Who are the World’s Richest Professional Poker Players?
Poker players come and go, with many rising stars disappearing as their 5 minutes of fame expires. This list of the best players features those who have stood the test of time. Most of them made the spotlight thanks to their tournament results.
There are plenty of cash game players, grinding out many millions in profit in the biggest games around. These players are not in the public eye anywhere close to as much as those who win televised tournaments. The list of the top 10 professional poker players includes the big names which have hit big scores year after year. This is a mix of the biggest names in the game – along with some more recent stars who also happen to be the richest poker players in the world.
Below you will find a brief history of the following poker superstars:
There are many more names which could have been included. These include the late Stu Ungar, Bobby Baldwin and high-stakes pro Patrik Antonius. The best thing about the world of poker is that new stars are breaking through all the time!
Doyle recently retired from the World Series of poker – making the final table of a 2-7 draw tournament as a fitting farewell. Nicknamed ‘Texas Dolly’, Brunson has a career spanning more than 50 years. He started in the infamous (illegal) Texas road games, before moving to Las Vegas.
With 10 WSOP bracelets, including wins in the Main Event, his record speaks for itself. Doyle Brunson is no stranger to cash games, appearing in the biggest buy-in games for many years.
He is best known for his book ‘Super System’. This bought the thinking of a poker pro to the masses at a time when this type of information was not readily available. Brunson also made a foray into online poker. His site ‘Doyle’s Room’ was a success, though he stepped away after the legal situation for online poker changed in the US. The room was renamed America’s Cardroom and still runs, though Brunson is no longer involved.
Though officially retired, I am sure that Doyle Brunson will continue to be known as the ‘Godfather of Poker’ for many years to come.
Behind the ‘likeable’ and media-savvy personality of Daniel Negreanu is one of the sharpest poker minds around. He was recently passed in the all-time money list by Justin Bonomo – though still has an amazing $39,500,000 in tournament cashes to his name. Negreanu has won multiple WSOP bracelets, WPT titles and major online events. He competes at the highest levels in both cash games and poker tournaments.
Daniel Negreanu would go broke on several early trips to Vegas from his native Toronto before finally learning how to beat the games. He is the author of several books, including ‘Power Hold’em’, and contributed a chapter to Doyle Brunson’s Super System 2. He is known for popularizing ‘small ball’ poker. This involves keeping pots deliberately small over several betting streets, to allow you to maximize your skill edge.
While not in the biggest Las Vegas games, Daniel is the face of PokerStars. He also has some acting credits, including as a mutant in a recent X-men movie. With a competitive instinct like his, I would not bet against him returning to the top of the all-time prize money list sometime soon!
10 times WSOP bracelet winner and feared opponent in cash games at the very highest stakes – Phil Ivey is considered the best all-round poker player in the world by fellow professionals. Unlike many big names in the game, he does not seek out publicity – preferring to keep his private life and poker separate. Ivey was inaugurated into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2017.
Ivey broke through at the 2002 WSOP – winning three bracelets. This tally would eventually reach 10. While many opponents specialise in No-Limit Hold’em, Ivey has won bracelets in events as diverse as PLO, Stud and mixed-game poker. He also has a World Poker Tour title – taking down the LA poker classic in 2008 for more than $1.5 million.
For many years Phil Ivey was the face of Full Tilt poker. He was also a regular feature on the televised ‘Poker After Dark’. More recently, he has been in the news for activities outside of poker. A legal dispute with a London casino concerned ‘Edge Sorting’. This is a method of identifying cards using the diamond patterns on their backs.
While most of the big stars of the poker world have tournaments to thank for their success, Tom Dwan shot to fame playing the highest stakes cash games online. During the poker boom years, his online screen name ‘Durrr’ as followed by millions of aspiring players.
Things reached fever-pitch in 2009, when he announced a million-dollar challenge to anyone that would face him heads-up at high-stakes. This challenge was in the nosebleed stakes of either No Limit Hold’em or Pot Limit Omaha. Two challengers stepped forward, Patrik Antonius and Daniel Cates. Unfortunately, the temporary shut down of Full Tilt Poker in 2011 interrupted the challenges – which were never completed.
While Dwan has tournament cashes to his name, he has yet to win a WSOP bracelet. These days he can be found in Asia, playing in the highest stakes live cash games around.
Compared to the big names that share this page, Fedor Holz is a young upstart. I have included him as a great example of a new generation of players who compete at the very highest stakes. The biggest cash of this German pro was in the $1 million buy-in ‘Big One for the Drop’ event in 2018. Holz finished second, getting $6 million – propelling him to 4thin the all-time earnings list. When you consider he was born in 1993, that is already a spectacular achievement.
Holz is involved in funding start-up companies, as well as competing in high-roller events around the world. His wins include many big money events in Macau and around Europe. He has one WSOP bracelet at the time of writing – though I expect that tally will grow. Holz also has wins in WPT and EPT events.
No list of the best poker players would be complete without the winner of the biggest tournament prize — Antonio Esfandiari. Esfandiari took down the 2012 ‘Big One for the Drop’ at the World Series for a staggering $18,346,673. This score alone took him (temporarily) to the top of the all-time money list.
A regular on television shows featuring high stakes games, Esfandiari is nicknamed ‘the magician’. He trained in magic before discovering poker. Though bought up in California, Antonio hails from Iran. He changed his named to Antonio as it was better suited to a magician!
Proving that the One Drop was no one-off, Esfandiari has two more WSOP bracelets, as well as two World Poker Tour titles. For a while he was the face of ‘Ultimate Poker’, though this site has since closed down.
While Phil Hellmuth is best known for his ‘poker brat’ persona – there is little doubt about his skills. Hellmuth tops the all-time WSOP bracelet rankings, with a staggering 15 wins – including the Main Event. His title came when he defeated Johnny Chan heads up in 1989, denying Chan a record 3rdwin – and becoming the youngest ever winner at the time.
With more than $20 million in career tournament cashes, there is more than enough proof that those early WSOP wins were no fluke.
Hellmuth is a prolific author. He has written several strategy books over the years. More recently he produced an autobiography titled ‘poker brat’. This takes you from his early years playing bar games around Wisconsin, to his first attempts at beating the Vegas games, though to the present day. While it is clear from this book that Phil is not ‘shy’, it does manage to bring out a more thoughtful side of this larger than life character.
Danish poker Pro Gus Hansen was a fixture at the ‘nosebleed’ stakes during the online poker boom years. Hansen is reported to have lost more than $20 million on Full Tilt to fellow high stakes poker pros. These days Gus Hansen is out of the public spotlight. He can still be found playing at the highest stakes – in Bobby’s Room at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.
He also appeared on TV shows regularly and was a brand ambassador for Full Tilt poker (along with Phil Ivey and many other pros). Gus Hansen has fewer tournament scores than many other big-name pros. These include a WSOP bracelet won in Europe in the high-roller heads-up event in 2010.
Hansen has a book – called ‘Every Hand Revealed’, which was released in 2008.
Chinese-born poker pro Johnny Chan almost pulled off 3 WSOP Main Event wins in a row. After winning outright in 1987 and 1988, he was defeated heads-up by Phil Hellmuth in the 1989 event. This takes nothing from Chan’s record as one of the toughest players ever to compete in the game. With 10 WSOP bracelets and accolades from many other events, Chan plays cash games at the highest levels too.
He also has acting credits. These include playing himself in the popular poker movie Rounders (during a flashback scene). Like many poker pros, Johnny Chan has released books. These are ‘Play Poker Like Johnny Chan’ (2006), and ‘Million Dollar Hold’em’ – which focused on the then popular fixed limit version of Texas Hold’em.
Bonomo might not be as well-known outside of poker than many other names on this page – though he fully deserves his spot in the top 10 list. After winning the 2018 Aria Super High Roller tournament, Justin Bonomo became the all-time money winner from poker tournaments. With more than $42 million in cashes to his name. He overtook Daniel Negreanu, who has been grinding out live tournaments for a lot longer than Bonomo – who was born in 1985,
This player was known as ‘ZeeJustin’ online for many years. He was involved in controversies, including multi-accounting at Party Poker. With 3 WSOP bracelets and countless high-roller cashes already under his belt, Bonomo is one to watch.