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Poker has been the American card game for 200 years. Still, its growth as a brand, as a YouTube fixture, as the dream of young men and women is not to hit a homerun in the baseball World Series or to win the Super Bowl or a gold medal in the Olympics.  The dream is to win the World Series of Poker.

So Near Yet So Far Away

It seems impossible that the World Series of Poker or the WSOP is already 50 years old!  On the other hand, it seems like so much has changed in the world of poker in only 50 years that the WSOP must be much older than that! 

Juicy Stakes Poker, like all other online poker rooms, didn’t exist in 1970 and wouldn’t exist for a few decades after that.  All of the things we associate with online poker and take for granted as well such as the multiplicity of games, tournaments, and casino promotions such as bonuses and rakeback were not yet part of our collective vocabulary of poker.

Along with promotions comes all of the ways to figure out the value of the promotions.  So rake, for instance, led to the rakeback promotion, and led poker players to interest themselves in how the rake is determined, ergo, the rake calculator!

The State of Poker Circa !970

Poker was already massively popular.  Aside from the legal poker rooms in Las Vegas there were many illegal poker rooms dotting the American countryside.  By crisscrossing the country playing in illegal pokier rooms the tandem of Doyle Brunson and Amarillo Slim served to put poker on a more general map, apart from the weekend games that thousands of Americans played with friends.

Winners of Early WSOP Tournaments

Doyle Brunson won the WSOP twice and Amarillo Slim won it once.  We might consider them to be equally responsible for the popularizing of the WSOP and of Texas Holdem but, in truth, Amarillo Slim was the more charismatic of the two and has become more legendary as a figure on the history of poker and the WSOP.

Amarillo Slim

He was born as Thomas Austin Preston Jr.  That name conjures up images of a suburban accountant.  It is true that Amarillo Slim grew up on a ranch and learned a great deal about horses and ranching.  But his early fane came about because he was so thin and combined with his great height he was called Slim from a very young age.

He took on the name Amarillo Slim because his father lived in Amarillo and Slim understood instinctively that Amarillo Slim gave the feeling of a son of the Wild West.

Illegal poker rooms can be dangerous and Amarillo Slim got the pair out of many difficult situations by telling tall takes around the poker table.  He was the forerunner of the Daniel Negreanu school of poker in which charisma grows from excellence over the table, reading hands and opponents, and also in entertaining everyone with chatter.

Daniel Negreanu may not be the best poker player in the world but he is certainly the most entertaining.  He owes a lot to the precedent set by Amarillo Slim.

After winning the WSOP, Amarillo Slim appeared often on late night talk shows in the United States where he regaled the audiences with tall tales and actually some truthful tales about poker.

His autobiography, Amarillo Slim in a World of Fat People, gives a fascinating portrait of poker as it was played in Texas and Las Vegas especially in the second half of the twentieth century.

WSOP Starts and Sputters

This famous tournament started out in 1970 at the Horseshow Casino.  No one outside of a very narrow clique of committed poker players even knew about the WSOP then and fewer cared about it at all.  It probably sounded to most people like a pathetic attempt to use the term World Series to draw undeserved attention to itself.

The next year the tournament’s owner Benny Binion charged a $5000 buy in to seven players and Johnny Moss, the winner, received $30,000 for his efforts.  That was a lot of money in 1971 but high rollers these days leave that kind of money as tips in a weekend of Las Vegas gambling!

Player Pool Grows and Grows

From seven players in 1971, the player pool rose slowly at first and by now quickly.  When Dan Harrington made the finals table, total enrollment in the tournament was “only” 839 and when he repeated his visit to the final table the next year, the enrollment has jumped to 2576.

Now, over 6000 players begin the weeks long tournament!

Lumbering On

The WSOP slowly gained players and the attention of the poker playing public but its phenomenal growth began in 1987 when the tournament was broadcast for the first time.  One of the main attractions of televised poker is the hole card camera so viewers can wax brilliant about what players should do based on perfect knowledge.

The hole card camera was introduced only in 2002 so there were 15 years of moderate growth in television viewership followed by exponential growth thereafter.

The Moneymaker Effect

It is not surprising that Chris Moneymaker, an amateur, won the WSOP in 2003 just a year after the hole card camera was introduced.  Chris Moneymaker was an accountant so he had a solid grounding in the mathematical side of poker.  He qualified for the tournament by winning a tournament sponsored by an online poker room with a $39 entry fee! 

The Marriage of Online Poker and the WSOP

The phenomenal growth in viewership in the WSOP helped fuel the phenomenal growth in online poker.  This then redounded on itself as online poker rooms sponsor many feeder tournaments and send poker players to the WSOP and the secondary tournaments every year.

Amateur versus Professional

Experience makes a big difference in poker as it does in many avenues.  Still, poker is also a very straightforward game.  There are many nuances but each one is available to everyone.  This means that for an amateur to win a lucrative poker tournament, they need to practice and play and study. 

Practice and play are available both online and on land but it is a lot easier to practice online.  Study can also be done online through recorded poker courses.  It is the practice and playing that separates online poker from land based poker.

Join Juicy Stakes Today

We invite all new poker players to join the Juicy Stakes family of poker players and tournaments.  We offer low buy in tournaments and a few free roll tournaments as well.  These low rent tournaments are less meant for players who want to win the big tournament now but more for the player who wants to get the most practice at the lowest cost so they might win that big tournament sometime in the future!

Good luck storming the poker tournaments!


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