Poker has been around since the 1800s when the game first gained traction among gamblers who enjoyed the services of Mississippi river boats and New Orleans saloons. From a 20-card deck to the 52-card pack we're all familiar with, the king of card games had come a long way before it earned the status it holds.
1969 was a decisive year in the history of poker. It was when the first edition of the World Series of Poker, the be-all and end-all event in the poker world, took place. WSOP has quickly garnered immense popularity, and as the prize pot grew, the winners also took home bigger chunks; it's also where four of the top five biggest poker wins occurred.
Fast forward 50-odd years, and we now regularly witness players taking home millions of dollars. To give you a taste of the size of poker tournaments, we compiled a list of the biggest poker wins in history.
Now let's dive into those million-dollar-filled pools, shall we?
A List of the Top 5 Biggest Poker Prize Money Wins
As the title suggested, today we're presenting some of the biggest poker wins, the top five, to be precise. We'll start off with the "smallest" and work our way to the win that still holds the record as the biggest single win in poker.
#5 Sam Trickett - $10,112,001
We kick off the top 5 biggest poker wins with Sam Trickett. The English professional poker player started his career in 2005 when a knee injury stopped his professional football career in tracks. Trickett had a knack for the game, and it took him only seven years before he notched up what would later become his most tremendous success.
On 3 July 2012, Trickett's performance in the WSOP's biggest event, Big One for One Drop, saw him rake in $10,112,001 after he finished second, losing the game heads-up to Antonio Esfandiari (more about that guy a bit later).
He instantly became a star back home in the UK and the country's most successful poker player in history. To date, Trickett has earned over $21 million from live games, putting him in the 32nd place on Hendon Mob's all-time money list.
#4 Jamie Gold - $12,000,000
TV producer and talent agent Jamie Gold seems to play poker primarily for fun. And while enjoying himself, he also manages to take several million dollars just for the kicks.
Gold's most memorable performance was in 2006, when he won the WSOP's Main Event, defeating Paul Wasicka heads-up and earning $12,000,000. It's no wonder he went home with this hefty sum: according to WSOP, Gold had more poker tournament final table finishes than all opponents he faced during final rounds combined. Seems that practice does make perfect, especially when it comes to winning big in poker.
Gold is currently the president of production at an entertainment company but still regularly enjoys poker competitions, primarily participating in major tournaments.
#3 Elton Tsang - $12,248,912
Chinese Canadian poker player, Elton Tsang Ka-wai, is widely regarded as one of the best Asian players and has achieved iconic status in international poker thanks, among other things, to his $12,248,912 win in 2016.
14 October 2016 was a lucky day for Tsang as he came out as the winner in the No Limit Hold 'em Monte-Carlo One Drop Extravaganza, an exclusive event involving another 25 players. The Hong Kong resident's $12+ million win remains the third-largest payout in poker history.
#2 Daniel Colman - $15,306,668
Daniel "Dan" Alan Colman is a professional poker player from Holden (not Hold'em!), Massachusetts. He is another disciple of the WSOP, the event that brought him his most significant achievement to date and earned him a spot among the biggest poker wins.
Known as "mrGR33N13" and "riyyc225" on the web, Colman is primarily oriented towards online poker, but that hasn't stopped him from swooping $15,306,668 in the 2014 WSOP.
At the time when he defeated the poker legend Daniel Negreanu heads-up during the WSOP's Big One for One Drop in 2014, Colman was only 24 years old. To date, Colman has pocketed $28,925,058 in live earnings.
#1 Antonio Esfandiari - $18,346,67
Reigning supreme on the biggest poker wins list is Antonio Esfandiari, an Iranian-born poker player and a proud holder of three WSOP bracelets, with the second bracelet accumulating $18,346,67 to his account.
To get to the throne and the money, Esfandiari had to beat another 47 players in the 2012 Big One for One Drop No-Limit Hold 'em event, earning $18,346,673. Although the whopping figure remains the biggest cash prize in poker history, Esfandiari continued to notch up successes: the same year, he won his third bracelet at the 2012 World Series of Poker Europe.
How Can I Learn Poker and Enter a Tournament?
They say that money won is twice as sweet as money earned, but the road to winning big bucks in poker is bumpy. Building poker skills takes years, and even if you invest significant effort in it, it is no guarantee that you will start earning more than you put in.
But we can help you by pointing you in the right direction: as a novice poker player, we suggest you pay a visit to our how to play poker piece, where we detail every step of the game, so you can learn the basics and pick up some lingo.
Practice makes perfect, so play as many hands as you can and hone your skill; maybe one of these days, yours will earn a spot among the biggest poker wins!