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WSOP Bracelet More Than Just Bling

Jeff Madsen didn't boast about the hundreds of thousand of dollars he earned from winning an event in the world series of poker when he called home to tell his parents, he talked about the "bling".

The gold bracelet is one of the things that the WSOP is known for, as it awards most tournament winners with a bracelet that's what Super Bowl rings are to NFL stars.

The 21-year-old college student was more in awe of the bracelet that confers fame, respect and even fear, than anything else.

"He said he got his bracelet. So yeah, it just tells you the kind of kid he is," said his mother, Harriet, in Los Angeles. "The bracelet to him represents everything."

For many, the WSOP bracelet is a symbol that it takes more than luck to succeed and more importantly, stay in the game. The multiple bracelet winners can claim that it is proof that poker is a game of tremendous skill, and not just chance.

"To me, the bracelets have always been a really huge deal, to me more than the other guys, because I knew that they represented history," said Phil Hellmuth Jr., who won his 10th early Wednesday. "This is how they measure greatness."

The bracelets also become more valuable in time. In the very first WSOP events in the 70's only cash were given out, followed by a 'corny trophy', then sterling silver plates.

The 'token' was then upgraded to the very first bracelets in 1976. "The band looked like gold nuggets kind of hammered flat," said Becky Behnen, daughter of the event's founder, Benny Binion.

Then Las Vegas jeweler Mordechai Yerushalmi started making official bracelets for the tournament in the 80's and continued to do so until Harrah's bought the rights from the Binions in 2004.

"Gold was lower, too, at that time, so I think that they probably started at about the $500 price," he said. Now the bracelets are diamond encrusted. "With the diamonds they went up to about $5,000," he said.

Poker legend Chan keeps his in a vault. To him, it's a representation of his stature more than the worth in dollars.

"If you've got 10 gold bracelets, you're the Number 1 player in the world and you get the opportunity to get a lot of endorsements," he said.


10/08/2006, Sunday
Sherry Barlow

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