To participate at the World Series of Poker is one thing, but to receive a gold bracelet is another – it’s the most coveted prize that a player can win. It’s a prize not only awarded for winning the Main Event, but for every event at the annual World Series of Poker. This year marked the 50th anniversary of the World Series of Poker, so what better reason to take a closer look at the gold bracelet, its history, and legacy, as well as some of the all-time greats to win one.
A bracelet that isn’t actually a bracelet
The idea for a series of Poker games to be played in tournament format was inaugurated in 1969, through the Texas Gamblers Convention in Reno. This particular tournament was per invitation only. In 1970, it became the World Series of Poker but in this first actual series, the winner was voted for by the players. Johnny Moss was the 1970 winner and was awarded a silver cup as a prize. Bracelets weren’t awarded until the 1976 edition of the World Series. However, winners of the championships before that time are considered as bracelet winners, Moss and Doyle Brunson both feature highly on the all-time list.
From early beginnings to the modern-day
The prestigious bracelets were introduced by the founder of the World Series, Benny Binion in 1976. Binion also hosted the WSOP at his casino, Binion’s Horseshoe from 1970 until 2004, when it moved to Caesars.
The original bracelets were fairly modest, a simple gold piece with the name of the event and year engraved on them. Binion’s daughter famously said that the early bracelets looked “like gold nuggets kind of hammered flat” – and they had a value of approximately $500.
In the 1980s and ’90s, the WSOP bracelets retained this same look, until more jewels were added. Over time, it seemed that more was better. In 2006, as well as bracelets, commemorative watches were also awarded as part of the prize. The championship bracelets contained 259 stones. Two years later, the 2008 Main Event bracelet contained 291 diamonds, while the other event bracelets contained a more modest 55.
Fast forward to this year’s tournaments, where 69 bracelets were up for grabs. The Main Event bracelet had a valuation of around $500,000 – and it contained an incredible 356 white diamonds, 626 black diamonds, and 194 rubies! The bracelets were expertly crafted by Jostens, with the winning player’s final hand encrusted in two gold playing cards. Kept in a hidden compartment within the centerpiece of the bracelet – almost like a locket – it’s a valuable souvenir.
Gotta have ’em all
Of the three most successful winners of WSOP bracelets, Phil Hellmuth, Brunson, and Johnny Chan, only Chan still has all 10 of his bracelets. Hellmuth is alleged to have given his away to family members.
Of those that have given their bracelets away, Danish Poker player Peter Eastgate famously sold his bracelet on eBay. Starting the bidding at $16,000, the 2008 Main Event bracelet eventually went for $147,500 – with the money given to charity.
List of all-time winners
Below are the top five players that have made the all-time list of bracelet wins. Interestingly, Hellmuth sits top and he is the only player to have won the Main Event at both the World Series of Poker (Las Vegas) and World Series of Poker Europe. Phil Ivey is tied with a number of other players with 10 bracelets, despite never winning the Main Event and he received all 10 from variations of Poker, other than Hold’em.
- Phil Hellmuth (15)
- Doyle Brunson (10)
- Johnny Chan (10)
- Phil Ivey (10)
- Johnny Moss (9)
Which country rules the roost?
Silly question, that’s the USA! Bearing in mind, nine of the top 10 all-time winners are American, you’d expect them to dominate. In fact, in the all-time top 30, there are 28 Americans, 1 Canadian and 1 Australian. Here are the top 5 countries – do any of these surprises you?
- USA (1,204)
- Canada (62)
- England (53)
- Germany (37)
- Australia (25)