WSOP 1973

World Series of Poker 1973


In 1973, CBS Sports televised the World Series for the first time. The images of poker’s fourth annual world championship are comical by modern standards. Wide polka-dotted lapels, lamb-chop sideburns, and burning cigars make the final table look more like a time capsule, in retrospect, than an exhibition of poker savvy. Nonetheless, Puggy Pearson won a well-deserved victory. The WSOP was also expanded to include four preliminary events – Seven-card Stud, Razz, Deuce-to-seven Draw, and a lower buy-in No Limit Hold’em event. Pearson won two of those events as well. Indeed, 1973 was a very good year for Mr. Pearson.

After Johnny Moss won his third championship the following year, Doyle Brunson solidified his position as one of poker’s top players by winning back-toback titles. The next major change in format was instituted in 1978 when the Main Event’s prize money was divided up for the first time. The top five finishers all received a cash payout. It was also the first year a woman entered the WSOP. Barbara Freer became the first player to break the sex barrier, taking her place in what had been an all-male poker fraternity.

Hal Fowler’s stunning upset victory in the 1979 WSOP marked the first time an amateur player prevailed over the elite. Many longtime poker professionals were as shocked as they were embarrassed by the outcome. But Fowler’s win was a herald of things to come in future years. Following Fowler’s example, increasing numbers of aspiring amateurs – including many players from overseas – began making the annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas every April and May. Sadly, Fowler was never able to enjoy the fruits of his contribution to the WSOP legacy. He never played in the WSOP again and was mostly forgotten afterward.