There was a time when poker was less popular. People knew tournaments went on, but they still went about their daily lives without taking much interest in what was happening at the world’s poker tournament tables.
That’s all changed today. In the past, people didn’t know how to watch live events, but it has earned a place in the spotlight, with high stakes games and the drama they bring capturing the attention of fans around the globe, and the sport itself attracting more than just a few new players along the way. People now want to be a part of it, whether they’re just following the action from home or trying to win big at the tables.
Below is a look at high profile tournaments in the poker world, plus a walk down an enthralling memory lane in the form of some of the most dramatic moments witnessed at tournaments.
World Series of Poker (WSOP)
Without doubt, the biggest event in the world has to be the WSOP, an event which has been operating in the industry for more than 50 years. Since it started in 1970, the WSOP has paid out more than $3.3 billion in prize money, but how did it get so famous?
The Main Event of this highly popular series is gripping. Big prize money is up for grabs, with the winner potentially leaving the table millions better off. The winner also walks away with the championship bracelet that indicates they’ve reigned supreme at the table.
The Triton Poker series is another huge event, and there is some major money up for grabs in this high-roller event. Earlier in April 2022, the series held the Triton Poker Cyprus Special Edition at the Merit Crystal Grove Resort and Casino. The schedule featured events with buy-ins of $50,000 to $100,000.
Just like the WSOP, Triton Poker conducts large events in different parts of the world. It’s become famous for its prize pools. In the past, more than $65.5 million has been laid out for participants to compete for, and the winner has walked away from the event table with more than $23 million.
World Poker Tour (WTP)
The WPT is televised internationally. Win a WTP Main Tour event and the tour will award you membership to the WTP Champions Club. The tour also awards the WPT Champions Cup to winners, and these champions can have their name engraved on the cup. Winning can reward them with more than $1 million in prize money.
High drama and other memorable moments at the tables
Of course, when there’s so much money at stake, poker is a real test of courage and keeps the players and any spectators watching the game on the edge of their seats, knowing how to keep your nerve can be the difference between success and failure. Here are some of the most exciting, dramatic moments to have unfolded in poker events:
Chris Moneymaker wins WSOP Main Event in 2003
Before entering the WSOP Main Event in 2003, the appropriately named Chris Moneymaker was unknown. Yet this accountant from Atlanta, Georgia, made it all the way to the final table, where he went head to head with the legendary Sammy Farha, who was the favourite.
A little luck helped Moneymaker get all his chips in the middle with bottom two pairs against Farha’s top pair. His hand held through the river, and he became the Main Event champion. In fact, he was the first to have qualified online and inspired thousands of fans to play poker or to learn how to win at poker.
Johnny Chan vs Scott Seidel in the 1988 WSOP Main Event
This was a historic moment because when Johnny Chan secured the Main Event, he retained the title he’d already claimed in 1987. In 1988’s final table clash, both players felt confident when the flop was dealt,: Chan holding a straight; Seidel holding queen of clubs and seven of diamonds; and the flop offering queens and a ten and eight of diamonds. Holding top pair, Chan checked Seidel to $40,000, and Seidel raised him another $50,000, which Chan called. The turn was 2s and Chan checked again. Seidel went all in, but his hand was already dead, and Chan called. The deuce card didn’t matter, and Chan became the Main Event champion.
Phil Hellmuth denies Johnny Chan three consecutive WSOP wins in 1989
Johnny Chan must have been feeling invincible when he came back to the WSOP Main Event table in 1989, having already tucked the 1987 and 1988 Main Events lucratively under his belt previously. Phil Hellmuth, however, wasn’t going to let him have a third win: and not only because he wanted the win himself, but also because he was still stinging from his exit to Chan the previous year, which had put him in 33rd place.
Before the flop, Hellmuth came out swinging with a $40,000 wager in the 1989 final table. Chan upped the stakes even higher with a raise to $130,000, to which Hellmuth responded by going all-in. Although Chan spent some time thinking about it, he matched the bet. Out of the flop came a pair of kings and a 10, giving Hellmuth two pairs. Fourth street proffered a queen, and a six of spades on the river was enough for Hellmuth to become the champion.
Poker tournaments offer big money and big drama, which has helped to make them popular to play in or even just to watch. Maybe you, too, feel inspired to learn the game and, one day, try your hand at the tables and be a part of it all.