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In 1969, Benny Binion was invited to play at ‘The Texas Gamblers Reunion’ in Reno. Tom Moore, the owner of the Holiday Hotel, got many of the Texas Rounders together along with other big names in poker to play against each other for fun. There was no winner no Main Event. But everyone had such a great time and the crowds were so intrigued by the game that it made Binion want to host his own tournament. So in May of 1970, the first World Series of Poker tournament was held at Binion’s Horseshoe Casino, where it was held every year until 2004 (making it the longest-running poker tournament in the world). Several different tournaments run for a month and culminate with the Main Event (often No-Limit Texas Hold ‘em). In 2006, there were 42 different tournaments of many poker varieties (such as Omaha and Draw) with the winner of each tournament winning their prize money and a coveted gold bracelet.

They didn’t use the freezeout format (winner takes all of the chips) the first year and voted on the best poker player. The following year, realizing that freezeout tournaments are much more interesting to watch, they changed the format and the same player who won the first year won the second year as well, Johnny Moss.

Preliminary satellite tournaments, where you could win the $10,000 buy-in for a much smaller fee, where introduced in the 1980s and increased the number of participants. There are so many players competing in the Main Event (close to 6,000 people) that it’s possible there will never be a repeat winner again. Stu Unger’s third win in 1997 aside, there has been a different Main Event winner every year since 1989. A cap of 8,000 players in the Main Event was established in 2006.

Harrah’s Entertainment, a huge casino conglomerate, bought the rights to the WSOP and Binion’s Horseshoe Casino from the Binion Family and in 2005 moved the event to the Rio (still in Las Vegas), where it’s been held ever since.

The winner of Main Event wins the prize money (in 2005 it was $7.5 million), a gold bracelet and they’re entered into the Poker Hall of Fame in addition to being named World Champion of Poker. The last table, or finalé, is broadcast around the world.

Poker Stars and Full Tilt Poker have inexpensive registration fees for qualifying tournaments for a seat at the WSOP. Both have tournaments running throughout the day where you can practice your tournament skills.

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The World Poker Tour is the brainchild of casino tycoon Lyle Berman and television producer Steve Lipscomb. They wanted to bring poker into mainstream televised sports by filming top tournaments held around the globe and broadcasting the action as a television show under the banner of the WPT. They film the final table once they’re down to six players and like the WSOP, they use a freezout format (which is exciting to watch).

They did one more thing to make the game more interesting to watch on TV: they used tiny ‘lipstick cams’ to film the players’ hole cards. The British series Late Night Poker was the first show to use them, but the WPT was so phenomenally successful that they are credited for the lipstick cam’s role in boosting poker’s popularity. By being able to see who has the nuts and who’s bluffing made watching poker on television entertaining. And with WSOP winner Mike Sexton as a commentator, you can learn how to improve your game by watching the show. The Travel Channel picked up the WPT and aired the first episode in the spring of 2003. It quickly became their most successful show of all-time.

Like the WSOP, Texas Hold ‘em is the main game played and they also have satellite tournaments where you can win the buy-in for the main tournament. And while the WSOP has their Poker Hall of Fame, in 2004, the WPT created the Poker Walk of Fame in Las Vegas.

You can play in qualifying tournaments online for a chance to win a seat at the WPT. Poker Stars has numerous qualifying tournaments for the WPT scheduled throughout the year. Their satellite tournament prize packages are worth over $15,000 and include the WPT buy-in and money for hotel and travel expenses. 


The European Championship started in 1990 at Casino Baden in Austria Europe’s largest casino. Located in the picturesque town of Baden amid health spas, Roman springs and vineyards, the tournament is held every year in October. This beautiful setting and the atmosphere of Casino Baden make this one of the most enjoyable poker events in Europe.

Unlike so many American tournaments, Seven-Card Stud is the game played here and it’s the biggest Seven-Card Stud tournament in the world.

Figure 1 Casino Baden, Austria


The European Poker Tour first aired on television in 2004 and follows a similar format as the WPT where they film tournaments under the EPT banner. There are some differences, though, with the EPT having eight players at the final table (unlike six in the WPT) and the buy-ins aren’t as expensive. This makes for smaller pots and doesn’t attract as many big poker celebrities as the WPT. The Grand Final event is held at the gorgeous Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco and is made up of ten finalists and runners-up from six EPT preliminary tournaments. The winner is named the Grand Champion.


The Poker Million tournament started in 2000 on the Isle of Man, but is now held annually in England. It’s the biggest tournament in Europe with the most prize money. Amateurs can qualify online and play against celebrities and professional poker players. The main game played is Texas Hold ‘em and the final table is televised live on Sky Sports.


The Aussie Millions tournament started in 1997 with 74 players when it was called the Australasian Poker Championship. As more Australians started playing poker, the number of entrants increased and in the 2005 tournament, they had their biggest year yet with 263 players from around the world and the biggest pot the Southern Hemisphere has ever seen: $2,630,000.


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