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2016 WSOP and History - Game Types

[Note: This article was written after the 2016 WSOP schedule was announced. Footnotes include updates through the online 2020 WSOP.]

Game Types

Five-Card Draw and Five-Card Stud were invented when playing card decks had only 32 cards. Only when the pack was increased to 52 cards were seven-card variations like Seven-Card Stud created. The history of the World Series of Poker reflects this. From 1971 to 1973 at least 40% of each year's games gave each player just five cards. 1981 was the only other year it topped 30% (4 of 13 events). 1991 was the last year it reached 10%. In 2016, it edged up slightly to 7% (5 of 69).1

Draw and Stud games, as opposed to Flop games, were more prevalent in the early days. Draw games peaked at 29% of events (2 of 7) in 1973. They've been in single-digit percentages since 1993, with 7% in 2016.

Stud games peaked at 53% of events (7 of 13) in 1977, have been in single-digit percentages since 2008, and were coincidentally also 7% in 2016.

Flop games started at 20% of events (1 of 5), reached 50% in 1989, and had crept up to 67% by 2003. When Chris Moneymaker won the Main Event though, the WSOP responded by greatly increasing the number of No-Limit Hold 'Em events, the game most popular among the wave of new players. Flop games peaked at 87% (40 of 46) in 2006 before dropping to 75% (41 of 55) in 2007. The percentage dropped to 71% (49 of 69) in 2016, the lowest since 2003.2

Mixed games debuted in 2000 and have slowly but surely increased since 2007 from 9% (5 of 55) to 14% (10 of 69) in 2016.

High Games vs. Low Games vs. Hi/Lo Games

Except for 1972, which had just two known events, both of which were high-only, lowball tournaments were at least a third of all events from 1971 to 1975, and again in 1977 and 1986. Low-only events only dropped under a fifth in 1991 then bottomed out at 4% in 2006 before climbing back to 10% in 2016.3

Hi/Lo events debuted in 1976, surpassed Low events in 1995, and peaked at 21% in 2000 before sinking back to 9% in 2015 and 10% in 2016.

Betting Limits

Crandell Addington once quipped: "Limit poker is a science, but no-limit is an art. In limit, you are shooting at a target. In no-limit, the target comes alive and shoots back at you."

Limit poker dominated the early days of the WSOP. Initially only the championship event was no-limit. Although no-limit games briefly took over in 1975 (60%) and 1976 (63%), limit games were otherwise the majority of the events until 2000. From 2001 to 2004, limit still held the lead but had fallen under 50%. With the Moneymaker effect, however, No-Limit Hold 'Em alone pushed no-limit games ahead to stay in 2005 (48%), accounting for over half the events since 2008 (54% in 2016).

In 1984, a year after Omaha debuted as a limit game, it became the first pot-limit event at the WSOP. Pot-Limit Hold 'Em could have been played much sooner but didn't appear until 1992, two years after the first Pot-Limit Omaha 8 event.4 The popularity of pot-limit games peaked from 1993 to 1999, hovering between 25% and 30% of all events. About one in six events has been pot-limit since 2011, and limit and pot-limit events have been roughly even since 2005 (17% and 16% in 2016).5

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