Since 1972, the Main Event of the WSOP has been a $10,000 buy-in no-limit Texas Hold 'Em tournament.
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Winners of the event not only get the largest prize of the tournament and a gold bracelet, but additionally their picture is placed in the Gallery of Champions at Binion's. The winner of the Main Event has traditionally been given the unofficial title of World Champion. However, some believe that no-limit hold 'em is not the optimal structure for determining a champion poker player.
In 2002, Daniel Negreanu argued that the Main Event should switch to pot-limit hold 'em, believing that pot-limit required a more complete set of poker skills than no-limit, although he admitted that such a change would likely never be made. However, many of the game's top professionals, including Negreanu, have since stated that the recently-added $50,000 H.O.R.S.E./Poker Player's Championship event is the one which ultimately decides the world's best player.
The $50,000 buy-in, being five times larger than the buy-in for the Main Event, has thus far tended to deter amateurs from playing in this event, and the variety of games played require a broader knowledge of poker. The first $50,000 event, conducted as a H.O.R.S.E. tournament, was won by Chip Reese in 2006. In 2010, the $50,000 event changed from H.O.R.S.E. to an "8-game" format, adding no-limit hold 'em, pot-limit Omaha, and 2–7 triple draw to the mix, and was rechristened The Poker Player's Championship, with Michael Mizrachi winning the first edition of the revamped event. Since Reese's death in December 2007, the winner of this event receives the David 'Chip' Reese Memorial Trophy in addition to the bracelet and the prize money.
There have been many memorable moments during the main events, including Jack Straus's 1982 comeback win after discovering he had one $500 chip left when he thought he was out of the tournament.
The end of the 1988 main event was featured in the movie Rounders. Chris Moneymaker and Greg Raymer, the winners in 2003 and 2004, both qualified for the main event through satellite tournaments at the PokerStars online card room. Jerry Yang, the winner in 2007, had only been playing poker for two years prior to his victory. He won his seat at a $225 satellite tournament at Pechanga Resort & Casino, in California. With passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 online poker sites have been barred from purchasing entrance directly for their users. The 2009 final table lasted for 364 hands, including 88 hands of heads up play.