Poker has evolved over the years, from Texas Roadhouses and gambling halls to online poker and some of the fanciest casinos in the world. Some players have stood the test of time, while other players are just now emerging into stardom. We came up with a list of ten of the biggest stars in the poker world, in no particular order, starting with some of poker’s biggest living legends.
Daniel Negreanu is at the top of this list for a few reasons, but most importantly, his consistency and longevity are unparalleled by anyone else in poker. Virtually everyone else on this list either doesn’t have the same productivity and results now that they had years ago during the poker boom, or they are newer players who have just started to establish themselves as a poker legend. Negreanu, or “Kid Poker” as he is still affectionally known to most, is a six-time WSOP bracelet winner, who is also a former winner of the $300,000 buy-in Super High Roller Bowl, proof that he can beat both amateurs and semi-pros at the WSOP, as well as some of poker’s most talented High Rollers. Negreanu is still the star anytime he walks into the poker, and unlike some of the older poker pros who still try to dabble in the high stakes, he has the respect of his peers, both young and old.
For quite some time, Phil Ivey was unquestionably the most famous poker pro in the world. Ivey famously bubbled the Main Event final table in 2003, taking a tough river beat against the eventual champion, and the man who would become the face of the poker boom, Chris Moneymaker. He followed that up with a final table run in 2009, one of the most talked about final table runs in WSOP history. And for years, his staredown was considered the toughest and most intense stare in all of poker, often forcing all of his opponents to crack. However, in recent years, Ivey has been seen less at the televised poker tables, choosing instead to focus more on high-stakes cash games in Macau, rather than Las Vegas. As a result, his fame, notoriety, and visibility have dwindled a bit recently. However, make no mistake about it, anytime Ivey walks into a poker room, all eyes remain on him, and he is still considered one of the best poker players of all time.
No list of top poker pros would be complete without the player who has won by far the most WSOP bracelets of all time, Phil Hellmuth. The Poker Brat’s 16 bracelet is miles ahead of Phil Ivey, Johnny Chan, and Doyle Brunson, who all have 10 bracelets, and given Ivey’s lack of interest in catching Hellmuth, it doesn’t look like anyone will be coming close to him until then. While his game is often ridiculed by some of poker’s biggest stars, there is no doubt that he still gets effective results more often than not when he steps onto the poker table. In fact, he nearly added bracelet #17 last summer, when he finished 2nd in a massive $3,00 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em Event, proving he can still navigate big fields with the best of them. Hellmuth is known for his unconventional play, often limping in with big hands, or folding big hands preflop that no one in the new age of poker would be folding. However, it’s hard to argue against Hellmuth’s results, as his success has spanned across several poker tours, cash games, and online streams.
Dan “Jungleman” Cates
We are going more into the new school of poker now with online legend turned live poker beast Dan “Jungleman” Cates. Cates got his start in online poker, building his bankroll up enough that he would constantly be battling with poker's most talented online players, such as Tom Dwan, Phil Galfond, and “Islidur”. However, in recent years, Cates has proven that he is also a mighty threat at the live poker table, specifically in Mixed Games. Last year, Dan Cates became the second player ever to win the $50,000 buy-in Mixed Game Championship at the WSOP twice, joining Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi. However, unlike Mizrachi, Cates improbably did it in back-to-back years and will be looking for a three peat this summer in Las Vegas. Simply put, whatever game you play, and regardless of whether it is live or online, Cates is likely a favorite to come out of the game as a winner and is widely considered one of the top professional poker players there is.
We move now to one of the most talented No-Limit Hold’em players of all time, and someone who is currently #2 all time in live tournament earnings with over $54,000,000, Justin Bonomo. Bonomo’s poker career got off to a rough start when he was busted for multi accounting online, a move that subsequently got him banned from online play. However, he was quickly able to move to live poker, and quickly found success there, as evidenced by his results. More over, Bonomo appears to have learned from his mistakes, and is now considered one of the more respected players of his time, likely due to his impressive results. While he doesn’t play many games outside of No-Limit Hold’em he is still considered one of the best poker players of all time.
Stephen Chidwick is arguably the least recognizable name on this list, and that is probably due to his lack of big TV table wins in his career. As talented as the Brit is, with nearly $48,000,000 in live earnings, Chidwick has just one WSOP bracelet to his credit, and zero WPT titles. Rather, he has earned most of his winnings in poker by dominating various $25,000 and $100,000 buy-in High Roller Events. He has also been a fixture in the PokerGO Studio, winning several PGT and US Poker Open titles in the few years it has been running. Above all that, Chidwick is widely considered by his peers to be one of the toughest opponents, and his lethal poker stare has often garnered comparisons to Phil Ivey as mentioned above. Ask any player who the best poker players in the world are right now, and Chidwick is sure to make many people’s shortlists.
The youngest member on this list is the recently emerging Australian pro Michael Addamo. Addamo really didn’t start to come on until 2018, when he won the $2,600 Marathon Event at the WSOP for a then career-best score of $653,581. This was also the first of four WSOP bracelets for Addamo. The Australian had primarily been playing poker outside of the United States, and didn’t jump into the High Roller Events until he secured this bankroll booster of a score. However, after that, the flood gates opened, as Addamo kept rolling out top five finishes, before starting to close several of them out. Addamo finished 2nd in the $100,000 buy-in Super High Roller Bowl online event, losing to another player on this list, Justin Bonomo, but the following year he would get his sweet revenge, defeating Bonomo this time in the $300,000 live version, for a career best score of $3,402,000. Addamo stayed hot in 2022 with three more titles, earning over $3 million in that year as well. Much like Chidwick, Addamo is known for his lethal stare and methodical thinking, but he also throws some unconventional plays in there, often overbetting the pot when he’s bluffing in order to secure some pots.
We are ending our list of top poker players by paying respect to some older poker legends. We start with the godfather of poker, Doyle Brunson. Brunson won the WSOP Main Event twice in the 1970’s, and cemented his legacy when he wrote a book that many consider to be the poker bible: Super System. Brunson is so well known that he has a hand named after him: 10-2 offsuit. That is the specific hand he won both of his WSOP titles with. While Brunson hasn’t played much at the WSOP recently due to declining health issues, he is still known to swing by Bobby’s Room at the Bellagio occasionally, to play some high-stakes cash games with some of the best players in the world. Until the day he dies, and likely long after that, Brunson will always have the respect and admiration of the top poker players in the world, as they likely wouldn’t be here without him.
Reese is a good friend of Doyle Brunson, who has often called Chip Reese the best player he has ever played against. Reese was a Mixed Game legend, whose first poker tournament cash came in 1977. His most famous victory came in 2006 when he won the $50,000 Mixed Game Championship, defeating Andy Bloch in a heads-up duel that famous went into the morning hours of the following day. He took home $1,784,640 for his efforts there, and famously, the trophy for the event would then be named after him, the Chip Reese Memorial trophy. Reese, unfortunately, passed away in December of 2007 due to complications from pneumonia, but his legacy on the game lives on through his fellow peers and other top poker players.
We end the list with the player that many consider to be the greatest poker player, or at least the greatest No-Limit Hold’em player, of all time, Stu Unger. “The kid”, or “the comeback kid” as he was affectionately known, was a poker legend who famously won the WSOP Main Event in back-to-back years in 1980 and 1981. Johnny Chan is the only player to repeat that accomplishment since. The former gin rummy pro would go on to win two more WSOP bracelets in 2-7 Triple Draw and Seven Card Stud, before disappearing from the game for a while due to struggles with drugs like cocaine. In fact, Unger famously was chip leading the Main Event again in 1990, but was found passed out from a drug overdose before Day 3. He was taken to the hospital, and had so many chips that he blinded out and still finished at the final table in 9th. Unger would later put that memory behind him, earning his comeback kid nickname by improbably winning the 1997 Main Event for $1,000,000, joining Johnny Moss as the only three-time champions of the event. However, he would lose all that money by the end of the year, and unfortunately passed away in November of 1998 due to heart problems caused by his years of drug abuse. Unger is still considering one of the greatest legends in poker, but he is also often used as a cautionary tale to show the rigors and hardships of life in Las Vegas.
If you want to add your name to this list one day, getting your training on websites like 888poker and Pokerstars is a great way to get started. Did we forget your favorite poker legend? Let us know in the comments!