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12 Most Famous Poker Players

Most Famous Poker Players

When looking at poker through the ages, it becomes apparent there are multiple reasons why some poker pros stand out as the best poker players: it's either the money they've won, their striking personality, or their contribution to the popularity of the game.

Of course, the finest of them are lucky enough to possess all three of these features, inscribing their names forever on the golden plates of poker history.

Be that as it may, compiling a list of top poker players is far from easy; no matter how you approach this task, there will always be valid arguments why some players should or shouldn't be included.

This article, therefore, seeks to shine a light on the greatest poker players and their professional and personal lives, rather than drawing up a definitive list of the best poker players ever to walk the earth.

We don't want to keep you waiting any longer: we invite you to dive into the history of poker and learn more about the people who made it.

Best Poker Players by Earnings

Let's start this list off with three guys who have made a massive fortune from playing poker. Combined, these three highest-paid poker players have over $140 million in their bank accounts! Of course, they are also among the top poker players in history, so it comes as no surprise that they raked in so much money from poker.

Bryn Kenney

Career earnings: $56,403,500

Country of origin: USA

Years Active: 2007-Present

Date of birth: November 1, 1986

Poker Hall of Fame: No

Single biggest win: $20,563,324 at the 2019 Triton Poker Super High Roller Series

Before becoming one of the best poker players, Bryn Kenney grew up playing the once viral Magic: The Gathering. Excellent memory skills he displayed from an early age allowed Kenney to reap significant success in the game and helped him transition to the more lucrative game of poker.

It was in 2007 when Kenney embraced poker fully and played his first tournament. His first six-figure win came later, in 2010, during the 2010 WSOP Main Event, where he finished 28th for $255,242.

After that, Kenney notched up success after success: he won his first WSOP bracelet in 2014, and his first seven-figure score came shortly after, in 2016, when he won 1.7 million in PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. Kenney is still active in poker today, and he is still seen as one of the most formidable opponents in the game.

Top Bryn Kenney fact:

Apart from sitting atop the all-time money list (and having no intention to give up the spot!) and being one of the most famous poker players, what's interesting about Bryn Kenney's earnings is that nearly 40% of the money he earned as pro comes from a single tournament win. In 2019, Kenney won a staggering $20,563,324 playing at Triton Poker Super High Roller Series in London. Wow!

Justin Bonomo

Career earnings: $53,263,200

Country of origin: USA

Years Active: 2001-Present

Date of birth: September 30, 1985

Poker Hall of Fame: No

Single biggest win: $10 million at the 2018 WSOP

An outspoken practitioner of polyamory (if you're unfamiliar with the term, it means having several romantic relationships simultaneously) and a staunch supporter of weird medical procedures like cryonics, Justin Bonomo is another dominating force in modern poker.

Like his colleague Bryn Kenney, Bonomo also kicked off his playing career with Magic: The Gathering before switching to poker. Since then, he snatched as many as three WSOP bracelets, in addition to another 50 cash finishes in this tournament.

In total, Bonomo boasts 188 career cashes and 26 titles and has no intention of backing down any time soon!

Top Justin Bonomo fact:

In 2006, the 20-year-old Bonomo was suspended by PokerStars and PartyPoker over having multiple accounts. It remains unclear for how long Bonomo engaged in this practice, but what we do know is that the two poker rooms seized tens of thousands of dollars from young Bonomo. Yikes!

Daniel Negreanu

Career earnings: $43,298,506

Country of origin: Canada

Years Active: 1998-Present

Date of birth: July 26, 1974

Poker Hall of Fame: Yes, inducted 2014

Single biggest win: $8,288,001 at 2014 WSOP

Canadian-born poker pro of Romanian descent quit high school to pursue a career in poker and, at the age of 22, packed his things and left for Las Vegas. "Kid Poker," as Daniel Negreanu is known in the poker world, is perhaps the most famous player in the modern era, rising into mainstream notoriety during the poker boom of the mid-2000s.

Negreanu proudly owns six World Series of Poker bracelets and many other titles, including two World Poker Tour titles.

Famous for his unique ability to accurately read his opponents' cards, Kid Poker has become a fan favourite for his skills at the table and his sociable personality and was even hired by PokerStars to serve as the brand's ambassador from 2007 until 2019.

Top Daniel Negreanu fact:

Thanks to his gregarious personality and tremendous success in professional poker, Negreanu was named Player of the Year in 2004 and then again in 2013, becoming the only player to receive this prestigious accolade more than once!

Most Famous Female Poker Players

A list of best poker players wouldn't be complete without including some of the best female poker players. Whether from the perspective of money or skill, these ladies deserve their place among legendary poker players in a male-dominated game. We give you three women that left the biggest impression on the poker world in the modern era.

best female poker players

Annette Obrestad

Career earnings: $3,942,233

Country of origin: Norway

Years Active: 2003-2019

Date of birth: September 18, 1988

Poker Hall of Fame: No

Single biggest win: $2,013,733 at World Series of Poker Europe, 2007

The talented Norwegian started playing poker at the age of 15, honing her skills in online poker for years before transitioning to live competitions.

Annette Obrestad was a success from the get-go: she beat much more seasoned players in 2007 when she won her first and only World Series of Poker bracelet. Not only did she compete on par with some of the best poker players of the time, but she also clinched this victory as her fifth cash in ever in live poker! Now that's what we call a gift!

Although Obrestad hasn't replicated that success ever again, she went to cash in on multiple other occasions, becoming one of the best female poker players in history.

Obrestad's career did not last too long, however. Although she never retired from poker officially, she seemed to appear less often in tournaments. Finally, in 2019, she started her new career as a beautuber, offering advice on makeup on her YouTube channel.

Top Annette Obrestad fact:

Apart from being one of the best female poker players of all time, Annette Obrestad has a specific achievement to her name. She went down in the history books of poker as the youngest player to ever win the game's biggest tournament: Annette snatched her first and only bracelet in the World Series of Poker Europe in 2007, only a day before she turned 19! Way to go, Annette!

Vanessa Selbst

Career earnings: $11,898,565

Country of origin: USA

Years Active: 2003-2018

Date of birth: July 9, 1984

Poker Hall of Fame: No

Single biggest win: $1,823,430 at 2010 Partouche Poker Tour

Watch out; here comes an absolute giant of the poker world! With three WSOP bracelets in her collection, Vanessa Selbst is one of the richest women in poker.

Throughout her 15-year career, Vanessa Selbst participated in 21 live poker tournaments, amassing a fortune of nearly $12 million. Thanks to this figure, Selbst, who is widely considered one of the best female poker players, remains the only woman to clinch the No. 1 spot in the Global Poker Index!

Selbst decided to retire from poker in 2018 and instead pursue an entirely different career. With a degree in Political Sciences from Yale University, Vanessa Selbst currently works as a hedge fund manager and occasionally appears in tournaments.

Top Vanessa Selbst fact:

Vannesa Selbst secured her place among poker legends by being the only person to win the North American Poker Tour back-to-back in 2010 and 2011!

Kristen Bicknell

Career earnings: $5,253,351

Country of origin: Canada

Years Active: 2006-Present

Date of birth: December 29, 1986

Poker Hall of Fame: No

Single biggest win: $408,000 at 2019 No-Limit Hold 'em - Poker Masters, Las Vegas

Canadian poker pro Kristen Bicknell is another player who started her poker career playing online while in university before entering the big live arena.

Bicknell's most significant achievements are three WSOP bracelets in her collection: the first from the 2013 Ladies Event, the second from the $1,500 Bounty No-Limit Hold 'em event in 2016, and the third from 2020 $2,500 No-Limit Hold 'em 6-Handed online event. Apart from that, she had another 33 finishes in money in the same tournament!

She also won the GPI Female Poker Player of the Year Award three times in a row and was ranked No.1 among live female poker tournament players in 2017! Fantastic job, Kristen!

At 34 years, the Canadian is at the height of her career and still has plenty of time for new achievements!

Top Kristen Bicknell fact:

During her early poker days, Bicknell rightfully nicknamed herself The Ultimate Grinder due to the number of poker hands she had played. And between 2011 and 2013, she cemented her position in female gambling and gave her moniker a whole new meaning by having played an estimated 7.5 million poker hands! Now that sounds like a lot!

Legendary Poker Players

Here come the guys who wrote the history of poker! From the Old West to the shiny Las Vegas Strip, here are three of the most legendary poker players! Perhaps, they didn't win the most money or titles in their time, but they have certainly earned their place among the best poker players to ever sit at the table.

Doyle Brunson

Career earnings: $1,198,260

Country of origin: USA

Years Active: 1970-2018

Date of birth: August 10, 1933

Poker Hall of Fame: Yes, inducted 1988

Single biggest win: $1,198,260 at the 2004 Legends of Poker

Long before poker hit the mainstream in the early 2000s, Doyle Brunson was already a legend of mythical proportions. In fact, this Texan poker player is one of the people responsible for raising poker to such prominence.

In his youth, Brunson hoped to become a basketball player; however, a severe knee injury stopped his budding career in sports and made him try out several different careers before finally settling with poker.

The injury failed to crush Brunson's competitive spirit, and he soon started playing poker professionally. Little did Brunson know that he would go on to have an unrivalled resume in the world of poker and become a 10-time winner of the World Series of Poker, boasting two wins in the WSOP Main Event!

"Texas Dolly" retired from poker in 2018 and, in his last appearance, made it to another WSOP final table! Respect!

Top Doyle Brunson fact:

Considered by many the greatest poker player of all time, Brunson is also an author of what is often called the "Bible of Poker." His book Super/System, where he laid out his methods, changed the game forever as it opened the door into the poker world for a wider audience.

Johnny Moss

Career earnings: $1,254,859

Country of origin: USA

Years Active: 1970-1995

Date of birth: May 14, 1907

Poker Hall of Fame: Yes, inducted 1979

Single biggest win: $160,000 at the 1974 World Series of Poker

We must've mentioned the WSOP dozens of times by now, and if at any point you wondered, Okay, who won the very first WSOP? The answer is Johnny Moss. Even though the WSOP was held in a cash game format in its first iteration, Moss was nevertheless voted a champion by his peers.

Moss won again in 1971 when a freezeout format was introduced and came back for another title in 1974. Throughout his awe-inspiring career, Moss won as many as nine WSOP bracelets, in addition to the three Main Event titles!

Moss played in other tournaments, too, and had a reputation for being a high-stakes player. In the WSOP, the tournament he virtually invented, Moss played until he passed on in 1995, earning a top spot among poker's greatest legends.

Top Johnny Moss fact:

Born in 1907, Johnny Moss was regularly the oldest guy at the table when poker made a breakthrough in Las Vegas in the 1970s. Due to his age and the special status he enjoyed among his peers, Moss earned the nickname of the Grand Old Man of Poker.

Wild Bill Hicock

Career earnings: N/A

Country of origin: USA

Years Active: ????-1876

Date of birth: May 27, 1837

Poker Hall of Fame: Yes, inducted 1979

Single biggest win: N/A

James Butler Hickok, aka "Wild Bill" Hickok, a revered folk hero, a Civil War soldier and spy, a lawman, and even actor, was one of the first professional poker players.

Wild Bill seemed to have gambling in his blood, choosing poker as his weapon of choice on the felt. Although we don't know any specifics about his methods or the money he made gambling, we know that he turned entirely to playing poker for a living at the end of his life.

A man with such a reputation is bound to have numerous enemies, which is why Wild Bill always had a peculiar request: to sit with his back against the wall while playing poker. Unfortunately, the first time this wasn't granted to him, the famous gambler met his destiny: he was shot dead in the back of the head by a man who claimed that Wild Bill had killed his brother.

Believed to be one of the greatest poker players of all time, Wild Bill Hickok was admitted to the Poker Hall of Fame in 1979, 103 years after his death.

Top Wild Bill Hickok fact:

Wild Bill reportedly held a pair of aces and eights and an unknown hole card during his final hand. Although there is no evidence to confirm this, this card makeup came to be known as "dead man's hand."

Dead man's hand is essentially a two pair, but what do you call the rest of poker hands? To learn more about different poker hands, check out our beginner's guide on how to play poker and pick up the basic terms that will ease your way into the game.

Most Interesting Poker Players

Finally, we get to three of the most controversial poker players. This is not to say that some of them are not among the best poker players, but we grouped them here due to their unique personas rather than their winnings or poker skills. So let's cut to the chase and see who they are:

best poker players

Phil Ivey

Career earnings: $31,137,928

Country of origin: USA

Years Active: 1998-Present

Date of birth: February 1, 1977

Poker Hall of Fame: Yes, Inducted 2017

Single biggest win: $3,582,753 at the 2014 Aussie Millions Poker Championship

Growing up in Atlantic City, Ivey regularly spent up to 15 hours a day playing with a fake ID. Ivey was so dedicated to the game and inspired by legendary poker players that he kept a journal, taking notes on players, hands, and different situations that would help him fine-tune his game.

As soon as he turned 21, Ivey fell in love with the tournament circuit and notched success after success: at 23, he won his first WSOP bracelet. He scored another nine throughout his career, raking in over $30 million and cementing his reputation as one of the best poker players.

To the disappointment of many, the Tiger Woods of Poker hasn't been around the circuit as much lately. In 2014, Ivey was sued over cheating at baccarat tables. Following years of back and forth in court, Ivey finally settled the dispute in 2020, paying millions of dollars to Borgata casino.

Top Phil Ivey fact:

We already told you that Phil Ivey has 10 WSOP bracelets under his belt, but did you know that he is also the youngest to own this many bracelets in his collection, having snatched them by the age of 38!

Dan Bilzerian

Career earnings: $36,626

Country of origin: USA

Years Active: 2009-Present

Date of birth: December 7, 1980

Poker Hall of Fame: No

Single biggest win: $36,626 at the 2009 WSOP

Okay, Dan Bilzerian is certainly not among the best poker players, but he is hands down the most controversial figure on our list. If you have Instagram, chances are you have heard of this actor, businessman, a self-proclaimed poker pro, and a keen fan of using hot girls as props in photos.

In the past decade, Dan Bilzerian has become something of a 21st-century caricature of masculinity, spending copious amounts of money on cars, motorcycles, and guns, all the while claiming that his wealth comes from poker.

However, none of his claims can be confirmed by any major poker websites: according to Global Poker Index, his entire fortune made from poker amounts to $36,626. The rest? Probably from a trust fund set by his father before he went to prison.

Top Dan Bilzerian fact:

Remember when we mentioned that Bilzerian is an actor? Well, his only claim to movie screen fame comes from a $1 million investment in the movie Lone Survivor. According to the agreement, he was supposed to have at least eight minutes of screentime but he got only less than a minute! Bilzerian sued the company but later dropped the charges after reportedly earning $1.5 million due to the film's commercial success.

Stu Ungar

Career earnings: $3,677,961

Country of origin: USA

Years Active: 1980-1997

Date of birth: September 8, 1953

Poker Hall of Fame: Yes, inducted 2001

Single biggest win: $1,000,000 at the 1997 WSOP

The story of Stu Ungar, the man who is widely believed to be the greatest poker player of all time, is also one of the sadder stories. Although he excelled on the felt, Ungar struggled with mental health issues throughout his life.

Before he started playing poker, Ungar spent much of his adolescent days playing gin rummy. The guy was so good at this game that he had to quit it: nobody wanted to play against him due to his reputation!

He quickly found himself playing poker in Las Vegas, and in 1980, he became the youngest to ever win the WSOP Main Event; the Comeback Kid as Ungar was known returned for another two Main Event titles, in 1981 and 1997; in total, he had five WSOP bracelets under his belt.

He was found dead in a hotel room in 1998. The man described as having a sixth sense for cards, Ungar found his place among the best poker players in the Poker Hall of Fame posthumously in 2001.

Top Stu Ungar fact:

Seen by many as the best Texas Hold 'em player to ever sit at the table, Ungar is one of two players to claim three WSOP Main Event titles and one of only four poker players to snatch this title back-to-back!

Stu Ungar's story should serve as a reminder that mental health comes first and that untreated mental conditions may increase the risk of developing gambling issues. If you believe that you or anyone in your vicinity is at risk, please visit our responsible gambling page to learn more.

Summary

Different criteria for the best poker players would yield a different list of poker's greats. But our goal was not to impose an authoritative list of top poker players. Instead, we tried to bring you closer to guys and gals whose names are forever written in the history of poker and who stood out among the rest for their personalities, their winnings, as well as their sharp skills.

Now that you've seen our selection of the most famous poker players, who else would you add to the list?

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