World’s Best Poker Players
Poker is definitely one of the most interesting, fun, and much-loved card games globally. Those who enjoy high-stakes cash games in poker find inspiration in well-known poker players who have achieved great success and have a high net worth. Identifying the world’s best poker players of all time can be a bit challenging because there are so many successful players with impressive live tournament winnings, significant titles, long careers, and more.
You can make a lot of real money by playing poker. Some of the best players in the game have worked their way up and earned millions in both real-life and online poker tournaments.
So, for all the poker enthusiasts seeking inspiration from the greatest poker players in history, here’s a list of these exceptional players, both in the male and female categories.
Who Are the World’s Best Professional Poker Players?
The world of professional poker is filled with incredibly talented players. While it’s challenging to definitively determine the best, here are a few renowned professionals both male and female who have made a significant impact in the poker world.
World’s Best Poker Players (Male)
Daniel Negreanu A.K.A. Kid Poker
If we gave a prize to the most popular poker player, it would be Daniel Negreanu. He’s from Canada, and he learned to play poker in Toronto before moving to Las Vegas. The year everything changed for him was 1997 when he played in the World Poker Finals and won at two events. He was called the best player in the tournament for his great playing.
Since then, Negreanu has become one of the most famous poker players. People really like him because he’s been on TV shows about poker a lot, and he’s very connected with PokerStars, which is the world’s biggest poker website. He’s also done very well in the game, winning six WSOP bracelets and making more than $51 million from poker tournaments he played in. His biggest win was when he got second place in the 2014 Big One for One Drop, which gave him a huge prize of $8,288,001.
Phil Hellmuth A.K.A. The Poker Brat
Phil Hellmuth is one of the most famous poker players globally, and he holds a remarkable record of 15 bracelets at the WSOP. He even won one for being the champion of the 1989 Main Event. In total, he’s managed to get a prize in 165 WSOP games and reached the final table 64 times. He’s earned around $29,000,000 from live tournaments, with his largest win happening when he secured 4th place in the 2012 Big One for One Drop, which brought him $2,645,333.
People often call him “The Poker Brat” because he’s known for showing his emotions quite openly. He tends to get vocal and express his frustration when he feels like luck isn’t on his side after losing a game. His outspoken and sometimes challenging personality has made him an interesting character on some of the most popular poker shows and contributed to his status as one of the most easily recognizable players in the game.
Stu Ungar A.K.A. The Comeback Kid
Stu Ungar is often considered the greatest Texas Hold’em player ever, and he’s also renowned as the world’s best gin rummy player. People called him “The Kid,” and he had a significant influence on the poker and card game scene during the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Sadly, he passed away at the age of 45 in 1998. Despite winning more than $30 million in his lifetime, he had no money when he died.
Ungar stands out as one of only two players to win the World Series of Poker Main Event three times. Additionally, he’s among the exclusive group of four people who won the Main Event in consecutive years, claiming the title in both 1980 and 1981. He had another victory in the event in 1997. The substantial time gap between his second and third wins led to his nickname, the “Comeback Kid.”
Justin Bonomo A.K.A. Zeejustin
Justin Bonomo is the top poker winner when it comes to tournament achievements. He’s got an impressive collection of WSOP bracelets, Triton titles, and EPT honors. In simple terms, if there’s a poker tournament title to be won, chances are Bonomo has already won it. It’s not just about titles; he’s also raked in a substantial amount of money. His most significant prize came in 2018 when he secured the Big One for One Drop victory, which brought him over £8 million.
If you add up all his wins and earnings, Bonomo has amassed over £49 million by 2023. What’s interesting is that he didn’t start his poker career in live tournaments. He actually made a name for himself online using the name ZeeJustin. Although he had a minor issue with multi-accounting in the past (which he apologized for), Bonomo was one of the leading online poker players for many years. He managed to win nearly every major MTT on platforms like PokerStars and Full Tilt.
Phil Ivey A.K.A. Tiger Woods of Poker
Phil Ivey, often called the Tiger Woods of Poker, has consistently been a very successful poker player in his career. Currently, Phil Ivey is well-known for participating in high-stakes poker games in Atlantic City. His net worth falls between $100 million and $125 million online. He’s famous for playing with the highest bet limits in cash games and has won more than $1,000,000 in six different games. He secured his first poker bracelet in 2000 and added three more to his collection in 2002. In the World Series of Poker Main Event in 2009, Phil Ivey achieved the seventh position, reaching the theoretical zone fifty times during the series.
Dan Smith A.K.A. King Dan/Cowboy Dan
Dan Smith, who is also known as Cowboy Dan, started his journey as a professional poker player at the age of 16 and quickly became one of the best in the world. He has achieved seven-figure earnings in nine live events over his career. One of his remarkable victories occurred in The Big One for One Drop, where he finished third and won $4,000,000 in the World Series of Poker (WSOP). Additionally, he secured a third-place finish in the Triton Million series at Triton Poker, winning a substantial sum of $8.76 million.
Stephen Chidwick’s journey took him from being a typical grinder to becoming one of the world’s best poker players, amassing more than $32,000,000 in winnings throughout his career. He began playing poker as a hobby at the age of 16 and is still considered to be in the early stages of his career. Stephen’s inaugural live tournament occurred at the European Poker Tour (EPT) in Prague. His remarkable achievements in various poker competitions have solidified his status as one of the foremost players globally. Chidwick has a preference for live events over online poker tournaments.
Bryn Kenney is a must-add to this list of the world’s best poker players, considering he holds the top position on the all-time money winners’ list. Over the course of his career, he has amassed an astounding $65,036,892 in winnings, with his most significant cash prize being the $20,563,324 he earned by finishing second at the Triton Million in 2019. What’s intriguing is that, despite his second-place finish, he pocketed more than the tournament’s champion, Aaron Zang, thanks to a prior agreement when Kenney had the chip lead.
Beyond his remarkable payday, Kenney has also claimed seven other prizes exceeding $1,000,000. Nonetheless, he has secured just one World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet, which came in the $1,500 10-Game Mix Six Handed tournament in 2014. In total, he has made it to seven WSOP final tables and cashed out 32 times.
Erik Seidel may not enjoy the same level of fame as some other top poker pros, but he’s a name that every poker enthusiast should definitely recognize. Throughout his career, he has gathered impressive live tournament earnings of over $43,500,000, establishing him as one of the highest-earning players in the history of the game. At one point, he even held the title of the highest-earning player of all time.
Seidel boasts an impressive collection of eight bracelets from the World Series of Poker, a feat that only five players have surpassed. His most recent bracelet victory dates back to 2007. In addition to his WSOP achievements, he secured a second-place finish in the Main Event in 1988, with Johnny Chan taking the top spot. Seidel’s accomplishments also extend to the World Poker Tour, where he clinched a title in 2008 by emerging as the champion at the Foxwoods Poker Classic.
World’s Best Poker Players (Female)
Annette Obrestadt A.K.A. The Huntress
Annette Obrestadt, who goes by the online poker name Annette_15, has a total value of $3.9 million. In 2007, she managed to grab the top prize at the World Series of Poker, making her the youngest player ever to win a special gold prize. After that big win, she gained a lot of attention and went on to secure victories in many more major tournaments. Annette Obrestadt is also famous for her success in online poker, including a remarkable victory in a game with 180 players, where she didn’t peek at her own hidden cards unless there was a bet where everything was on the line.
Vanessa, a native of New York, mostly stepped back from poker in 2019. She became associated with a hedge fund and moved away from the poker scene, only occasionally appearing in tournaments.
A former lawyer and Yale University graduate, Vanessa Selbst has won nearly $12 million in live tournaments, the highest ever for a woman (with Kristen Bicknell in second place at $5.18 million). Selbst is also the sole woman to secure three World Series of Poker bracelets in open events, winning them in 2008, 2012, and 2014. Her largest win was $1,823,430 in 2010 at the $8,500 buy-in Partouche Poker Tour Main Event.
Jennifer Harman has accumulated more than $2.7 million in live tournament winnings. However, her real passion has consistently been cash game poker. Hailing from Reno, Nevada, she was a regular in the renowned “Bobby’s Room” at Bellagio and participated in the highest-stakes games in Las Vegas for many years. Daniel Negreanu, a close friend of hers for years, has often praised her as the greatest female poker player of all time, although some might argue he’s a bit biased due to their long friendship.
Liv Boeree A.K.A. Iron Maiden
Liv Boeree explored various career paths, including modelling, music, and her physics degree. Her poker journey began in 2005 when she appeared on a poker reality show. In 2010, she made a name for herself by winning €1.25 million at the EPT Sanremo Main Event. Boeree spent about nine years with Team PokerStars and later shifted to hosting TV shows like “Weird Earth” on the BBC, still making time for major poker events when possible.
Annie Duke A.K.A. The Duchess of Poker
Annie Duke was arguably the leading female poker player during the poker boom era. However, her poker career took a hit after the Epic Poker League scandal in 2012, where she received a substantial payout while the league faced bankruptcy. This incident caused her to lose most of her poker fans.
Before the Epic Poker League controversy, Duke had earned over $4.2 million in live tournament winnings, setting a record for women at the time. She also claimed a WSOP bracelet in 2004 when she won the $2,000 Omaha Hi-Lo 8-or-Better event, taking home $136,860. Her most significant victory was in the 2004 WSOP Tournament of Champions, a non-bracelet, invite-only event, where she pocketed $2 million by defeating the renowned Phil Hellmuth in a heads-up battle for the title.
In 1995, Barbara Enright made history as the first woman to reach the final table of the World Series of Poker Main Event, finishing 5th and winning $114,180. She had previously won WSOP Ladies Event bracelets in 1986 and 1994. In 1996, she became the first woman to win an open WSOP event, earning $180,000 in the $2,500 Pot-Limit Omaha. Her achievements led to her induction into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2007. With over $1.75 million in live tournament earnings, she remains a prominent poker ambassador.