Though the World Series of Poker made its official debut in 1970, the idea of the Horseshoe's annual tournament was actually conceived more than two decades earlier.

In the summer of 1949, as the story goes, inveterate gambler Nicholas 'Nick the Greek' Dandolos approached Benny Binion with an unusual request-to challenge the best in a high-stakes poker marathon. Binion agreed to set up a match between Dandolos and the legendary Johnny Moss, with the stipulation that the game be played in public view.

During the course of the marathon, which lasted five months with breaks only for sleep, the two men played every form of poker imaginable. Moss ultimately won 'the biggest game in town' and an estimated $2 million. When the Greek lost his last pot, he arose from his chair, bowed slightly, and uttered the now-famous words, 'Mr. Moss, I have to let you go.' Dandolos then went upstairs to bed.

It wasn't until 1970 that Binion decided to re-create this excitement and stage a battle of poker giants--dubbed the 'World Series Of Poker'--to determine who would be worthy of the title 'World Champion.' Some of the best players in the country were assembled, and Johnny Moss came out on top. The decision was democratic in that the champion was decided by popular vote.

The tournament winner was now determined by a freezeout competition, with players being systematically eliminated until one player had all the chips. Johnny Moss again was declared the World Champion. 1972
A new champion arose - Thomas 'Amarillo Slim' Preston. After the tournament, he went on the talk-show circuit, which gave the WSOP more exposure and wider following.

Early 1980's
With the introduction of preliminary 'satellite' competitions with lower buy-ins, Binion's prophesy came into fruition and the popularity of the World Series of Poker soared. In 1982, the tournament had 52 entries. Five years later, there were 2,141 entries and the 2002 event had 7,595 participants. The prize money increased from $7,769,000 a decade ago to a staggering $19,599,230 in 2002!

On Christmas Day, Benny Binion passes away.

The event draws 7,595 participants, and the prize money increased from $7,769,000 a decade ago to a staggering $19,599,230