The World Series of Poker is now a high profile poker tournament that takes place annually in Las Vegas. However, the initial tournament in 1970 involved only seven players and it was not until the early 1980s, when the World Series Of Poker started satellite tournaments, that the event drew more than 50 people. By the mid-1980s, this number had grown to over 2,000.
Television coverage of the series began as early as 1973 in the form of a documentary-style special narrated by Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder, the legendary Las Vegas bookie and American sports commentator. CBS periodically aired the main event in the ’70s and ’80s only showing action from the final table of the WSOP.
In the late 1980s, ESPN took over duties from CBS and began providing fans with extensive coverage of the event, albeit primitive compared to modern accessibility. From the year 2000 to 2001 The Discovery Channel and Travel Channel showcased the main event of the WSOP. This was short-lived as the sports broadcaster giant ESPN then took over the spotlight.
The Internet was changing the poker landscape. The game was more accessible to the masses than it had ever been. With the emergence of online poker rooms anyone living in any country on the globe could take part in the action 24 hours a day. This created a sensation that has peaked but remains very much alive today.
As this phenomenon began its ascent, interest in The World Series of Poker, highest profile Texas Hold Em Poker game, ascended with it. ESPN was ready every step of the way to increase coverage to meet demand and even orchestrated a delayed final table in 2008 in order to maximize ratings. Most years viewers will have knowledge of the winner ahead of time, sapping some of the drama from broadcast. It was in the year of 2006 that the number of entrants reached an outstanding 8,773.
Although fans are likely to remember the events from 2002-2008 as the WSOP’s signature moments, the event has a long and illustrious history. For instance, we pay great attention to the non-professionals who have won or come close to winning the final table. However, the first non-pro to win was Hal Fowler and he did it back in 1979. Some WSOP historians assert that Benny Binnion, the father of the WSOP, had to lend him the money for the entry fee.
Sister of professional poker player Howard Ledrer, Annie Duke, made history in 2000 when she just missed making it to the final table of the main event. Therefore, in 2006, when Annie Duke got as far as the final 88, ESPN celebrated her success. One of the announcers even commented that Duke might be the first woman to reach the final table. But in 1995 a female poker player by the name of Barbara Enright actually made the final table, finishing 5th in the World Series of Poker main event that year.
Likewise, fans often believe that famous World Series of Poker participant Johnny Chan is the only player to reach the final two, three years in a row. However, Tennessee native Puggy Pearson was the first to do that back in 1971, 1972 and 1973. When he finally won the event in 1973, he also became the first non-Texan to accomplish the feat.