The $50K event was first introduced at the WSOP in 2006, then the highest-ever buy-in for a WSOP event. It was played as a H.O.R.S.E. tournament that year, with the final table being no-limit hold’em only (amid some controversy). The late Chip Reese topped a field of 143, including going heads-up with Andy Bloch for an incredible 268 hands -- before winning the title and $1,716,000 first prize.
In 2007, the $50K event was again a H.O.R.S.E. event (this time with the rotation continuing through the final table, too). Freddy Deeb won that year, earning $2,276,832 for besting 148. Then in 2008 came Scotty Nguyen’s victory in the $50K H.O.R.S.E., the one remembered chiefly for Nguyen’s drunken behavior at the final table. There were 148 in the event again that year, with Nguyen earning $1,989,120 and the new “David ‘Chip’ Reese Memorial Trophy” (pictured above) for the win.
In 2009 there was a dip in the number of entrants in the $50K H.O.R.S.E. as only 95 played, with David Bach winning to earn a $1,276,802 first prize (though I didn’t pay a lot of attention to it that year). (A special $40K NLHE event at the start of that year’s WSOP might’ve affected the turnout for the $50K event a bit.)
Then in 2010 the $50K it became known as the “Poker Player’s Championship,” adding three more games to the mix -- no-limit hold’em, pot-limit Omaha, and 2-7 triple draw -- making it an 8-game mix. As in 2006, though, the final table was made NLHE-only. A total of 116 played and Michael Mizrachi won (with his brother, Robert, also making the final table), earning $1,559,046 for the victory.
Brian Rast won the $50K PPC in 2011, topping 128 players including Phil Hellmuth heads-up to win $1,720,328. The final table was NLHE-only again that year, but in 2012 the 8-game mix was played through to the very end with Michael Mizrachi winning the event for a second time (while I was covering a different event). There were 108 in the field that time, and Mizrachi won $1,451,527.
That was the year the $1 million “Big One for One Drop” debuted, which didn’t necessarily affect the field size for the $50K but did grab a lot of the spotlight away from it.
The PPC remained an 8-game mixed event the next couple of years, with Matthew Ashton topping 132 to win in 2013 (for $1,774,089), and John Hennigan beating a field of 102 in 2014 (for $1,517,767).
There were some on Twitter over the weekend talking about the addition of 2-7 NL Draw and Badugi to the $50K as if the change had been unknown previous to a few days ago, when the structure has been out for quite some time.
Some seem to believe the addition of the two games might affect the turnout this time, although I can’t imagine there are that many players versed enough in the 8-game mix to play a $50K event who would be dissuaded from playing by the addition of those two games -- both of which are already part of the rotation in many big mixed games.
Wouldn’t be surprised to the see a smaller field, though. The $50K remains my favorite event to follow of all of them, though (aside from the Main, of course).
(EDIT [added 6/21/15]: For more $50K PPC history and numbers, check out “Stats and Facts: The Prestigious WSOP $50,000 Poker Players’ Championship.”)