THE BEST OF BRITAIN
September 15, 2010 - 05:09:30 AM EST
Nearly 30 years ago, poker pioneer Jack Binion had a grand vision.
In an effort to expand the World Series of Poker far beyond its provincial boundaries, he issued an open invitation to players from the United Kingdom and Ireland. Binion assured these international visitors that if they traveled such a great distance to come all the way to Las Vegas to play in the WSOP, he would provide everyone with a complimentary stay. All rooms, food, and beverages were provided free of charge. Limousines were dispatched from Binion’s Horseshoe to shuttle players to and from the airport. In short, Jack Binion was a visionary who planted the seeds of what would eventually become the poker boom two decades later, which engulfed Europe and beyond.
Many English poker players accepted Binion’s invitation. They were a small number at first. Then gradually, the numbers grew. When players returned home to places like The Midlands, East London, and Ireland, they brought with them a new poker game called Texas Hold’em.
Soon, the game sprouted up in underground games throughout Britain’s industrial belt. It later was introduced in casinos in London, Dublin, and elsewhere. In 1997, poker was broadcast for the first time when a revolutionary new television show appeared called Late Night Poker, which introduced millions of Brits to Hold’em. It marked the first time hole card cameras were ever used for television. Indeed, the fuse on the poker boom had been lit and was about to explode throughout Britain.
Indeed, it's incredible what just a few dozen comps and limousine rides accomplished all those years ago.
Since then, several English players have enjoyed stellar success at the World Series of Poker. The first British player to accomplish a gold bracelet victory was Mansour Matloubi, winner of the 1990 Main Event. The second British champion was David “Devilfish” Ulliott in 1997. Brits came close to winning the 2002 Main Event as well, when Julian Gardener finished as the runner up. Fellow countryman John Shipley began play at the chip leader, but went out seventh.
At this year’s WSOP in Las Vegas, British players won five gold bracelets -- their best year ever. With five more gold bracelets still to be awarded this year at WSOP Europe played in London, English players have an excellent chance to set a new mark.
To date, there have been 17 gold bracelet champions from Great Britain in the 41-year history of the World Series of Poker. These lucky 17 champions have won a combined total of 20 events. Only three British players have won multiple gold bracelets. They are Chris Bjorin, J.P. Kelly, and Praz Banzi – each with two wins.
Here’s a listing of all the British WSOP gold bracelet winners:
Chris Bjorin (2 wins) -- London, UK
1997 – $1,500 buy-in Pot-Limit Omaha
2000 - $3,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em
J. P. Kelly (2 wins) – Aylesbury, UK
2009 – $1,500 buy-in Pot-Limit Hold’em
2009 WSOPE -- $1,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em
Praz Banzi (2 wins) – London, UK
2006 - $1,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em
2010 - $1,500 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em
Mansour Matloubi – London, UK 
1990 - $10,000 buy-in World Championship No-Limit Hold’em
David “Devilfish” Ulliott – Hull, UK
1997 - $2,000 buy-in Pot-Limit Hold’em
2004 - $2,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold'em
Lawrence Gosney – London, UK
2005 – $2,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em
Willie Tann – London, UK
2005 - $1,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em
“Gentleman” John Gale – Bushey, Hertfordshire, UK
2006 - $5,000 buy-in Pot-Limit Hold’em
Ram Vaswani – London, UK
2007 - $1,500 buy-in Limit Hold’em Shootout
Marty Smyth – Belfast, Northern Ireland 
2008 - $5,000 buy-in Pot-Limit Omaha
Roland De Wolfe – London, UK
2009 - $5,000 buy-in Pot-Limit Omaha
John Kabbaj – London, UK
2009 - $10,000 buy-in Pot-Limit Hold’em
Richard Ashby – London, UK
2010 - $1,500 buy-in Seven-Card Stud
James Dempsey – Brighton, UK
2010 - $1,500 buy-in Pot-Limit Hold’em
Mike Ellis – London, UK
2010 - $1,500 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em
Steve Jelinek – Birmingham, UK
2010 - $1,500 buy-in Pot-Limit Omaha
For more information about the 2010 edition of WSOP Europe, click HERE.
 Matloubi was born in Iran and immigrated to England. He was a British resident when he won the 1990 Main Event. Matloubi now lives somewhere in Asia.
 Northern Ireland is considered to be part of Great Britain.
About the author
: Nolan Dalla's work is found all over WSOP.com, as he is the Senior Writer for poker's longest-running poker series and has contributed to the site since 2005.
He is also the longtime Media Director of the World Series of Poker. He's become the lone link from poker's modern age back to the old days when the WSOP was played at Binion's Horseshoe
– where Dalla served as the casino's Director of Public Relations.