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The Greatest 50 Poker Players Of The Last 50 Years

As Voted On By The Card Player Staff

by Julio Rodriguez |  Published: Apr 20, 2022


The following article is featured in the 4/20/22 edition of Card Player Magazine. Click here to read the issue in its entirety. Note: Stats listed below are as of 3/28/22.

The National Basketball Association celebrated their 75th anniversary last October with the announcement of the 75 Top Players of All-Time.

While obvious choices such as Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James had everyone in agreement, there were others on the list that sparked debate. (Most notably, choosing the younger Anthony Davis over the veteran Dwight Howard.)

Of course, we love a good debate here at Card Player, especially if the topic is poker. So why not take a crack at naming the 50 greatest poker players of the last 50 years?

After all, we are ‘The Poker Authority,’ and our staff of writers include some of the most experienced journalists and players in the game. And it should be easy enough to settle in an afternoon, right?

When I told the columnists and staff about this project back in January, I naively assumed that it would be easy, and that there would be some sort of consensus in the group.

As their selections started rolling in, however, I realized just how difficult it would be. As it turns out, comparing players across different time periods and different disciplines is hard, and largely subjective. At least in the NBA, they are all playing the same game, but in poker, you have to consider tournaments vs. cash, live vs. online, and even hold’em vs. mixed games.

It wasn’t as simple as picking our favorite 50 of the 60 members of the Poker Hall of Fame. Nor could we just check the all-time money lists, both for live and online tournaments. Even nabbing a good number of WSOP bracelets didn’t guarantee a spot. Some of the biggest winners ever were even left off. There just isn’t enough room for everyone, and some harsh cuts had to be made.

The Methodology

Why 50?

While Card Player Magazine has been around 35 years, the modern game of poker, as popularized by the WSOP in the early 70s, has been around the last 50 years. (More or less. Also, 50 is a nice, round number.)

This, of course, eliminated some of the true pioneers of the game from contention, such as English rules master Edmond Hoyle and old west gunslinger “Wild Bill” Hickok. My apologies also go to columnist Kevin Haney’s pick of George Devol, a riverboat gambler who won an astonishing seven-figures playing cards before the turn of the 19th century.

Even though 99 percent of all poker hands in history have been played in the last 20 years, there are three main eras of modern poker.

There are the old-school players, who competed in back rooms and helped to popularize the game in the ‘70s and early ‘80s. Then there’s the pre-boom players who came after, somehow discovering the game without the help of Chris Moneymaker and the hole-card camera. And then we have the post-boom generation, which was able to cram a lifetime of experience into their heads with the easy accessibility of online poker.

When evaluating these players, voters were asked to keep these eras in mind. The Wright Brothers’ original Flyer would get smoked by a Lockheed Martin F-16V in a head-to-head race, but nobody could touch the Wright Flyer in 1903, nor would the F-16 ever have been developed without it.

There is little doubt that a top player today would clean up against the best players 50, 25, or even 10 years ago. But that doesn’t take away from the dominance those players displayed in their day.

The Poker HOF may have an age requirement of 40, but there was no such restriction put on the voters for this list. That being said, longevity was factored in, with those “standing the test of time” having an edge over those who may have won big in a short period.

We had to resist the temptation to have a recency bias and pick those players who happen to be in the midst of a hot streak, although we’re sure that a few of these pros will make us look foolish in the coming years for leaving them off the list. (But then again, there have been several examples of players who could not sustain their initial success, or just decided to sail off into the sunset with their winnings.)

There’s also something to be said for visibility. While tournaments are tracked, cash game results are generally not. Live players are also easier to recognize than their often-anonymous online counterparts.

Finally, players were chosen on the basis of their skills and accomplishments, and not on their contributions to the game off the felt. While growing poker’s popularity is admirable and worthy of the HOF, it alone won’t get you on this list, which is strictly reserved for the crushers. This is the greatest 50 poker players, not the greatest 50 poker ambassadors.

The Demographics

There were 107 players nominated in total. After tallying the votes, 22 players made everyone’s list. There were also another 11 players that got picked on all but one ballot, and another four with a significant number of votes.

That left 70 (mostly-deserving) players for the remaining 13 spots. A daunting challenge.

Everyone had their favorite, or even those they felt strongly should not get in, but ultimately the field was whittled down to the chosen ones… Card Player’s official Greatest 50 Poker Players of the Last 50 Years! (At least for now… ask us again in 10 years.)

With most of the action happening in the States for much of poker’s modern history, it’s no surprise that the list is dominated by Americans. There are 16 foreign-born players, however, representing Spain, Iran, Canada, Germany, Indonesia, China, Australia, Belarus, Finland, Vietnam, Russia, and the U.K.

The vast majority of players are aged between 30 and 50, but four of the players selected are still in their 20s, while eight players are 60 years or older, and three are no longer living.

Of the players currently in the top 50 of the all-time tournament earnings list, 23 made the cut. Of the 60 members of the Poker Hall of Fame, 18 were chosen, (although we suspect over a dozen more will get in once they’re eligible.)

Here we go!

Timothy Adams

You could make a similar argument for fellow Canadian high rollers Mike Watson, Mike McDonald, Daniel Dvoress, or Sam Greenwood, but we’ll give the first spot on this list to Tim Adams. The 35-year-old has been playing the game for half of his life, winning millions online under the name ‘Tim0thee’ while also stealthily racking up another $26.3 million in live tournament earnings. Adams has a WSOP bracelet, a Triton title, and is also a two-time Super High Roller Bowl champion. He is currently second on Canada’s all-time money list and 19th overall.

Michael Addamo

‘Wait, didn’t you just talk about not having a recency bias?’ That’s true, but even though Australian Michael Addamo was the tournament superstar of 2021, winning almost every high roller event on the calendar, he was also dominating online since first turning pro back in 2012. The 28-year-old former chess prodigy already has four WSOP bracelets, a Super High Roller Bowl title, and is the reigning Poker Masters champion. Addamo has $17.7 million in live earnings recorded. That’s good for first place on Australia’s all-time money list and 26th overall.

Patrik Antonius

As a former model and tennis standout, it’s surprising that Patrik Antonius ended up in poker, especially from his native Finland which had not produced too many players. But he was a winner right away and was one of online poker’s first high-stakes stars, even back in 1999. He won EPT Baden in 2005, and then started taking on all comers, both online and live. Antonius is the second biggest online cash game winner ever, and broke several records for largest pot size during the height of the poker boom. Despite focusing on cash, the 41-year-old has still managed to win $12 million in tournaments, which is first place for Finland.

Mikita Badziakouski

While some of our columnists wanted recent high roller breakout star Ali Imsirovic, others felt that at 27 he was just a little too green for the list. Instead, the nod went to Belarusian tournament star Mikita Badziakouski. The 30-year-old came out of nowhere in 2015 and hasn’t stopped winning, bringing his live tournament earnings to $33.5 million. That’s more than 10 times his closest competition in Belarus, and no. 11 overall. Badziakouski has a WSOP bracelet, and the short deck poker standout also plays in some of the biggest cash games spread online.

Billy Baxter

Originally a pool hall gambler and sports bettor, Billy Baxter found poker at 18 and never looked back. Now 82, the Georgia native has put together a résumé that includes seven WSOP bracelets. Baxter is considered one of the best lowball players ever and in fact, all of his bracelets have come in some variant of the game. Only Phil Ivey has won more non-hold’em events. The man who once staked Stu Ungar is also responsible for lower taxes for tournament poker players, having sued the U.S. government back in 1986.

Justin Bonomo

Justin Bonomo broke out on the scene at 19, making the televised final table of EPT Deauville. The former Magic: The Gathering standout shook off an online poker scandal, and then established himself on the live circuit. The Virginia native has performed incredibly well in big buy-in events, winning three Super High Roller Bowls and dozens of high rollers, as well as four WSOP bracelets. Most notably, he pocketed $10 million in the 2018 Big One For One Drop event. Although the race is still on, the 36-year-old currently leads the way on the all-time money list with more than $59 million.

Doyle Brunson

When Doyle Brunson first started playing poker alongside fellow legends ‘Amarillo’ Slim and ‘Sailor’ Roberts, he didn’t have the luxury of plushy casino games. That came later after years of paying his dues on the backroads of Texas. The former NBA prospect and school principal is tied for second all-time with 10 WSOP bracelets, including both the 1976 and 1977 main event. Almost 30 years later, he would add a WPT title, all the while playing in some of the biggest cash games ever spread. Although he is mostly retired these days, at 88 he is the oldest living player on this list.

Daniel Cates

The most eccentric member of our 50 is Dan ‘Jungleman’ Cates. The Maryland native played video games as a kid before switching to online poker at 17. He steadily rose the ranks, forcing himself to beat the top players at each level before jumping up in stakes. He was only 20 when he started playing the biggest games online, and has remained there ever since, making him the third biggest online cash winner ever. Last year, sporting blue hair and a Dragon Ball Z costume, Cates took down the Poker Players Championship for his first WSOP bracelet. The 32-year-old now has $10 million in live earnings.

Johnny Chan

Poker legend Johnny Chan was 11 when he came to the United States from Hong Kong, and started playing cards with the staff at his family’s restaurant. He dropped out of college in Houston and moved to Las Vegas to turn pro, earning his first bracelet in 1985. Chan won back-to-back WSOP main events in 1987 and 1988, the second of which was immortalized in the 1998 movie Rounders. He would have won it a third time the next year, if it weren’t for a young Phil Hellmuth. The 65-year-old is tied for second with 10 total bracelets.

Stephen Chidwick

The late Dave ‘Devilfish’ Ulliott was among the first English players to find success in the States, but nobody else from the U.K. has won more than 32-year-old Stephen Chidwick. The WSOP bracelet winner and U.S. Poker Open champion started his career online as ‘stevie444,’ but has since become the most successful European high roller with a massive $38.5 million in earnings. That’s good enough for no. 6 overall, and is nearly double that of his next closest competitor on the U.K. list in Sam Trickett with $21.7 million.

T.J. Cloutier

T.J. Cloutier was born in California and got to play in the Rose Bowl for UC Berkeley before competing in the Canadian Football League. He then moved to Texas to work on oil rigs. The poker game he was playing on the side proved to be more lucrative, so he made the switch. In his four decades of play, Cloutier was a constant on the tournament trail, racking up more than 400 cashes. Our shoutouts go to Men Nguyen and ‘Miami’ John Cernuto, two other ironmen of the live circuit, but the 82-year-old Cloutier edges them out with his six WSOP bracelets and four main event final table appearances.

Shaun Deeb

Thankfully this wasn’t a popularity contest. Always willing to speak his mind and call out the poker community, the 36-year-old Shaun Deeb has stirred up some drama with others over the years. But there’s no question of the New York native’s skill. He was just 16 when he started and was at one point the no. 1 ranked online player in the world. He’s since become an accomplished mixed-games player, and is a perennial threat for WSOP POY honors. He has five bracelets in total, including twice winning the prestigious $25,000 pot-limit Omaha championship.

Antonio Esfandiari

Antonio Esfandiari was nine years old when his family moved from Iran to California. Originally a working magician, he switched to poker and found fame on the World Poker Tour in 2004, taking down the L.A. Poker Classic. He added a second WPT title at the 2010 Five Diamond World Poker Classic and also has three WSOP bracelets. Most notably, he won the original $1 million buy-in Big One For One Drop event, banking $18.3 million. With $27.2 million in live tournaments earnings, the 43-year-old was once the money list leader, but has since fallen to 18th.

Chris Ferguson

Although no longer the crowd-pleasing, fruit-piercing card thrower he once was, it’s hard to deny the accomplishments of 2000 WSOP main event winner Chris Ferguson. There have been some top-notch main event winners since, such as Joe Cada, Martin Jacobson, Ryan Riess, Joe McKeehen, and Koray Aldemir, but the California-raised Ferguson was among the first to apply a game theory approach to poker. As a result, the 58-year-old has six WSOP bracelets, including titles in stud and Omaha eight-or-better. In 2017, he won the WSOP Player of the Year award.

Ted Forrest

Perhaps this spot would be better reserved for David Oppenheim, one of the biggest live high-stakes cash winners ever, or the late Layne Flack, who won six WSOP bracelets. But how about a guy who did both? Ted Forrest not only has six WSOP wins of his own, but he also added a WPT title, and the National Heads Up Poker Championship to his list of accomplishments. The New York native, who was nicknamed ‘The Suicide King’ for his penchant for playing anyone for all the money he had, was also part of the crew that played billionaire banker Andy Beal for millions.

Phil Galfond

Although he is now a poker businessman with his online poker site, Phil Galfond has been dominant as a player throughout his career. The Maryland native turned pro while attending the University of Wisconsin, and won the first of his three WSOP bracelets in 2008. In the years since he has maintained his status as a top-notch cash game player in all games, especially pot-limit Omaha. The 37-year-old issued a challenge to the world in 2019, offering to play anyone heads-up in PLO, and has since won every match against the likes of Brandon Adams, Chance Kornuth, and online crusher ‘VeniVidi.’

Barry Greenstein

Imagine winning so much money in cash games that you just donate all your tournament earnings to charity. That’s exactly what Barry Greenstein did for years, earning the nickname, ‘The Robin Hood of Poker.’ Originally a computer scientist from Chicago, Greenstein left his company for poker and was quickly beating the highest stakes. In fact, he won a reported $5 million alone during the 2003 WSOP that sparked the poker boom. The 67-year-old has more than $8.5 million in live tournament earnings, which includes two WPT titles and three WSOP bracelets.

Jennifer Harman

Pioneers like Linda Johnson, Barbara Enright, Susie Issacs, and Cyndy Violette opened the door, but Jennifer Harman kicked it down. The Reno, Nevada native learned the game around the family dinner table but spent much of her career at the table in Bobby’s Room at Bellagio, playing the biggest cash games around. Harman was one of the most important and successful players for ‘The Corporation,’ which was a group of high-stakes pros that pooled their money to take on Andy Beal. The 57-year-old also has two WSOP bracelets, both in open events.

Brian Hastings

Brian Hastings is only 33 years old, but he has been playing poker at the highest stakes for half of his life and already has one of the best résumés in the game. By the end of his senior year of high school, the Pennsylvania native already had a bankroll of more than a quarter of a million dollars. He was playing the highest stakes online before he was even 21, while simultaneously earning his degree from Cornell University. He famously beat Viktor ‘Isilur1’ Blom for $4.18 million in one PLO session and has proven to be an excellent mixed games player, earning four of his five WSOP bracelets in non-hold’em games.

Isaac Haxton

High-stakes cash games? Check. High-stakes tournaments? Check. The respect of all his peers? Check. Isaac Haxton checks all the boxes, except for WSOP bracelets. The New York raised, Brown University educated poker pro has been one of the most consistent winners in big online cash games, and also one of the most feared players on the high roller circuit. With $29.6 million in earnings, he is no. 14 on the all-time money list. The 36-year-old’s biggest score came when he topped the 2018 Super High Roller Bowl for $3.6 million.

Phil Hellmuth

What is there left to say about Phil Hellmuth that he hasn’t told us himself over and over again. The Poker Brat is simply the greatest player in WSOP history. Not only does he have the record for the most bracelets, but the 57-year-old has 16! That’s six more than his nearest competitors. Hellmuth was the youngest main event winner in history, then 24, when he won it all in 1989 and he’s still going strong today, putting together one of his best series performances in 2021. The Wisconsin native also won the WSOP Europe main event back in 2012. With $24.6 million, he’s 23rd on the all-time money list.

John Hennigan

There are a number of high-stakes cash game players who have also found success at the WSOP, including three-time winner Lyle Berman, four-time winners John Monnette and Eli Elezra, or five-time winner Daniel Alaei, but we’re going to go with six-time winner John Hennigan. In addition to beating the big games, the man known as “Johnny World” also won the $50,000 Poker Players Championship, the U.S. Poker Championship, and the WPT Borgata Winter Open. The 51-year-old former professional billiards player from Philadelphia has more than $8.5 million in career tournament earnings.

Fedor Holz

The Germans have put together quite an impressive group of high roller crushers such as Christoph Vogelsang, Rainer Kempe, Dominik Nitsche, Ole Schemion, and Steffen Sontheimer, but none of them can touch Fedor Holz. Although most of his success did come within a three-year window, he did rack up $34.4 million in live tournament earnings, which is good for ninth all time. Oh yeah, Holz just so happens to be one of the greatest online tournament players ever, too. He has won nearly $11 million online, which is no. 32 on the PocketFives rankings. Did we mention he’s only 28?

Phil Ivey

There isn’t a game or format where Phil Ivey would be a welcome opponent. Perhaps the most feared player ever, Ivey has been terrorizing players since he was a teen, using a fake ID to play in Atlantic City. He won his first WSOP bracelet against ‘Amarillo’ Slim in 2000, and then won three more in 2002. He now has 10, which is tied for second most all-time. With $31.7 million, he is ranked no. 12 in tournaments. The 45-year-old is considered online poker’s biggest cash game winner ever among tracked games, and he has reportedly done even more damage in both public and private games from Las Vegas to Macau.

John Juanda

Born in Indonesia, John Juanda came to the States as a track star before earning an MBA from Seattle University. He quickly took to poker, finding a knack for tournaments. He has five WSOP bracelets across a variety of games including triple draw, 2-7 lowball, pot-limit Omaha, and stud eight-or-better. He also won the WSOP Europe main event in 2011. The 50-year-old has an EPT title, and did quite well in various high roller events, most notably the Triton Super High Roller Macau in 2017 for $2.9 million. He has racked up $24.8 million overall, which is no. 21 overall.

Sami Kelopuro

There have been several European high-stakes phenoms over the years including Jens ‘Jeans89’ Kyllonen, Niklas ‘ragen70’ Heinecker, Ilari ‘Ziigmund’ Sahamies, Matt ‘mustafabet’ Ashton, and Mikael ‘ChaoRen1’ Thuritz, but Sami ‘LarsLuzak’ Kelopuro wins the tiebreaker thanks to his surge in online tournaments as well. Not only does the Finnish pro compete for the highest stakes in online cash games, but the 35-year-old is also second on the PocketFives all-time money list with $22 million in online tournament earnings as well.

Bryn Kenney

Like Justin Bonomo, the man he is currently battling at the top of the all-time money list, Bryn Kenney also got his start in competitive Magic: The Gathering. The New Yorker spent years hunting the no. 1 spot on the tournament trail, determined to make it to the top. He then called his shot in one of the highest-stakes tournaments of all-time, pocketing $20.6 million in the Triton Super High Roller London event, giving him the temporary lead. The 35-year-old bracelet winner has since given back the lead to Bonomo, but remains close with $57.4 million in earnings.

Jason Koon

West Virginia’s Jason Koon was a track standout at Wesleyan College, where he also received his master’s degree. Poker was just the way he passed the time while healing from a running injury. He quickly found success online while also working his way to the live high roller circuit. The 36-year-old has since become one of the best short deck players in the world, both in tournaments and cash games. In 2021, he won his first WSOP bracelet. With $35.2 million in career live tournament earnings, he sits eighth on the all-time money list.

Timofey Kuznetsov

When it comes to high-stakes online cash games, you could make the argument for guys like Ben ‘Bttech86’ Tollerene, Jonas ‘OtB_RedBaron’ Mols, Linus ‘LLinusLLove’ Loeliger, Ben ‘Sauce123’ Sulsky, or Wiktor ‘limitless’ Malinowski, but we’ll give the nod to 31-year-old Russian pro Timofey ‘Trueteller’ Kuznetsov. The mathematical genius has been one of the biggest winners for the better part of the last decade. Although his identity was hidden to start, he eventually stepped out and has since done very well in Triton Super High Roller series, racking up nearly $9 million in live tournament cashes.

Adrian Mateos

Despite being one of the youngest players on this list at just 27 years old, Adrian Mateos is already one of the most accomplished tournament players ever. Originally from Madrid, Spain, Mateos started playing at just 16. He was only 19 when he won the €10,000 buy-in WSOP Europe main event, banking €1 million. He has since added dozens of high roller final tables and three more WSOP bracelets to his collection, including the 2021 $250,000 Super High Roller that paid out nearly $3.3 million. With $25.6 million in total live earnings, Mateos is first on Spain’s all-time money list and 20th overall.

Jason Mercier

Although his volume has dropped off considerably since starting his family, Jason Mercier spent the better part of a decade attacking the tournament trail. The Florida poker pro broke through at the 2008 EPT San Remo main event and the next year won his first WSOP bracelet. Although the 35-year-old also has several million won online, he has really excelled at the summer series, winning five bracelets overall. His 2016 campaign was particularly successful, earning him POY honors. With several high roller wins and $19.7 million in live earnings, Mercier is ranked 34th all time.

Michael Mizrachi

If money management were a factor, we’d probably have to disqualify several players on this list. But hyper-aggressive Michael Mizrachi makes it on sheer talent alone. The 41-year-old has won $17.1 million during his career, including two WPT titles and five WSOP bracelets. Most impressively, ‘The Grinder’ has won the $50,000 Poker Players Championship an insane three times, and even took fourth once. The Florida native’s biggest score came when he finished fifth in the WSOP main event for $2.3 million. His brother Robert is not too far off this list with four bracelets of his own.

Chris Moorman

Credit must be given to the likes of Niklas ‘lena900’ Astedt, Peter ‘Belabacsi’ Traply, Jon ‘apestyles’ Van Fleet, Ben ‘bencb789’ Rolle, and Joao ‘Naza114’ Vieira who have since passed him, but for the better part of a decade, nobody was better at online tournaments than the U.K.’s Chris Moorman. In fact, with nearly $20 million won on the virtual felt, he is still among the leaders on PocketFives’ all-time list. The 36-year-old has two WSOP bracelets, and to top it off, Moorman picked up a WPT title at the L.A. Poker Classic, bringing his live earnings total to $7 million.

Carlos Mortensen

There wasn’t any poker action in Spain for Carlos Mortensen in the late ‘90s, so he moved to the States. In 2001, the ‘Matador’ defeated a then record-field of 613 players to earn the $1.5 million payday and his first WSOP bracelet. He added a second bracelet in 2003 and then the WPT came into the picture. Mortensen captured three WPT titles, including the Hollywood Poker Open, Festa al Lago, and season-ending Five-Star World Poker Classic, the latter of which was worth nearly $4 million. The 49-year-old remains the tour’s all-time money leader.

Johnny Moss

Johnny Moss was already in his ‘60s when he kickstarted the WSOP with his match against Nick ‘The Greek’ Dandolos. In fact, if he were still alive today he’d be 115, so you’d be forgiven for thinking he predates this list. But the Texas-born Moss remained highly competitive in the game until he passed at age 88 in 1995. Not only did he win the 1970 (by vote), 1971, and 1974 main events, but he earned nine bracelets in total, the last of which came in 1988 when he was 81 years old. It’s no wonder he was nicknamed ‘The Grand Old Man of Poker.’

Daniel Negreanu

When all is said and done, it will be extremely difficult not to put Daniel Negreanu on poker’s proverbial Mount Rushmore. Originally a snooker player, he dropped out of high school to play cards, ultimately making it to Las Vegas from his home in Toronto. The 47-year-old has done it all in his career with two WPT titles, six WSOP bracelets, and numerous Player of the Year honors. Perhaps more impressively, ‘Kid Poker’ has completely reinvented his game in recent years and has transformed himself into a top performing high roller regular. With $45.2 million in career earnings, Negreanu is no. 3 all-time.

Scotty Nguyen

After escaping the war in Vietnam and surviving nearly a month stranded at sea, Scotty Nguyen found himself in the U.S. The natural hustler started as a poker dealer, before quickly making the switch to player. The ‘Prince of Poker’ has since put together an incredible career that includes the 1998 WSOP main event title, a WPT title, and four other WSOP bracelets. Most notably, he took down the 2008 $50,000 Poker Players Championship for nearly $2 million. The 59-year-old is Vietnam’s all-time money leader with $12.7 million in tournament earnings.

David Peters

If you’re looking for consistency on the high roller circuit, David Peters is the guy. The Ohio native has three WSOP bracelets, but those results don’t touch what he’s put together in the bigger buy-in events. Peters has been an annual threat for POY honors for nearly a decade, winning it all in 2016. He is also the back-to-back reigning U.S. Poker Open champion. Although he might not engage much at the table, he has 11 scores of seven figures and 37 titles overall for a total of $41.4 million. That puts the 34-year-old silent assassin fourth on the all-time money list.

Nick Petrangelo

There are so many American high rollers that could take this spot such as Jake Schindler, Sean Winter, Sam Soverel, or Alex Foxen, but right now it belongs to Nick Petrangelo. The Massachusetts-born poker pro has spent the last seven years making his living among the elite and along the way has cashed for $24.3 million. That puts the 35-year-old at no. 24 all-time. Petrangelo has won two WSOP bracelets and during the pandemic found the time to win an online WPT championship, as well as compete in some of the biggest cash games ever spread.

Doug Polk

When we started this project, we had no idea that Doug Polk would embark on a similar journey with his podcast. Although we think that Doug’s personal list is far too biased towards recent online hold’em cash players, that doesn’t disqualify his play from putting him on ours. The 33-year-old from California is regarded as one of the best heads-up no-limit hold’em players ever, and last year wrapped up a highly publicized match against Daniel Negreanu, winning $1.2 million. He has also done quite well in live tournaments, banking $9.4 million while winning three WSOP bracelets.

Brian Rast

Colorado native Brian Rast was his high school valedictorian, earning his way to Stanford University. It was there that he found a poker club and got hooked. At the 2011 WSOP, he won two bracelets, including the elite $50,000 Poker Players Championship. The high-stakes cash game player would repeat at the PPC in 2016, before adding his fourth and fifth bracelets in 2018 and 2021. The 40-year-old’s largest score came when he won the inaugural Super High Roller Bowl in 2015 for $7.5 million, back when it sported a $500,000 buy-in. With $21.9 million in tournament earnings, he’s 27th all-time.

David ‘Chip’ Reese

David ‘Chip’ Reese was just six when his mother taught him poker, and by the next year he was already beating the fifth graders out of their lunch money. He graduated from Dartmouth University, and was about to attend Stanford Law School before getting sidetracked by a big win in Las Vegas. Over the next 30 years, Reese established himself as one of the greatest and most-respected high-stakes cash game players, and won three WSOP bracelets, including the inaugural $50,000 Poker Players Championship. He was taken too soon, back in 2007 at the age of 56.

Nick Schulman

New York’s Nick Schulman started as a teenage pool hustler before making the switch to poker, learning online. He was 21 when he won the WPT World Poker Finals in 2005 for $2.1 million, and it wasn’t long before he became a regular competitor in Bobby’s Room at Bellagio in some of the biggest cash games around. The 37-year-old has several high roller wins to go along with three WSOP bracelets. His first two came in 2-7 lowball, a game he also has a second-, third-, fourth-, and fifth-place finish in. The popular poker commentator has more than $14 million in career tournament earnings.

Huck Seed

If it weren’t for 1995 WSOP main event champ Dan Harrington’s ‘part-time’ status, he might have made this list. Instead, the spot goes to 1996 winner Huck Seed. The California-born, Montana-raised Seed caught the poker bug while in college playing for the California Institute of Technology’s basketball team. It wasn’t long before he was a regular in the big game in Bobby’s Room (and in big prop bets). In addition to his main event title, the 53-year-old also has three other WSOP bracelets and was the National Heads-Up Poker Championship winner.

Erik Seidel

No other old school player has earned more respect from the younger high roller community than Erik Seidel, who continues to prove he is one of the greatest of all time year in and year out, even now at age 62. Seidel was a backgammon player and stock trader before finding poker at the Mayfair Club in New York City. Although his heads-up loss to Johnny Chan is forever associated with Rounders, he does have nine WSOP bracelets of his own along with a WPT title. With $40.2 million in career tournament earnings, he sits in fifth place overall on the money list.

Scott Seiver

Scott Seiver is one of the more versatile players on this list, having excelled in all forms of the game, both live and online. The New York-raised pro who attended Brown University has been a regular in big cash games for 15 years, climbing to the highest levels online while also taking on the greats in Bobby’s Room. He has three WSOP bracelets and also won the WPT Championship in 2011 for $1.6 million. His biggest score, however, remains the $5.2 million he banked for his runner-up finish to Brian Rast in the Super High Roller Bowl. He has $24.5 million earned in total, good for no. 22 all-time.

Vanessa Selbst

Kristen Bicknell and Maria Ho are rapidly climbing the ranks, and Kathy Liebert and J.J. Liu continue to compete, but they are all still a whopping $6 to $7 million behind Vanessa Selbst, who is the women’s money leader with $12 million in earnings. Although the New York native and Yale graduate is now mostly retired at 37, she was one of the most feared players for quite some time. Not only did Selbst earn three WSOP bracelets, all in open events, but she also did well on the high roller circuit. She is the only woman in the top 100 on the all-time money list, coming in at 74th.

Dan Smith

Although he is one of just two players on this list without a WSOP bracelet, Dan Smith has accomplished pretty much everything else when it comes to tournaments. The New Jersey native and chess prodigy was destined to be a gambler, betting the horses with his father at age seven. Smith has $38.3 million in total live earnings, which is good for seventh place overall. He has nine seven-figure scores under his belt, including the $8.8 million career best he pocketed at the 2019 Triton Super High Roller London series. If that wasn’t enough to get him on the list, he also beats high-stakes cash games, too.

Stu Ungar

It’s hard to picture how Stu Ungar’s career would have unfolded had he not passed away in 1998. The New York poker pro was considered to be one of the more naturally gifted players of his time, and possibly the greatest gin rummy player ever. Nobody questioned Ungar’s skill in tournaments, having been the only person to win the WSOP main event three times, not counting Johnny Moss, who was voted the winner of one of his three titles. Ungar had five bracelets overall, and also won the Super Bowl of Poker three times as well.

Anthony Zinno

With all due respect to the World Poker Tour’s four-time champion and all-around end boss, Darren Elias, Anthony Zinno is no slouch himself with three WPT titles of his own. The lawyer-turned-poker pro from Rhode Island also has four WSOP bracelets, including the $25,000 pot-limit Omaha championship for $1.1 million. In fact, the 41-year-old has proven to be very well rounded in recent years, as all four of his WSOP titles have come in events other than hold’em, including PLO eight-or-better, stud, and H.O.R.S.E. Zinno now sits with $10.8 million in live tournament earnings. ♠