If you recently became interested in poker, one word you have seen all over is WSOP, which stands for the “World Series of Poker”. But what is exactly this WSOP?

In a nutshell, the WSOP is the most prestigious poker championship in the World. It is a yearly contest with 57 events (as of 2009) and the winner of it main event is crowned as the poker world champion.

Historically this is the oldest high profile poker tournament event still in existence, as it started in 1970 at a time when poker was still a pastime reserved for a smaller crowd of players with a passion for the game. Forty years later the game of poker has exploded in popularity, and with it the number of tournaments and online poker rooms promoting them. WPT, EPT, APPT, etc.

But the WSOP remains the most coveted poker tournament in the World. Possessing a WSOP bracelet is to poker what owning an Oscar is in the film industry. Each bracelet is attributed to the winner of one of the 57 events, the crown going to the most prestigious of all events, the “Main Event”. This main tournament is a No-Limit Texas Hold’em lasting more than a week to decide between the thousands of players who participate.

The first WSOP in 1970 was a promotional event gathering seven of the best American poker players at the Horseshoe Casino. They were invited by the casino owner, Jack Binion to decide who was the best player. Johnny Moss won the vote. Among the other six players were “Amarillo Slim” Preston and none other than Doyle “Texas Dolly” Brunson himself. This was the only time that the winner was determined by a vote.

The following year there were five tournaments including the main event. But this was a very small field with just six players participating in this main event. Not too surprising given the $10,000 price tag which was really a lot of money forty years ago.

Jumping to 1980, the WSOP had become a challenge no serious poker pro could miss. There were a total of 12 tournaments and 73 players entered the main event. The winner was Stu Ungar who earned $365,000 for his first place. He will repeat his achievement the next year, defeating 74 poker players and winning $375,000.

Rolling forward nearly two decades later to 1997, poker has starting its unstoppable rise and the annual trip to the WSOP is like the pilgrimage to the Mecca for all poker converts. This time there are 21 events and Stu Ungar makes his unprecedented comeback by winning the main event for a third time. Both the field and first prize are larger, with 312 entrants and a cool one million dollar for the winner.

Another fast forward to 2009 and this is the middle of the poker boom. As online poker rooms offer cheap satellite tournaments to attend WSOP events that attract tens of thousands of players, the attendance and prizes at the WSOP are unmatched.

At the 2009 WSOP, there are 57 events covering all forms of poker, Hold’em, Omaha, Draw, Stud, HORSE, mixed games, in fixed-limit, pot-limit & no-limit, full ring & short-handed and in all variations imaginable. The NLHE main event is still the ultimate event, with the $50,000 World Championship H.O.R.S.E. a good second as it is believed by the pros to really reward pure skill. But given its high price tag and the complexity of HORSE, the Main Event remains the “main event”.

In 2009 6,484 contestants battled up to nine days for the final nine who played the final table in November, five months after the end of day 8 in June. The prize was $8,547,042 earned by a 21 years old kid named Joe Cada. He is the youngest player to win this trophy and he should be assured to keep this record for a long time, given that the minimum age requirement is 21 years old (he was 21 years and seven months when he entered).