The First World Series of Poker

The World Series of Poker continues to gain in popularity with each passing year thanks to the main event wins of Chris Moneymaker and Greg Raymer in 2003 and 2004. The history of the event, however, stretches back to 1970, the year when the first World Series of Poker was played. If you’ve ever wondered how the event came about, or who participated in it, then keep reading.

The Origin of the WSOP

The year prior to the first WSOP, Tom Moore organized an event known as the Texas Gambling Reunion. Held in Reno at the Holiday Hotel and Casino, it was designed to determine the best poker player in the world. A participant of the first WSOP, Crandell Addington, would walk away as the winner.

Benny Binion took notice of this tournament, but the flamboyant Texan wanted to take it to the next level. He invited the seven best players and had them compete in a series of cash games including Texas Hold’em, Seven-card Stud, Five-card Stud, Deuce to Seven Low-ball Draw, and Razz. At the conclusion of the tournament, the men would then be asked to vote on the best poker player.

The First WSOP Participants

To crown the winner of the first WSOP, Benny Binion invited the men he believed were the seven best poker players in the United States to his Horseshoe Casino in Las Vegas. These inaugural participants included:

Puggy Pearson – A member of the Poker Hall of Fame, Pearson won four WSOP bracelets, as well as the 1973 main event.

Johnny Moss – An inaugural member of the Poker Hall of Fame, Moss walked away with WSOP wins in 1970, 1971, and 1974.

Doyle Brunson – Known as “Texas Dolly,” Brunson has played professionally for over 50 years and won 10 WSOP bracelets, including main event wins in 1976 and 1977.

“Amarillo Slim” Preston – Winner of four WSOP bracelets, Preston won the main event in 1972.

Sailor Roberts – A poker and contract bridge player, Roberts won the WSOP main event in 1975.

Carl Cannon – While he never won the WSOP Main Event, Carl Cannon was still a successful poker player who competed for decades.

Crandell Addington – A self-made millionaire and no limit hold’em legend. While he never won the main event, he regularly made the final table during the 1970s.

The Outcome

According to legend (although this is disputed), each man voted for himself when the first ballots were passed out. In order to break the seven-way tie, each player was then asked to vote for the second-best player at the event. When the ballots were tallied up a second time, Johnny Moss walked away with a silver cup and the respect of his peers.
When the first World Series of Poker was played, the participants had no idea how large the tournament would eventually grow. It did take decades—and the invention of the Internet—to become a phenomenon, but now it draws record crowds and offers millions in prize money on an annual basis. If you ever run into one of the surviving participants of that first tournament, be sure to shake their hand and thank them for their contribution to gambling history.