World Series of Poker (WSOP)

Poker.Org Staff
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Published: April 13, 2021 2:52 PM EDT

What Is the World Series of Poker?

The World Series of Poker plays out as the world’s biggest and most famous live poker festival. The WSOP usually takes place in Las Vegas every summer, with the Rio Las Vegas hosting the series every year since 2005.

The annual WSOP schedule usually includes more than 80 tournaments, each awarding a coveted WSOP bracelet to the winner. The $10,000 No-Limit Hold’em Championship, aka the Main Event, brings thousands of players to the Rio each year.

When is the World Series of Poker being held this year?

The 2021 World Series of Poker takes place at the Rio All-Suite Hotel in Las Vegas from Sept 30 through Nov 23. The 2021 WSOP marks the first time the series will run in its traditional live format since the 2019 WSOP.

COVID-19 considerations forced WSOP officials to cancel the 2020 series, and 2021 began with the status of this year’s WSOP in doubt. An April press release from WSOP.com revealed that the world’s most prestigious live poker festival would return to its familiar form this fall.

The final tournament schedule has yet to be announced, but WSOP has revealed a few details about what to expect from this year’s series.

The opening weekend of the 2021 WSOP will feature a $5 million guaranteed No-Limit Hold’em event known as “The Reunion,” as well as a $25,000 H.O.R.S.E. tournament.

The $10,000 No-Limit Hold’em Championship, known worldwide as the WSOP Main Event, is set for Nov. 4-17. The Main Event will offer four different starting flights, one running per day from Nov. 4-7.

Those four Day 1 runs condense to a pair of Day 2 flights on Nov. 8-9. The Main Event then reconvenes as a combined field on Nov. 10 and plays on until a champion is crowned on Nov. 17.

Past World Series of Poker Winners

The World Series of Poker annually features more than 80 events, with the winner of each tournament awarded an official WSOP bracelet. The World Series of Poker bracelet stands as one of the most coveted prizes in poker, with thousands of players descending on Las Vegas each year for a chance to claim their part of poker history.

Year# of EntrantsWinnerFirst Place Prize
19707Johnny MossN/A
19716Johnny Moss$30,000
19728Thomas “Amarillo Slim” Preston$80,000
197313Walter “Puggy” Pearson$130,000
197416Johnny Moss$160,000
197521Brian “Sailor” Roberts$210,000
197622Doyle Brunson$220,000
197734Doyle Brunson$340,000
197842Bobby Baldwin$210,000
197954Hal Fowler$270,000
198073Stu Ungar$385,000
198175Stu Ungar$375,000
1982104Jack Straus$520,000
1983108Tom McEvoy$540,000
1984132Jack Keller$660,000
1985140Bill Smith$700,000
1986141Berry Johnston$570,000
1987152Johnny Chan$625,000
1988167Johnny Chan$700,000
1989178Phil Hellmuth$755,000
1990194Mansour Matloubi$895,000
1991215Brad Daugherty$1,000,000
1992201Hamid Dastmalchi$1,000,000
1993231Jim Bechtel$1,000,000
1994268Russ Hamilton$1,000,000
1995273Dan Harrington$1,000,000
1996295Huck Seed$1,000,000
1997312Stu Ungar$1,000,000
1998350Scotty Nguyen$1,000,000
1999393Noel Furlong$1,000,000
2000512Chris Ferguson$1,500,000
2001613Juan Carlos Mortensen$1,500,000
2002631Robert Varkonyi$2,000,000
2003839Chris Moneymaker$2,500,000
20042,576Greg Raymer$5,000,000
20055,619Joe Hachem$7,500,000
20068,773Jamie Gold$12,000,000
20076,358Jerry Yang$8,250,000
20086,844Peter Eastgate$9,152,416
20096,494Joe Cada$8,547,042
20107,319Jonathan Duhamel$8,944,310
20116,865Pius Heinz$8,715,638
20126,598Greg Merson$8,531,853
20136,532Ryan Riess$8,361,570
20146,683Martin Jacobson$10,000,000
20156,420Joe McKeehen$7,683,346
20166,737Qui Nguyen$8,005,310
20177,221Scott Blumstein$8,150,000
20187,874John Cynn$8,800,000
20198,569Hossein Ensan$10,000,000
20201,379Damian Salas$2,550,969

The $10,000 Main Event plays out as the centerpiece tournament of each WSOP. Winners of the Main Event live on in poker lore forever, with their likeness adorning banners that hang in the rafters of the Rio Convention Center during the series.

Visitors to the 2021 WSOP will see the images of past champions on those banners. Chris Moneymaker (2003 Main Event champion) made perhaps the most famous championship run in poker history at the 2003 Main Event, vaulting poker into the mainstream and collecting a $2.5 million payday in the process.

Jamie Gold (2006) won the biggest prize ever awarded in the Main Event, topping a field of 8,773 players to earn $12 million.

Other notable Main Event champions include Doyle Brunson (1976 and 1977), Johnny Chan (1987 and 1988), Phil Hellmuth (1989), Scotty Nguyen (1998), and Joe Cada (2009).

Hossein Ensan (2019) took down the most recent live WSOP, prevailing over a field of 8,569 players to win $10 million at the 2019 series.

World Series of Poker Biggest Career Earners

While the Main Event persists as the most notable WSOP tournament, many of poker’s greatest players built their reputations from consistent excellence across all series events.

PlacePlayer NameCareer WSOP Earnings
1Antonio Esfandiari$21,917,218
2Daniel Negreanu$18,558,686
3Daniel Colman$17,413,655
4Phil Hellmuth$14,946,233
5Jonathan Duhamel$14,647,089
6Justin Bonomo$13,927,513
7Joe Cada$13,609,478
8Elton Tsang$12,411,124
9Jamie Gold$12,199,023
10Martin Jacobson$12,144,012

Poker Hall of Famer and iconic personality Phil Hellmuth holds the all-time record for WSOP bracelets won, with 15 to his credit coming into this year’s series. Three other poker legends follow Hellmuth on that list with ten bracelets each, including Phil Ivey, Doyle Brunson, and Johnny Chan.

Hellmuth sits at No. 4 on the all-time WSOP earnings list, with $15,034,240 in career cashes at the series. Antonio Esfandiari is the all-time WSOP money leader, with $21,917,460 in WSOP earnings.

Following Esfandiari on that list are Daniel Negreanu ($18,705,140) and Dan Coleman ($17,413,780). The three players that top the WSOP career earnings list all claim top-two finishes in the $1 million buy-in Big One for One Drop tournament. That event occasionally runs at the WSOP and produces some of the biggest prizes in tournament poker history.

History of the World Series of Poker

The first official World Series of Poker ran in 1970, consisting of a series of cash games that included multiple poker variants. The first lineal WSOP Main Event champion, Johnny Moss, was voted as the winner by the players in the game.

The series switched to an all-tournament format in 1971, and by 1972 the familiar $10,000 No-Limit Hold’em Championship was in place as the series Main Event. The WSOP grew to include 12 total bracelet events by the end of the decade in 1979.

Attendance for the Main Event steadily grew throughout the 1980s, and by the 1991 WSOP, the first-place prize for the Main Event grew to $1 million.

The 2003 Main Event launched the modern era of poker. ESPN expanded its coverage of the tournament to include a hole card camera for the first time, allowing viewers at home to see what the players were holding.

Tennessee accountant Chris Moneymaker emerged as the champion from the biggest Main Event field to date in 2003, winning $2.5 million in an iconic tournament run. The WSOP exploded in popularity after that.

The 2006 Main Event drew 8,773 players and awarded $12 million to the winner, both of which still stand as all-time WSOP records.

The 2019 Main Event proved the viability of the WSOP more than 15 years after Moneymaker’s legendary win. A total of 8,569 players registered for the Main Event, and the series included 90 bracelet events.

WSOP Play Format

The modern-era World Series of Poker generally runs for around seven weeks, with most of the tournaments on the schedule playing out before the beginning of the Main Event.

Most tournaments at the WSOP play as No-Limit Hold’em events, but the overall WSOP schedule includes nearly every imaginable form of poker. Stud, triple draw, mixed-game tournaments, Pot-Limit Omaha, and many other poker variants are played each year at the WSOP.

The selection of games presented at the WSOP draws the world’s best players across a number of poker variants to Las Vegas. The $50,000 Poker Players Championship plays as a tournament with a rotating mix of eight different games.

The Poker Players Championship is considered by some as the most prestigious event on the WSOP schedule. The $10,000 Main Event still persists as the most famous poker tournament in the world, however, with ESPN extensively covering the event each year.