in a video blog entry of his, Binion had but about 50-80 mouths to feed, while nowadays, there are more than 8,000 entrants in the Main Event. Taking care of that many people on that level would not only amount to a logistical nightmare (not to mention the costs) it would definitely be something no entity could ever tackle without going corporate. Sure, there is a commercial aspect to this break, but Harrah’s is a company in perpetual search of new sources of profit, so it’s only natural that they do whatever they can to optimize their revenue stream.

By inserting this long break into the proceedings of the Main Event, Harrah’s will have created some unprecedented opportunities for publicity, for buzz and for media exposure not only for the individual participants, but for the game of poker in general. Nowadays, in its beleaguered state (remember that the no. of WSOP Main Event participants dropped from 8,773 in 2006, to 6,358 in 2007 – something that is an accurate enough measure of the post UIGEA struggles that the game is facing) poker could certainly use more media exposure.

Other people who are against the commercially justified final table break have brought up the fact that amateur final table participants would be put at a disadvantage as the break would favor professionals over them. This argument is simply absurd. While an amateur player will have hundreds of hours of footage of his professional final table foes to watch during the break, the pros would not only be deprived of this luxury, they would basically have to start from zero against the amateurs when the game resumed. Having attended poker lessons during the break, an amateur might return to the final table as a completely different player. In this respect, the break could be something of an equalizer that would make final table play all the more interesting.

Whether or not the break idea will be a success remains to be seen, one thing is sure though: it will not destroy the WSOP as we know it. If it fails on all fronts, I’m quite sure the organizers will switch back to the old proven format for next year as they did after that outdoor Main Event that Stu Ungar had won in 1997.

Let’s now take a look at the history of WSOP, and how it evolved into the world-wide poker hysteria it is today.

The first ever WSOP took place in 1968, and it was an invitational event. Crandell Addington won that one, and later went on to finish in the top 10 in eight more WSOP events.

Benny Binion was the one who molded and shaped the WSOP into its modern format. In 1970, the event still consisted of a bunch of cash games featuring different poker variants. The winner, Johnny Moss, received a silver cup after the other participants had elected him the winner. Cash prizes would first be introduced in 1971. Back then, there were only 6 participants, and Johnny Moss walked away with a first prize of $30,000. (taking the inflation into account, that sum would amount to a pretty nice one by today’s standards too).

As the WSOP returned year after year, the number of main event participants began to gradually increase. Johnny Moss won the Main Event for a second time in 1974 (besting a field of 16 participants). Doyle Brunson was the following dominant WSOP personality, winning the Big Dance in 1976, 1977 and finishing runner up to Stu Ungar in 1980.
Stu himself won the Main Event three times: in 1980, 1981 and 1997.

Another such WSOP record holder is Johnny Chan who won in 1987, 1988 and finished second in 1989. (word has it Jerry Buss had promised him an NBA championship ring provided he managed to become the champion three consecutive times).

The first prize reached the $1,000,000 mark in 1991, when Brad Daugherty won, and it stayed on the mark right up till 2000 when Chris Ferguson took home $1.5 million.

The increase in the number of participants and the prize-pool has been rather linear until 2003, when something extraordinary happened. The winner of the Main Event, Chris Moneymaker, obtained access to the WSOP’s felt via an online poker room: PokerStars.

With hindsight, we can probably affirm today that this was the most important historic moment in the evolution of the game of poker. Following his win, millions upon millions world-wide began playing poker online, and the online poker industry exploded within a single year.

To pour some more gas onto the already roaring fire, 2004’s champion, Greg Raymer was also an online qualifier. Participant numbers had skyrocketed by then, as the Fossilman had to battle his way through 2,576 competitors (up from previous year’s 839).

The prize for first place also went right through the roof: $5 million awaited the winner, and it would get much bigger than that in the years to follow. The 2004 popularity explosion was all the more impressive, as the WSOP had reached a critical point in its existence in that year: it was in danger of going under together with Binion’s Horseshoe, the owner of the brand. Binion’s Horseshoe was purchased by Harrah’s though, who didn’t let the tradition vanish, kept the rights to the WSOP and have brought it back to life in style.

2006 saw the record as far as participants and prize-pools were concerned. The eventual winner (the rather controversial amateur Jamie Gold) won $12 million and hacked his way through a field of 8,773 pro and amateur players. His extravagant table behavior would return to haunt him though, as half of his winnings were claimed by a partner he had struck a deal with prior to his win.

Markedly under the influence of the UIGEA, 2007 was to become the first year that would actually see a decline in player numbers and first place prizes at the Big Dance. Winner Jerry Yang "only” had 6,358 other participants to survive, and he “only” won $8,250,000. While that may look very impressive to all of us wannabes, the fact remains that the prize pool of the world’s biggest poker tournament has suffered a setback, and that has to mean something.

2008 is the year that will either dispel 2007’s ominous signs or confirm that the industry is indeed in a regression. Since last year, the UIGEA has proved that it was completely ineffective in attaining any of the goals it was supposed to secure. All it did was to place further burdens on the back of financial institutions, the government and – at the end of the day – the American tax-payer. Now that it’s taking more and more flak from a number of different organizations (some of which do not even have links with the poker industry) it may not look as menacing as it did last year about this time. The WSOP participant numbers will surely provide a clue as to whether the poker industry has begun recovering from the UIGEA-shock already or not.

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