1970 was the year that laid the foundations for the modern-day World Series of Poker. Benny Binion asked six of the best poker players along to his Horseshoe Casino, to play in an invitation only poker tournament. A series of cash games were played, with fixed start and stop times and each player cast a vote after the “Main Event”, to decide who the best player had been.
The legendary gambler Johnny Moss was elected as the very first champion, winning a silver cup for his efforts and over the next few years, freezeout tournaments became the WSOP standard, with more events being added to the series over time.
The idea for freezeout tournaments is generally credited to the 1973 World Series of Poker Champion Walter “Puggy” Pearson. Puggy later discussed the idea with fellow professional gambler Nick “The Greek” Dandalos, who eventually took the format to Benny Binion, the man behind the World Series of Poker.
In 1976 the WSOP had grown to be an eight tournament series, with events in Seven Card Stud, Ace to Five Draw, Deuce to Seven Draw and of course, No Limit Hold’em, known by then as “The Cadillac of Poker”. The Main Event drew 22 players and only the winner received prize money.
Doyle Brunson had featured in the World Series events regularly, but until 1976 had never actually won anything. He took down the 1976 $5,000 Deuce to Seven Draw event to win his first WSOP bracelet, before eventually going on to win the Main Event, defeating Jesse Alto at the heads up stage, whilst holding a decidedly average T-2. It wasn’t until the following year that the legend of “Texas Dolly” was truly born, however.
The 1977 World Series of Poker had grown to thirteen events and once again, Brunson managed to win a bracelet in one of the preliminary Seven Card Stud events. The No Limit Hold’em Main Event was now 34 players strong and Brunson came out on top again, defeating Gary Berland heads up, once more whilst holding T-2.
This was the moment that marked Doyle Brunson out as the best player in the world and sealed his place in WSOP legend. He would later publish poker books, be voted “most influential force in poker” and front his own online poker website, Doyle’s Room. At the ripe old age of 76, he is still a force in the game and his tally of WSOP titles is now ten.