Poker Coverage: Poker Legislation Poker Tournaments U.S. Poker Markets

Walking Away With Millions: The Poker Players Who Made It

Here's A Look At Some Of The Game's Best Players

Print-icon
 

Part of the mythology and fascination with poker is the ability to win life-changing amounts of money. It is one of the reasons the game has endured so well from its humble beginnings in New Orleans 200 years ago. Today, with global tournaments attracting thousands and online gaming opportunities played by millions, the variations, the players and the prize pots have become bigger than ever.

Yet at its heart, the fundamental attraction of the game remains unchanged. When Brady Holiman won the World Poker Tour Main Event, it was the kind of Cinderella story that cannot help but capture the imagination. Here was a 37 year old car dealer from Texas who strolled into one of the biggest poker games on the planet and defeated 754 other players to walk away with almost half a million dollars.

If that’s not enough to inspire you to get along to a tournament and try your luck, or perhaps opt for the online play while still challenging your opponents with real money to register with a real money casino to play poker online, let’s take a look at some of the other big winners who have turned their dreams into a reality at the turn of a friendly card.

Jamie Gold

He’s one of the most famous names in poker, and it is safe to say his 2006 win in the WSOP wrought some of the most fundamental changes in the way the game is perceived. $12 million in a single game was in a different world to anything anyone had ever seen, and the result hit the global headlines. While he remains a keen poker player, he has only had one other tournament win, and the next biggest pay-day he has enjoyed was $140,000 for finishing runner up in the Los Angeles WSOP Main Event in 2016.

Justin Bonomo

When Gold did what he did in 2006, there was widespread speculation that the top money lists would begin to be populated by “one win wonders” – a little like those Lotto winners, who see one big payday and are never heard of again. Justin Bonomo, better known in online circles as ZeeJustin, has proved that is not necessarily the case.

He burst onto the scene as a 19 year old in 2005, finishing fourth in the EPT in its inaugural year and becoming the youngest player to feature at a televised finals table. Since then, he has consistently placed, enjoying more than 60 money finishes in all tournaments, but just three WSOP bracelets and no WPT or EPT wins. Despite joking that his is the perennial bridesmaid, that has earned him an incredible $43 million and counting.

Daniel Negreanu

Canadian Negreanu is the man ZeeJustin displaced last year at the top of the earnings list. Over the past ten years, he has dominated the game, and he was named the poker player of the decade in 2014. He’s one of the most familiar names in the online poker world, and has a strong following via his blog and social media presence and his career earnings currently stand at $39.5 million. Despite marginally lower earnings, he has more wins than ZeeJustin – six WSOP bracelets to date, plus two WPT titles.

Vanessa Selbst

The great thing about poker is that it is a game in which it doesn’t matter whether you are male or female, fit or unfit, young or old, rich or poor. The cards are the ultimate leveler, and it is purely a hangover from cultural norms of the past that the game is dominated by male players. That is rapidly changing – over recent months Muskan Sethi has become something of a media sensation as the first female poker pro from India, but there is one woman who has truly trailed a blaze for all the rest, and that is Vanessa Selbst.

Selbst holds every record going, being the first and only woman to ever hold the number one spot in the poker rankings, and to win three bracelets in open field WSOP events. Unsurprisingly, she is also comfortably the highest earning female poker player. Her career earnings stand at over $11 million, helped in no small part by the $1.4 million she scooped in the PCA High Roller event in 2013.

Antonio Esfandiari

Finally, it is impossible to discuss big winners without giving an honorable mention to The Magician. Born in Tehran, Esfandiari was known as much for his elaborate sleight of hand tricks as for his poker skills. However, there was no magic involved in his Big One for One Drop win in 2012. The $18,346,673 was, and remains, the largest single win in tournament poker.

While more than a “one win wonder,” The Magician has not had the consistency of others on the all-time list and is still seen as something of a side-show thanks to his antics away from the table. Still, with that $18 million in the bank, there is a strong argument that he only needs to play for fun and entertainment anyway.

 
 
 
 

Comments

NJCRUSHER
3 months ago

THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT MENTION THE GROSS LOSSES THAT CANCEL OUT THE GROSS WINNINGS. EVENTUALLY EACH AND EVERY SO-CALLED MILLION DOLLAR WINNING POKER PLAYER WILL GO BROKE IF HE/SHE DOES NOT GET OUT OF POKER WHILE THEY ARE STILL POSITIVE. THE OVERWHELMING NEGATIVE LOSING STREAK IS INEVITABLE.

 
Reply
 

brum747
3 months ago

And they didn't mention the fact that some these players had sold pieces of their bigger wins so much of the bigger scores didn't go to their pockets. Like Jamie Gold had to split his 12mill down the middle because him and his friend both went half on the entry.

 
Reply