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Top 10 fun facts about WSOP Main Event

3 Jul 2023

By Jarrod LeBlanc
The WSOP Main Event kicks off today at the Horseshoe Las Vegas.

The WSOP Main Event kicks off today at the Horseshoe Las Vegas. (photo by WSOP)

While U.S. citizens will be lighting off fireworks to celebrate the Fourth of July tomorrow, today is actually the real holiday, for poker enthusiasts, that is. The World Series of Poker’s marquee event, the $10,000 No-Limit Hold’ em Championship aka the Main Event kicks off today at the Horseshoe Las Vegas. This is the 54th annual WSOP, which means there’s a lot of history. Here are 10 things you may not know about the Main Event.

10. First-time bracelet winners
Seven out of the last 10 Main Event winners were first-time bracelet winners. Ryan Riess (2013), Martin Jacobson (2014), Qui Nguyen (2016), Scott Blumstein (2017) John Cynn (2018), Hossein Ensan (2019), Damian Salas (2020) and Koray Aldemir (2022) all picked up their first Main Event WSOP bracelets.

9. Early days
The very first Main Event, held in 1970, was not actually a tournament. Instead, the players voted on the first-ever WSOP champion. Rather than a tournament, seven players played cash games, and then they voted Johnny Moss aka “The Grand Old Man of Poker” as America’s best poker player.

The first tournament, with a $5,000 buy-in, wasn’t held until the next year when Moss reigned supreme against a field of six players and took home the top prize of $30,000.

8. All time cashes
Entering this year, three players – Allen Cunningham, Johnny Chan and Berry Johnston – share the record for most Main Event cashes with 10. John Esposito, Chris Bjorin, Humberto Brenes and Doyle Brunson are all tied in second place with nine cashes.

Of those seven players, only Chan and Brunson have a Main Event bracelet to their name.

7. Women participants
While a woman has never won the Main Event, there have been multiple ladies who’ve made a name for themselves. Wendeen H. Eolis, from New York, is not only the first woman to cash in the WSOP Main Event in 1986, but she is also the first lady to do it twice as she did so in 1993.

Barbara Enright, though, took things to new heights for woman in the Main Event in 1995 as she finished fifth at the final table. During last year’s Main Event, there were 375 ladies who participated, which made up 4.32% of the field.

6. Consecutive winners
If winning the WSOP Main Event was easy then everyone would be doing it, but alas it’s not. Even more difficult, though, is to win it in consecutive years. However, four players can say they’ve done just that. As mentioned above, Moss won the inaugural event in 1970 and followed it up the next year. Recently deceased Doyle “Texas Dolly” Brunson took the top prize in 1976 and 1977. “Stuey” or “The Kid” as Stu Ungar is known took home the top prize in 1980 and 1981. Johnny Chan is the most recent to accomplish the feat as he did it in 1987 and 1988.

5. Biggest payout
American Jamie Gold holds the all-time record for largest Main Event payday as he took home $12 million during his 2006 victory, which to-date had the largest field ever. Jacobson, Ensan, and Norwegian Espen Jørstad are all tied for second most in Main Event paydays as they pocketed $10 million each.

4. Youngest and oldest winners
American Joe Cada still holds the recognition as the youngest player to win the Main Event as he bested the field of 6,494 entrants in 2009 en route to the top prize as a 21-year-old. He took over the mantle from Peter Eastgate, who picked up that title as a 22-year-old one year earlier.

After 49 years, Moss still reigns supreme as the oldest to win the Main Event as he accomplished his feat in 1974 at the ripe old age of 66 years old when he beat a field of 16 players and cashed in for $160,000.

3. Most wins
Ungar and Moss still hold the record for most Main Event titles with three apiece. Ungar is the most recent member of the club as he took the latest of his titles in 1997. Moss last picked up the coveted bracelet in 1974.

2. 20th Moneymaker anniversary
In what seems just like yesterday, 27-year-old Chris Moneymaker shocked the poker world in 2003 as he became the first online qualifier to run the table in the Main Event. The then accountant won a seat at the WSOP after winning an $86 satellite tournament and the rest is history as he bested Sam Farha to win the whole thing to take home $2.5 million, thus coining the phrase, the “Moneymaker effect.”

A little-known, related fact: Poker Hall of Famer Tom McEvoy was actually the first player to win the Main Event after winning his entry via satellite back in 1993.

1. Attendance record
It should come as no surprise in an event where the goal is to rack up the most bracelets, earnings and cashes, that the even the organizers of the event want to get in on the action. Last year, a field of 8,663 participants from 87 countries competed for a WSOP bracelet. While impressive, it fell 100 entries short of the all-time record of 8,773 that was set in 2006.

This year in an effort to shatter the record, the event organizers held the first-ever Main Event Maynia Global Qualification Weekend in May.

If the Main Event records is broken this year, all entrants in the field will be placed into a drawing that awards non-transferable Main Event buy-in for the next 30 years. The drawing will utilize each player’s Caesars Rewards number and would be held on 8 July.

EDITOR'S NOTE: After this article went to press, the 2023 WSOP Main Event broke a new attendance record on Day 1D.
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