10 best poker players of all time


10 best poker players of all time

How do you imagine a poker player would be? Is he a magician or a mathematical genius? Most famous poker players have different strengths that make them exceptional, and how we categorize which are the greatest could be subjective. We know that there are many more than 10 professional gamblers worthy of participating in the contest. Each skilled poker player has their preferences when it comes to casinos. If you enjoy playing slot games, River Belle casino would be your perfect selection. Still, we had to choose only a small part of them based on what we consider the best quality, skills, personality, achievements and story. Each of them has contributed in a different way to the poker community; they have developed the rules, beaten casinos in the 70s, and some of them even became the president of the United States of America. Can you guess who he is?

So, if you want to learn more about the top 10 poker players, continue reading. We researched to provide you with the most accurate and detailed information about each of them. It's interesting how every player is different and has diversely accomplished their glory. Let's see together the most intriguing stories of this beautiful world.

1 – Edward Thorp

Edward Thorp is an impressive example of how much knowledge, research and devotion are involved in the poker game. Thorp was born in 1932 with a sparkling interest in science since childhood. From 12, he was great in chemistry and physics and later obtained a Ph.D. in Mathematics.

His interest in Blackjack led him to investigate the probabilities of winning to improve his odds. He finds out that this strategy is applicable when the card deck hasn't been reshuffled after every deal. Every theory needs to be put into practice to verify if it works, so he tested it in Reno and Las Vegas. The first experiment was successful when he won $11,000 just for the weekend. He became famous in the Blackjack community, where everyone was eager to discover new ways of winning. Because the interest was so huge, Thorp decided to spread the news faster by writing a book, "Beat the Dealer," in 1966. People named it the ultimate guide to card counting.

Edward Thorp also developed a wearable computer with Claude Shannon to predict the outcome of Roulette in a way that could gain a stable advantage to make a profit. It allows the option to bet on groups of pair numbers, not to have the final number the ball will fall at. Electronics are forbidden to be used in casinos, but Thorp made a bold move.

Such mathematical talent needs to be spread to diverse activities. Thorp used his capabilities and applied his knowledge of probability and statistics in the stock market. This led him to win a significant fortune by discovering pricing anomalies in the securities markets.

As you can see, this extraordinary professor has much more to offer the world. His impressive career, discoveries and experiments led to changes in history. Check out more information about him to learn all the details of his innovative applications and quantitative investment techniques.

2 – Billy Walters

Billy Walters is another outstanding professional gambler famous for being an entrepreneur and philanthropist. He has been one of the most successful sports bettors with a winning streak for over 30 years. Impressive!

His childhood, though, wasn't easy. He lost his father soon after being born, and his mother left her children around the same time. Their grandmother raised Walters and his siblings in a poor house without running water. But thanks to his grandmother's hard-working good example, Walter started an early development leading him to secure a $40 bank loan at the age of seven and another one for $90 at nine. He used the money for a grass-cutting business and a paper route. Sadly, his grandmother died when Billy was only 13 years old, and he was forced to move with his mother, where he had to work two jobs to pay his weekly rent.

Walters learned his way into the business by selling cars. Whenever he sold a car, he wrote a letter to the customer's neighbours promoting his services. He sold around 32 cars per month and earned what nowadays would count as $400,000 per year. He was soon hired as a sales manager and later in 1972 started his own business. During this time, he was deeply involved in sports betting and in 1981 devoted all his time to this path in his career.

Can you imagine that Billy started gambling at the age of 9? The statistics show that he lost $50,000 by the age of 22. But everything changed for him in his 30s. Walters and his partner won $3,800,000 in Roulette playing for 38 hours. Later on, he captured the 1986 Super Bowl of Poker, winning $175,000. In his sports betting career, he had a 30-year winning streak. He won $3,5 million on Super Bowl XLIV thanks to his bet for the New Orleans Saints. He didn't like to be made public about what he was betting on, so he often placed his bets via "runners." In his own words, he could win between $50 and $60 million throughout the year.

3 – Phil Ivey

Phillip Ivey is one of the most famous poker players nowadays. He plays great poker, which is proven by the fact that he won ten World Series of Poker bracelets, one World Poker Tour title, and participated in nine World Poker Tour final tables. Many have named him the best all-around player in the world and elected him to the Poker Hall of Fame in 2017.

Ivey started playing in his teenage years with a fake ID and later moved to compete with his colleagues in New Jersey. His passion led him to his fantastic tournament accomplishments, and he won his first bracelet by defeating Amarillo Slim at a WSOP final table. In the Tournament of Champions, Ivey secured the most votes in the 2010 World Series of Poker. Being only 38 places him as the youngest gambling man who achieved ten bracelets and has become the fastest to accomplish this goal. The record was 17 years, and Ivey decreased it to only 14. Another world-breaking record is that he has obtained the most bracelets in non-Holdem events.

The audience loves him and has placed him as one of the world's most famous poker players when he was elected twice All In Magazine Poker Player of the Year in 2005 and 2009. But as we can imagine, this career involves dark moments as well. Ivey lost two suits against him for manipulation of edge sorting. In another situation, Ivey was denied payment in London due to his use of edge sorting. There are a few more lawsuits and challenging moments in his career. He denies cheating on any occasion.

4 – Chris Moneymaker

Chris Moneymaker has German ancestors creating silver and gold coins, from which activity he received his family name, almost like a nickname. Chris graduated from the University of Tennessee with a master's degree in accounting. Even though he was devoted to his profession, he appeared in the Main Event of the 2003 World Series of Poker. Back then, Moneymaker was not among the famous poker players, so nobody expected great deals from him. Contrary to expectations, Chris' skills and impressive performance made an impression on the professional sports handicapper Lou Diamond. Moneymaker managed to win the first prize of $2,5 million.

As you can guess, not long after that, he quit his accountant job and became a spokesman for Series owner Harrah's Entertainment and PokerStars. After that, Moneymaker participated in numerous tournaments in 2004, 2008, 2009, and 2011. He won prizes like $200,000, $139,000, $300,000, and many more. Statistics show that in 2022 the estimation of his total live tournament winnings is more than $3,950,000.

Chris has a few books under his name - How an Amateur Poker Player Turned $40 into $2,5 Million at the World Series of Poker; and a children's book titled Bet Big to Win Big. The National Council on Problem Gambling had controversial feelings and feared that it supported reckless behaviour and the development of gambling addiction.

5 – Don Johnson

Don Johnson is a gambling man of a high level, famous for his love and passion for professional Blackjack. When he was only 30 years old, Johnson became the manager of Philadelphia Park, which became the Parx Casino. Afterwards, he was a state regulator in Oregon, Idaho, Teas, and Wyoming. A few years later, he founded his own company, whose goal was to use a computer for assessing wagering programs for horse racing. In 2008, at the peak of the financial crisis, most casinos had very challenging days and urgently needed high rollers. Two years later, Johnson created an extremely satisfying deal for himself by applying a few changes to the standard casino Blackjack and taking a mathematical edge. All this led him to win $1,2 million in only 12 hours in Tropicana. Finally, he beat Tropicana, Borgata and Caesars with $15,1 million, significantly impacting the casino's profit. Most casinos refused his conditions, while others banned him from playing.

This story made him incredibly famous, and people still speak about it and try to realize it's a fact. However, the most significant time spent in his life was gathering results from horse races and predicting the outcome of the competition. Its software was capable of estimating the true odds of a horse winning.

6 – The MIT Blackjack Team

The MIT Blackjack Team is an extremely interesting gathering of students from famous universities like Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University and other top-performing colleges. The tactic of the students was to count cards and apply highly sophisticated strategies to beat casinos at Blackjack.

Beating casinos has become the purpose of many players simply because a skilled gambler can easily do it. We must say that since the early 60s, casinos have developed the rules of the games to make it more difficult and not so easy to predict the outcome of the games by counting cards. The scheme around the counting is simple - players are aware of what cards have passed, high or low, so they can calculate and estimate the probability of the next hand's strength. And precisely, this is what six MIT students did in 1979. They attacked Atlantic City to win their fortune.

Sometimes, we are too deep into the game and start complicating our strategy, resulting in more mistakes and losses. Kaplan, known as "Mr. M," noticed this and decided to upgrade the team by introducing more business-wise procedures, a counting and betting system, frequent training and detailed monitoring of specific casinos. With the new tactics in place, the team doubled their original stake in only 10 weeks, which meant that the students earned around $80/hour, and investors achieved a 250% return balance.

In the media, we can find numerous books with various stories about the players. As well as movies from 2004, 2008 and 2010. There is even a BBC documentary named Making Millions the Easy Way.

7 – Doyle Brunson

Doyle Brunson is a notorious gambler who has played great poker for over 50 years. If you want to get some wisdom directly from him, check for the several books on poker where he shares his secrets. He is known for being the first to win $1 million in poker tournaments. He is unique for having won the Main Event of the World Series of Poker multiple times. And he is one of the three players to have won WSOP tournaments in four consecutive years. Many people, including Bluff Magazine, elected Brunson in 2006 as the most influential force in poker.

In early life, his dream was to be a professional basketball player, but his path to the NBA was ruined due to an injury. Around the same time, he started to play a five-card draw, and after his injury, he had more time to dedicate to this game. When he started to work as a business machine salesman, he participated in a seven-card stud game and won more money than his monthly salary. He then followed a bit of a dark path by playing illegal games, most often organized by criminals, and there were no rules to follow. Brunson has openly shared that he had a gun pointed at him more than once, and he was robbed and beaten. So, he has learned to love poker even in challenging times and very stressful moments.

8 – Stanford Wong

Stanford Wong's real name is John Ferguson, born in 1943. He became well-known thanks to his book Professional Blackjack in 1975. The purpose of the book was for his use to analyze the Blackjack's odds via software strategy. He has been a Blackjack tournament participant and a gambling expert, even though he had a Ph.D. in Finance from Stanford University. But his passion was in the gambling world, so he quickly replaced teaching to pursue his desires. Sometimes he consulted writers and researchers around Blackjack and continued publishing monthly newsletters in 1979. They had such a big success that they became the top journals for professional players, and in 2007 the newsletter was still published.

The Wong technique in Blackjack was to observe the game without ever wagering your money until the count becomes advantageous. As soon as you reach this point, you join the game only until it's in your favour. Due to his idea, nowadays, casinos forbid new players to step into the middle of the game.

If you are curious to learn more about Stanford Wong, visit his website, subscribe to his newsletter, and read Wong on Dice and the many books he has written since 1975. Amongst them are Blackjack Secrets, Basic Blackjack, Tournament Blackjack, Casino Tournament Strategy, Winning Without Counting, and many more.

9 – Richard Nixon

Nowadays, we don't make a connection between a president and poker. But we are wrong. Richard Nixon was a U.S. Navy lieutenant who transferred to Green Island where he could have peace and leisure time. What he found to be interesting was the great game of poker. He felt so drawn to it that once he returned from his assignment, he had enough savings to help him fund his first run for political office in 1946 and became president. His Navy comrades later shared that they had never seen such a fantastic player; he managed to bluff a lieutenant commander out of $1,500 with a pair of deuces.

Even though he grew up in a very religious family, he left his job as a lawyer to join the Navy and later become a notorious poker player. Interesting combination, right? His goal when he started playing was to master the fundamentals; he studied every detail and never made a risky move before making sure he could predict the outcome. He enjoyed competing with the best players, exploring their moves, and capturing every word and lesson. His personality helped him to develop incredible self-discipline and determination. As if he wasn't playing a game but mastering a skill meant to bring profits. And he did it. He became so good that he saved enough money to run for office. Although there is no evidence that he continued playing poker after becoming president, we are sure he enjoyed a few poker games with friends now and then.

10 - Phil Hellmuth

Phil Hellmuth is one of the most famous poker players of all time due to several reasons. He is a record winner of the World Series of Poker bracelets, never-seen sixteen times. He has added to his collection the Main Event of the 1989 World Series of Poker, the Main Event of the 2012 World Series of Poker Europe, and in 2007 WSOP Poker Hall of Fame.

An interesting fact about Hellmuth is that he sits at the table long after the poker tournaments have started. We can find many more intriguing details about him in his books like You Are Always In The Right Place At The Right Time, Phil Hellmuth's Texas Hold'Em, Bad Beats and Lucky Draw: Poker Strategies, Winning Hands, and Stories from the Professional Poker Tour, and others. He is worthy of our attention as the player ranked 19th on the all-time money list. He is the record-holder for the most WSOP cash and most WSOP final tables. An impressive career for a gambling man who refused everything else in the name of poker.

Who is your winner?

Can you choose your favourite from this top 10 list? Are you a player yourself? It's good to learn about the history of poker because this is how we understand a lot more about the rules nowadays and why they were needed. Sometimes we could be upset with certain restrictions, but after reading the above lines, we believe that it makes sense now to you too. Casinos want to protect themselves, and if someone finds a way to predict the game's outcome, they add new requirements and forbid old strategies. For instance, Tropez casino is among the gambling establishments that have pioneered the implementation of innovative technologies and novel betting methods. With the modern world and developed technologies, we expect casino players to invent new ways to beat the odds in their favour. We are curious to see what is coming next.

All the professional gamblers that we review have a lot more to offer. Some of them are retired but have behind them numerous tournaments and lessons to teach you, not only in the matter of poker. These players have proven that the sky's the limit when you love what you do. But to achieve your dreams, you need to dedicate a lot of time, effort, perseverance, discipline and learning from your mistakes. Even though poker is called a game, being the best in any field takes a lot. We wish you to go and dig deeper into these incredible professionals and train, learn and develop your skills in every topic you feel passionate about. Good luck!



1. How has the evolution of online poker impacted the careers of traditional poker players?

The rise of online poker has provided traditional poker players with more opportunities to practice, compete, and hone their skills. While some embrace the digital platform for its convenience and global reach, others prefer the nuances and strategies of face-to-face games. However, many top players leverage both to maximize their earnings and exposure.

2. What are the key qualities that make a successful poker player?

Successful poker players often possess a combination of skills including strong mathematical abilities, keen observational skills, patience, discipline, emotional control, and a deep understanding of human psychology.

3. How do major poker tournaments, like the World Series of Poker, influence a player's reputation and career?

Winning or performing well in major tournaments like the WSOP can significantly boost a player's reputation, leading to sponsorships, endorsements, and increased earning opportunities. It also solidifies their status among the elite in the poker community.

4. Are there any emerging players in recent years who are poised to join the ranks of the all-time greats?

While the article focuses on established legends, the dynamic nature of poker ensures that new talents emerge regularly. Players like Fedor Holz, Adrian Mateos, and Stephen Chidwick, among others, have been making significant waves in the poker world and could potentially join the ranks of the all-time greats.

5. How has the portrayal of poker in movies and media influenced the public's perception of the game and its players?

The portrayal of poker in movies and media has glamorized the game, emphasizing high-stakes drama, strategy, and the allure of quick riches. This has attracted a broader audience to the game and elevated the status of top players to celebrity-like figures.

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