The biggest prize pool in the history of the WSOP came at the 2006 WSOP Main Event.
The 2006 Main Event remains the largest tournament in poker history (by prize pool) with a total prize pool of $82,512,162. Every WSOP Main Event is a $10,000 No-Limit Texas Hold’em event. The tournament began with 8,773-players and was whittled down to 9 players on August 8, and Jamie Gold was crowned World Champion on August 10.
This is just a crazy amount of money and really shows the growth of the game. The first World Series of Poker took place in 1970 and between then and 1999, the biggest prize in history was $1,000,000. That last tournament in 1999 was, at the time, the biggest tournament ever at 393 entrants. The explosion that would take place of the next couple of years would be amazing.
Chris Ferguson won in 2000 with a field of 512. The next year saw 613 and then 631 in 2002. Things really started to blow up in 2003 when Chris Moneymaker won a field of 839. This is the first year when online websites started sending people. Moneymaker himself was one of those players and his story was spread all around the world on ESPN. Around this time, ESPN also introduced the hole cam for the cards which totally changed the way that people viewed the game. It became one of the hottest things in the country which was shown in the next year’s tournament.
The 839 record was shattered in 2004 when 2,576 people entered the World Series of Poker in 2004. That number was then shattered against the next year when 5,619 players entered the field. The grand prize was $7,500,000 which was the largest in history up until that point. A lot of people thought that this might be the peak, but 2006 would blow that away the next year.
The amazing thing about 2006 is that online sites represented 40% of the prize pool in the Main Event. This was the absolute height of online poker and because of that, the sites sent a ton of players to the Main Event which is what led to the record $12,000 payout to the winner. In addition to this, the 2006 event also saw the top 12 players take home a $1,000,000. A far cry from the days of 1999 and earlier when only the winner got that amount.
This is the largest World Series of Poker Main Event prize total, but the largest WSOP event prize is actually much bigger. In 2012, the WSOP added the “Big One for One Drop” tournament. This tournament featured a $1 million buy-in and the first winner received a prize pool of $18,346,673. The first event featured 48 players and just nine payouts. Antonio Esfandiari grabbed the win and the largest individual prize in poker history. The tournament was designed to benefit the One Drop Foundation and raised a lot of money as $111,111 of each player’s entry of $1,000,000 went to charity.
While the World Series of Poker has dropped in size over the years since 2006, they have seen the entries growing over the past couple of years. The 2018 event had the second highest number of entries ever with 7,874 people. The top prize was “only” $8.8 million as the tournament now awards 15% of the field a prize.
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