Explore the top 10 poker legends, from Negreanu to Smith, who shaped the game’s history with unparalleled skill and monumental victories.
Since its inception in 1970, poker has undergone significant growth. Over the past 50 years, numerous exceptional players have graced the tables, with a handful earning the title of the best poker players in history. Here’s our take on the top 10 poker legends.
1. Daniel Negreanu
In our view, the ultimate poker player is the Hall of Famer Daniel Negreanu. His illustrious career kicked off with a remarkable victory in the 1998 WSOP, where he became the youngest bracelet winner ever, securing $169,460 in the $2,000 Pot Limit Hold’em event.
Negreanu boasts additional achievements, including five more WSOP wins, making history by finalizing tables at all three bracelet-awarding locations, and clinching the WSOP Player of the Year title twice (in 2004 and 2013).
With two WPT championships, a WPT Player of the Year award, and over $51 million in winnings, Negreanu is widely considered the greatest poker player of all time.
2. Phil Ivey
Phil Ivey stands as poker’s most iconic player, a phenomenal professional who has asserted dominance on the felt for an extended period.
Achieving a milestone at 38, he became the youngest player ever to secure 10 WSOP titles. Additionally, he notched a significant WPT victory in February 2008, triumphing over poker legends like Phil Hellmuth at the LA Poker Classic.
One of Ivey’s notable victories occurred off-tour when he engaged in a high-stakes match against banker Andy Beal. Reports suggest that Ivey managed to amass $16.6 million over three days from this encounter. Inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2017, Ivey remains a prominent figure in the world’s premier poker games to this day.
3. Phil Hellmuth
Known as the Poker Brat, Phil Hellmuth is renowned for making a splash whenever he’s at the poker table. Fortunately, his talk is substantiated by remarkable performances, predominantly on the WSOP circuit, where he holds the record for the most victories.
Boasting an incredible 17 WSOP gold bracelets, Hellmuth has surpassed any other poker player by seven.Hellmuth’s inaugural WSOP triumph occurred in the 1989 Main Event when he was just 24 years old.
His bracelet wins came at a remarkable pace, especially in 1993, where he became only the second player in history to secure three bracelets in a single series, accomplished over three consecutive days.
With winnings totaling around $30 million and an induction into the Hall of Fame, Hellmuth’s legacy speaks for itself, and he continues to play, win, and engage in lively banter with opponents.
4. Justin Bonomo
In his illustrious career, Justin Bonomo has amassed winnings exceeding $63 million, securing his position as the second-highest poker earner of all time. His pinnacle year was 2018, where he clinched $25 million, highlighted by a $4.8 million triumph in the Super High Roller Bowl in China.
Another $5 million followed with his victory in the $300,000 buy-in Super High Roller Bowl.Bonomo showcased his prowess in the $10,000 Heads-Up Championship, culminating in a remarkable $14.5 million collection within six months. capping off the year, he achieved a monumental win of $10 million in the $1 million buy-in Big One for One Drop, marking the most significant victory in his career.
A fixture on the high roller circuit, Bonomo has secured victories in events such as Triton High Roller Series, PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, and Super High Roller Bowls in both China and Las Vegas. Beyond the high roller domain, Bonomo boasts three WSOP gold bracelets.
5. Bryn Kenney
Defining the best poker player by winnings, Bryn Kenney emerges as the current leader, amassing over $65 million, the highest in poker history.
Predominantly thriving in the high roller circuit, Kenney’s journey to fortune includes his first seven-figure prize from the 2016 PCA $100K Super High Roller, where he outplayed Joe McKeehen, the World Series of Poker Main Event champion.
Kenney has achieved seven or more figures eight times in various tournaments, with the pinnacle being a $20,537,187 cash prize, securing second place in the Triton Million for Charity Event against Aaron Zhang.
Adding to his accolades, Kenney boasts a gold bracelet earned in the 2014 WSOP $1,500 Six-Handed 10-Game Mix, making his career an envy-inducing success.
6. Johnny Chan
Johnny Chan, renowned for defeating Erik Seidel in his inaugural major tournament, stands as a legendary figure in poker. Chan’s career skyrocketed in 1985 with his inaugural WSOP victory, followed by consecutive WSOP Main Event triumphs in 1987-88, establishing him as the first foreign national to achieve such a feat.
Being the inaugural player to secure 10 WSOP gold bracelets, Chan became a role model for aspiring poker enthusiasts.
His legendary status was immortalized when he portrayed himself in the 1998 poker film “Rounders,” featuring a stellar cast including Matt Damon. Despite career winnings under $9 million, Chan rightfully earned induction into the Hall of Fame in 2002.
7. Doyle Brunson
In the realm of poker, success is often measured by monetary gains, but true greatness transcends winnings, encompassing influence and transformative contributions to the sport. No player has shaped poker more profoundly than the ‘Godfather of Poker,’ Doyle Brunson.
Over his extensive career, Brunson secured 10 WSOP bracelets, achieving consecutive WSOP Main Event victories in 1976-77, accumulating over $6 million in live earnings.
However, Brunson’s paramount impact on poker extended beyond the tables and onto the pages. His strategic insights were encapsulated in the poker strategy book “Super System,” published in 1979, recognized as ‘the bible of poker.’ Professional and amateur players alike draw immense inspiration from this seminal work.
Inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 1988, Brunson’s passing in 2023 at the age of 89 marked the end of an era, leaving an indelible legacy as one of the greatest poker players in history.
8. Erik Seidel
Erik Seidel, revered as the last active player from poker’s earlier era, boasts a Hall of Fame career that spans multiple decades. His poker journey commenced dramatically as the runner-up in the 1988 World Series of Poker Main Event tournament, facing none other than the legendary Johnny Chan in the final.
Undeterred by this initial setback, Seidel swiftly rebounded, achieving one World Poker Tour (WPT) victory and securing nine WSOP wins over the course of his illustrious career.
His enduring excellence is highlighted by the fact that his most recent gold bracelet, earned in 2021, arrived 29 years after his inaugural triumph.
9. Stephen Chidwick
Stephen Chidwick, a poker sensation, has amassed over $50 million in career earnings, securing the fourth spot on the all-time poker earnings list.
In 2019, Chidwick achieved a career-defining victory by winning the WSOP $25,000 Pot-Limit Omaha High Roller, claiming his sole gold bracelet.
Presently occupying the fifth position on the Global Poker Index Ranking, Chidwick, a former GPI World Number One, aspires to reclaim the top spot in the near future.
10. Dan Smith
Dan Smith, a former chess prodigy with a scholarship to The University of Maryland, shifted his focus from chess to poker after his first college year. This decision proved fruitful, as Smith has since accumulated nearly $50 million in poker winnings.
Beyond monetary success, Smith earned notable accolades, including the GPI’s Player of the Year award in 2012. With 19 recorded tournament wins between 2013-2022, including his sole WPT victory in the 2013 $10,300 Five Diamond World Poker Classic Main Event, Smith reached a pinnacle in 2022 by securing a coveted gold bracelet in the WSOP $25,000 Heads Up No-Limit Hold’em Championship.
There you have it—the best poker players of all time.