Poker is a game played across the world and in many different formats and for various stakes. Over the years, we have seen many great players come and go, and the debate about the greatest poker player has always been controversial.
The truth is that it's very hard to pick just one name among the top poker players because many guys excel in one game format, as well as many who are jacks of all trades but masters of none.
To try and settle the debate, we have created a list of the top ten best poker players of all time, along with our reasons for listing them and the greatest achievements of their respective poker careers.
Among these top 10 poker players, you will certainly find the greatest of all time, even if you don’t like a few of the names we have picked personally. So, without further ado, let’s look at our list of the best poker players in the world who have ever lived and played the game.
Whenever the talk of the best poker players of all time gets started, Phil Ivey is the one name that pops up, as no one would dare leave the great “Tiger Woods of Poker” out of the conversation.
Born in 1977, Phil Ivey is one of the "old guards" at this point, although he was one of the young prodigies back in the day when he started playing poker.
Ivey has won pretty much everything there is to be won, including 10 WSOP bracelets, a WPT Main Event, and countless high roller titles that have brought his tournament winnings all the way up to $38 million in 11th place in the world in this category.
However, Phil Ivey has not been nearly as active in the high roller circuit as many other players, so tournament cashes alone definitely don’t do him justice.
"No Home Jerome," as he was often called in his younger days, is a master of big cash games, mixed games, and tournament poker alike and one of the few players who can play all forms of poker at a very high level.
Ivey has won tens of millions playing cash games in his poker career, playing in places like Bobby’s Room and Ivey’s Room (high stakes poker room named after him).
Known as a proficient gambler and someone who knows how to find value in every situation, Phil Ivey deserves to be at the top of our list of the top 10 poker players who have ever lived.
Daniel Negreanu is possibly the most famous poker player today, a personal friend of Phil Ivey, and someone who has come up around the same time and in the same environment.
Born in Canada and of Romanian descent, Negreanu moved out to Vegas at a young age to pursue his dream of playing poker for a living.
Negreanu built his career playing Limit Hold’em cash games up to the highest stakes possible and getting involved in mixed games long before NLH and PLO were the dominant games in Sin City.
With over $50 million in tournament cashes, Negreanu is another member of the “old guard” who has adapted to the new climate and stayed relevant in the evolving game of poker.
Daniel got the nickname “Kid Poker” at a young age, as he was one of the youngest players playing the high stakes games.
Today, Daniel still goes by the same nickname, despite now being more mature and serious, and is still one of the most entertaining players in the game.
Negreanu frequents the WSOP every year, continues to post amazing results, and hopes to add even more silverware to his impressive 6 WSOP bracelets and 2 WPT titles.
What’s even more, Negreanu continues to pursue the WSOP Player of the Year title every year and is likely to win it at least one more time before his career is over, which will easily cement his place in the poker history books.
Negreanu has earned a place on our list of the best poker players of all time with his consistency, ability, and willingness to adapt to new game formats and player types, and his ability to play many different forms of poker on the top level.
When talking about players who have stood the test of time, people often forget the name of Erik Seidel, but this is one of the biggest mistakes they could make. In fact, despite keeping a fairly low profile over the years, Erik Seidel is easily one of the best poker players ever to play the game anywhere in the world.
Born in New York in 1959, Seidel started playing backgammon and poker at a very young age and was part of a group of New York grinders who ended up dominating the world of poker in the later years.
Seidel has won 9 WSOP bracelets in his illustrious poker career, WPT and EPT titles and plenty of other silverware, and more than $42 million in tournament prizes.
Primarily a tournament player, Seidel famously came second to Johnny Chan in the 1988 WSOP Main Event and never looked back.
One of the things that make Seidel so special is the fact he continues to compete at the highest levels at the age of 63 and that his game continues to do well against modern-day poker players whose play is powered by computer simulations and detailed analysis.
Erik Seidel will forever remain one of the game's greats, and the Hall of Famer deserves a place on our list of top poker players of all time, even if you haven't been tracking his career carefully over the last couple of years.
Holding the number one spot on the All Time Money List for tournament poker is no easy feat, and that alone is enough to put Justin Bonomo on our list of the best poker players.
Much younger than many of his competitors on our list, Justin Bonomo only has three WSOP bracelets to his name, but one of them was won in the $1 Million buyin Big One for One Drop event in 2018, where he won a cool $10 million.
Justin’s $60 million in tournament cashes came in big part from dominating the high roller circuit, where he has scored countless victories in events like Triton Poker Series, USPO, Super High Roller Bowl, and more.
Bonomo has been at the very top of the tournament poker world for quite a few years now, and his incredible skill and talent put him in the ranks of the top 10 poker players who have ever lived.
There is more to being one of the best poker players in the world than just scoring big in poker tournaments, and Antonio “The Magician” Esfandiari has shown us that over the years.
Partially retired from poker at this point, Esfandiari did his fair share of winning on the tournament circuit as well, scoring more than $27 million in cashes over his career.
Born in Teheran in 1978, Esfandiari made his way to the US with his family at a young age and started a career as a magician, which sparked his interest in card games.
Antonio won three WSOP bracelets in his career, including the 2012 Big One for One Drop for $18.3 million, by far the biggest single tournament score of his life.
Along with his tournament success, Antonio is known as a successful cash game player who has done well for himself in private cash games across America and beyond.
Known for his showmanship and bravado, Antonio is one of the favorite players of many poker fans, and his frequent appearances on televised poker shows have made him somewhat of an icon of the poker world at large.
Born in 1933 in Longworth, Texas, Doyle Brunson is one of the oldest active poker players in the world and a true legend of the game.
“The Godfather of Poker,” as he is often called, spent a lifetime playing against the very best in the world and usually coming out on top.
A legend of both the cash game and the tournament circuit, Brunson had been winning at poker before most of us were born and was already grinding poker games before Las Vegas casinos were even built.
He won back-to-back WSOP Main Events in 1976 and 1977, along with another eight WSOP bracelets across various poker disciplines, and accumulated more than $6 million in tournament winnings.
It is worth noting that, unlike many of his younger colleagues, Brunson never competed in the ultra-high buyin tournaments of the modern age, which makes the $6 million number much more impressive.
Doyle remains a fixture in the highest stakes mixed games in Las Vegas to this day and is a player whose Hall of Famer status deserves to be upgraded if a Poker Hall of Legends should ever be created.
One of the best poker players of all time whose career and life tragically ended much sooner than anyone anticipated, Stu Ungar is another true legend of the game of poker.
Born in New York City in 1953, “The Comeback Kid” dominated the poker world throughout the 80s and 90s with his aggressive gameplay style and incredible player reading skills.
Originally a gin rummy prodigy, Ungar started playing poker when no one would compete against him at rummy and started winning nearly right away. Ungar was far ahead of the curve in terms of poker skills and played a style that other players would not adopt until much later.
Stu won the 1980 and 1981 WSOP Main Events, only to come back and win it all again in 1997, just one year before he died at the age of 45.
Ungar’s life was one of glorious and unfortunate highs, and despite losing the battle with addiction, he will forever be remembered as one of the best poker players who ever lived.
If you were to ask Phil Hellmuth to rate himself compared to the other poker greats, he would probably tell you that he ranks one, two, and three, and that’s just the kind of character “The Poker Brat” is.
However, despite his big ego and endless tirades, Phil Hellmuth is actually one of the top poker players out there when all things are considered.
Hellmuth has been around since the 1980s, and in that time, he has managed to win 16 WSOP bracelets, more than anyone else, including the 1989 WSOP Main Event champion title.
For a player of his age, Phil still does quite well, even against the “young kids,” as he loves to call them, although the younger generation of players often criticizes his playing style.
Love him or not, Hellmuth has done more to popularize the game of poker than most other players and has been quite a dominant figure in the tournament poker world for decades.
Some of Hellmuth’s more recent performances may not have been on par with what he used to do, but his incredible wins in the heads-up challenges thrown by PokerGO showed that he still has what it takes to compete and that he fully deserves to be named one of the top 10 poker players out there.
The youngest player on the list is the 30-year-old Fedor Holz. Born in 1993 in Germany, Holz has dominated the live tournament circuit and won nearly $40 million in the span of a single decade.
At his peak, Fedor was grinding the tournament circuit and playing events left and right, winning one million after another without mercy.
He captured two WSOP bracelets in high-stakes events, good for more than $6 million, along with numerous other accolades and trophies along the way.
While Holz remains mainly focused on his business dealings, including his ventures in coaching new generations of poker players, he remains a fan of the game and continues to play the high roller events whenever he can with lots of success.
Fedor earned himself a place on this list of the best poker players with his otherworldly performances in poker tournaments over the 2010s, making him one of the most feared players in the world.
If you want to talk about the best poker players in the world, you must consider many different segments of what it means to be a great poker player.
Shaun Deeb may not be dominating the highest buyin games in the world and may not be the number one on the all-time money list, but he actually is one of the biggest winners in tournament poker overall.
Deeb has managed to accumulate over $11 million in live tournament cashes over his career without playing most of the high-roller events out there, along with millions more won in online poker tournaments.
Shaun holds five WSOP bracelets at this point, but his incredible drive and regular final table finishes at the WSOP are almost guaranteed to bring him more in the coming years.
His ten titles won in major online events at WCOOP and SCOOP must also be considered, as these were won against some of the best players in the world.
With amazing skills in many different poker formats, an unrelenting drive and love for the game, and a professional attitude, Shaun Deeb easily deserves to have a place on this list of top poker players worldwide.
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