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All about WSOP bracelets

WSOP bracelets are the top prize for poker players. They first appeared at the World Series of Poker in 1976. Since then, the bracelets and the series itself have changed a lot.

Bracelets WSOPs

Getting a WSOP bracelet is like the ultimate dream for poker pros, way more important than winning a big tournament and tons of money. It’s like a superhero cape for their image, and the big online poker sites use their pros for advertising, so having a bracelet is a big deal. That’s why you see these crazy moves by famous players trying to win one. Like in the 2008 WSOP, this guy re-bought so many times in a cheap tournament that he needed to get to the final table and finish at least 6th just to not lose money.

These bracelets have totally changed the poker game. They’re like the symbol of being a winner, and everyone wants one. More and more are given out each year because poker is getting super popular and there are more WSOP tournaments. In 1990 there were only 14 bracelets, then 24 in 2000, and by 2009 there were 57!

The organizers don’t want the bracelets to become less special, so they’re making them even better. The first ones in 1976 were worth about $500 and looked kinda cheap, but now they’re like $5,000 and each one is like a piece of art. Especially the ones for the Main Event winners. Each one is totally unique and awesome.

Before the WSOP Bracelets: A History

Back in 1970, the folks running the WSOP needed a special prize for their first ever winner. Benny Binion, the big boss, decided on a simple silver cup to hold the winner’s prize money. But the next year, things changed. Up until 1974, winners got something different, something Benny’s daughter Becky called a “corny trophy” in an interview. She was in charge of opening tournaments and giving out prizes back then, so she knew what she was talking about, but didn’t want to spill all the details. Most likely, it was just a big, boring cup.

Then, in 1975, the winner got a silver plate, but by 1976, the organizers had a brilliant idea: bracelets! The champions from before didn’t get bracelets, but their wins were still considered as important as the bracelet wins, so everyone was happy. And from 1976 onwards, WSOP winners have been getting these awesome gold and diamond bracelets to remember their victory.

Crafting the WSOP Bracelets: From Humble Beginnings to Sparkling Masterpieces

Nobody really knows exactly how much those first bracelets cost, but Becky Binion thinks it was around $500. In the 80s, the WSOP teamed up with Mordechai Yerushalmi, a top jeweler in Vegas, whose shop is still there today. He got the exclusive rights to make the bracelets for years, right up until Harrah’s Entertainment bought the whole shebang in 2004.

The last bracelet made by Yerushalmi’s company went to Chris Moneymaker, the 2003 WSOP champ. You know, the guy who caused the whole poker boom and made the WSOP explode in popularity.

Then, in 2005, a company called Gold and Diamond International from Memphis won the job of making the bracelets. They also make the WSOP Circuit rings. That year, Joe Hachem got the Main Event bracelet, a fancy piece of platinum and white diamonds.

For the 2006 WSOP, Frederick Goldman Inc. made the bracelets, and the famous watch company Corum started giving out watches to the winners too. There were 45 bracelets up for grabs, all made of 14K gold with 66 diamonds. The Main Event bracelet was even more special, with 120 grams of white and yellow gold and 259 stones, including 7.2 carats of diamonds. It even had rubies for diamonds and hearts, a sapphire for the spade, and 3 black diamonds for the clubs. Jamie Gold was the lucky guy who got to wear that one.

WSOP bracelet 2006

In 2007, Corum took over making the bracelets and signed a long-term deal with Harrah’s. Now, all the winners got a fancy Corum watch along with their bracelet, which had 53 diamonds to represent the 53 winners that year. The Ladies World Championship bracelet had black diamonds, rubies, and sapphires, while the winner of the $50,000 HORSE tournament (the most expensive one back then) got a bracelet with 91 black diamonds and 2 rubies. The Main Event bracelet was 136 grams of 18K gold with 120 diamonds, and Jerry Yang got to take that beauty home.

wsop bracelet 2007

The 2008 Main Event bracelet, won by Peter Eastgate, was even more impressive: 168 grams of 19K white gold and 291 diamonds, totaling 2.81 carats! The other bracelets that year were made of 14K yellow gold with 55 smaller diamonds. Even the runners-up got smaller bracelets with the WSOP logo.

wsop bracelet 2008

They kept the details of the 2009 bracelets a secret, but at the presentation, WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack showed off the new designs and announced a cool bonus: all bracelet winners that year would become VIPs at all Harrah’s casinos and hotels. They also changed the way they awarded the bracelets to make it more exciting for everyone. Joe Cada won the Main Event that year, and there was a funny story about Barry Shulman, another finalist, who promised to throw away the bracelet if he won it! Luckily for him (and the bracelet), he didn’t win.

wsop bracelet 2009

From 2013 to 2021, the bracelets kept the same style but got even more expensive. Some of the Main Event bracelets are now worth hundreds of thousands of dollars!

wsop bracelet 2014-2022

For the 50th anniversary WSOP in 2019, they made special bracelets with a big “50” in the middle.

The 2022 Main Event bracelet was insane: 2,767 gemstones, including 2,656 diamonds (671 of them black) and 111 rubies, all totaling 55.48 carats! It was handmade by Jostens and even had a secret gold card protector inside. One winner, Steve Albini (a music producer for Nirvana and Led Zeppelin), actually broke his bracelet, but he didn’t mind, saying it was like a torn dollar bill – he still had both halves!

In 2023, Jostens made the Main Event bracelet again, this time with 500 grams of 10K gold and 2,352 gemstones, including 42 diamonds. And yes, it had the secret gold card protector too.

The Keepers of the Coveted Gold: WSOP Bracelet Winners and Their Stories

Believe it or not, those early WSOP bracelets weren’t all that respected. Doyle Brunson, a legend with 10 bracelets, said they didn’t mean much back then and he even skipped picking up 2 of them! Later on, he changed his mind and saw them as a piece of history, so he gave some to his family. He only kept the one he won in 2005 for himself.

Nowadays, there are way more bracelets up for grabs, but winning one is a lot harder. Instead of hundreds of players in a tournament, there are thousands, making it tough even for the best players to come out on top. Jennifer Tilly, who won the Ladies Event in 2005, said getting a WSOP bracelet was even better than winning an Oscar!

Johnny Chan, another legend with 10 bracelets, realized their value a long time ago. Even though some players have matched or even beaten his record, nobody has kept all their bracelets. He sees them as priceless pieces of history and keeps them safe in a bank vault.

As of May 6, 2024, Phil Hellmuth is the bracelet king with a whopping 17 wins! But he’s a generous guy and has given most of them away to his family. He definitely still has the one from his 1989 Main Event win, though.

Ted Forrest, a five-time champ, had some bad luck. Three of his bracelets were stolen, he gave one to his daughter, and he even sold one to another champ, Hamid Dastmalchi. Dastmalchi had some trouble cashing out at the Horseshoe Casino once, and Becky Binion wouldn’t let him cash in his $800,000 chips because of a management change. He sued and won, but needed cash while the lawsuit was going on, so he was selling $5,000 chips for just $500. One day, while playing with Ted Forrest, he showed off his 1992 bracelet and said he’d sell it for $1,500. Ted said “Sold!” and gave him three $500 chips for it.

T.J. Cloutier almost lost his 2005 bracelet too. He had to pawn it and couldn’t get it back in time. The pawn shop put it up on eBay, but luckily, some folks from the Cake Poker network bought it and returned it to him.

These days, it’s not uncommon to see WSOP bracelets on eBay. In 2010, Peter Eastgate’s bracelet sold for a huge $147,500, all going to charity.

Facts About WSOP Bracelets: Did You Know…?

  • Forgotten Champions: Back in 1980 and 1981, the WSOP tried giving out bracelets to the “Best All Around Player.” H.D. Hale and Chip Reese got them, but the idea didn’t stick, and these bracelets aren’t even counted in the official records.
  • Europe Gets in on the Action: The WSOP went international in 2007 with the World Series of Poker Europe. Thomas Bihl snagged the first-ever European bracelet in the £2,500 WSOPE World Championship HORSE event.
  • Young Guns: Annette_15 (Annette Obrestad) is the youngest bracelet winner ever, at just 18 years and 364 days old. This was only possible thanks to the WSOPE, since you have to be 21 to play in Vegas.
  • Main Event Youngsters: For years, Phil Hellmuth was the youngest Main Event champ, winning at 24. Then Peter Eastgate broke the record in 2008 at 22, and Joe Cada took the crown in 2009 at just 21!
  • Triple Threat: The record for most bracelets won in a single WSOP is three, and it’s shared by six players: Walter “Puggy” Pearson (1973), Phil Hellmuth and Ted Forrest (both in 1993), Phil Ivey (2002), Jeff Lisandro (2009), and George Danzer (2014).

Right now, the top 5 players with the most WSOP bracelets are:

  • Phil Hellmuth – 17 bracelets
  • Phil Ivey – 10 bracelets
  • Erik Seidel – 10 bracelets
  • Johnny Chan – 10 bracelets
  • Doyle Brunson – 10 bracelets