The First Poker Tournament

From Wild West to WSOP

The concept of a poker tournament is one that has been hovering around the world gambling since the game was formerly brought into existence. Competitive poker playing was conducted in large halls and on river boats for years, but a real, formal poker tournament was not something that came into existence until after poker was legalized in several states and the sport was more respected by the world of gambling.

The Conception of the World Series of Poker

The beginning of what would become the largest organized competitive gambling competition in the world started in the year 1969. The genesis was at an event called the Texas Gambling Reunion where, as the name implies, famous card sharps from around the world came together to impress one another with their skills and to win some cash. Held in Reno at the Holiday Hotel and Casino and sponsored by Tom Moore, the first year the event was held it was won by Crandell Addington. The Texas Gambling Reunion was a set of tournaments that were so complex they became the blueprint for Las Vegas casino owner Benny Binion’s World Series of Poker (WSOP).

1970’s and the First WSOP

The first official World Series of Poker was held at the headquarters of its creator Benny Binion at Binion’s Horseshoe. I was a slightly informal series of games played for cash that involved a large variety of games that were meant to challenge each players versatility and included games like deuce to Texas hold ’em,  seven low-ball draws, five-card stud, razz, and seven-card stud. These games were the proving ground that separated the lucky folks from the professionals, but thanks to the suggestion of a gambler and well-known journalist the final challenge of the tournament was a Texas hold ‘em free for all. That year the winner was gambling expert Johnny Moss, who, aside from beating out several competitors in actual game-play, was elected the winner by a group of his peers and was given a cup as well to commemorate his victory.

Moved to Harrah’s

The first step to the World Series of Poker becoming a truly international event involved the tournament being purchased by Harrah’s Entertainment, which is known today as Caesars Entertainment. Harrah’s Entertainment purchased Binion’s Horseshoe out right and the World Series of Poker brand along with it. The Horseshoe was sold, but the WSOP was retained and in 2005 Harrah’s announced it was holding the WSOP at the Rio Hotel and Casino. The last few days of the tournament in 2005 was moved over to the Binion’s to celebrate the centennial of the WSOP in Las Vegas.

Today the World Series of Poker is televised every year, and it has led to the creation of several other poker tournaments that are arguably smaller regarding scope. Still, these tournaments have expanded the popularity of all sorts of games and have led to the discovery of gambling wunderkinds all over the world.