Despite its popularity, let’s admit it: the poker community is still mostly unknown to the general public. Sure, poker is quite popular among recreational and serious amateur players as a kind of enjoyment. Many professional pokers made their name and make history. In this article, we will list down the best poker players of all time. They are the players who compete for multi-million dollar sums during the past decades from different world-class tournaments. All thanks to the overwhelming and persistent dominance of Texas Hold’em.
The Most Famous Poker Players
Can you name the top poker player?
Well, who else except a poker fanatic would be able to recognize even one or two names or faces from the world’s top players’ leagues? What criteria should be used to select the world’s most popular dwellers of this felt top domain?
Winnings must, without a doubt, be taken into account. Although the biggest known wins payment in poker history occurred within the last millennium and exceeded $18 million, the winning player’s name is not well-known.
There are also the celebrity poker players, jet-set jocks, and Leo Ds who have been known to play a hand or two. Some even compete in televised tournaments for large cash prizes. Although, they are not on the same level as professional tournaments. These best poker of all time compete in the name of their favorite charity. Without a doubt, footage of celebrities playing for large stakes contributed to the mystique and popularity of poker among the general public.
What about fictitious characters?
Wherever the game has expanded, the realms of folklore and popular story-telling are heaped with the exploits and infamy of gamblers and cardsharps.
With these considerations in mind, we’ve listed the most popular poker players and the criteria that led to their nomination. The first three are legitimate professional players with tens of millions of dollars in winnings between them. The next group includes those who made the list primarily because of their day jobs, but who can nevertheless claim some button prowess. Finally, we decided to shake things up a little and take a different path.
Best Poker Players of All Time: The Professionals
Most Famous Poker Players #1: Antonio Esfandiari
Popularly known as “The Magician”, Antonio Esfandiari holds the record of the highest single winnings of all time. He spent $1 million to buy into the Big One for the Drop tournament at the WSOP on July 3, 2012. Then, went on to eliminate 47 opponents en route to earning $18,346,673.
To date, this famous poker player has earned more than $27 million in poker. His successes at the table have landed him roles on television and in movies. He acts as an undercover police officer in the movie starring Robert De Niro and “50 Cent” Jackson.
Throughout his career, the former magician has won three World Series of Poker bracelets and three World Poker Tour crowns, the first of which he earned in 2004 at the L.A. Classic game of poker.
Until Daniel Negreanu snatched his title, Esfandiari had earned more money through tournament winnings than anyone else.
Female Celebrity Poker Players #2: Vanessa Rousso
This 5’7″ hottest female poker player of all time has made a name for herself both on and off the table. She more than holds her own at the tables. Vanessa, often known as “Lady Maverick,” is the fifth most successful female poker player of all time. She earned $3.5 million in her career wins.
In addition, Vanessa competed in several international tournaments, including the:
- WCOOP- World Championship of Online Poker
- WPT – World Poker Tour
- WSOP – World Series of Poker
Hottest Poker Players?
Vanessa Rousso’s advocacy and activities outside of the table have also contributed to her omnipresence. She is an outspoken supporter of gambling as a legitimate activity. Moreover, Vanessa was successful in her push to change Florida’s gambling regulations to allow card players with above-average abilities to have a more enjoyable experience. Moreover, Vanessa is also a GoDaddy spokeswoman, along with former IndyCar racer Danica Patrick.
Meanwhile, Vanessa has a lot of male followers since she is beautiful. Added to her looks, she is also an accomplished female celebrity in the predominantly male gaming industry. Also, Vanessa is featured in Maxim and Sport’s Illustrated’s annual Swim Suit Edition. Here, she maintained her drive to alter the image of poker forever. She is officially acknowledged as one of the prettiest poker players in the world. Vanessa holds 18th place in Bleacher Report and 20th place in Maxim.
Best Poker Players of All Time #3: Phil Ivey
Are you looking for the best all-around player in the world? Phil Ivey is the name. Oftentimes, he is regarded as the best overall player in the poker world today. Phil has dominated the professional poker scene since 2000, earning him labels like “The Phenom” and “The Tiger Woods of Poker.”
He is the first and youngest American player to win 10 WSOP bracelets. Also, Phil Ivey played in the Main Event final table, finishing 7th in 2009. He has one WPT championship to his belt and has played in nine final tables.
Ivey has won several significant tournament prizes, including AU$4 million for winning the LK Boutique AU$250,000 Challenge at the 2014 Aussie Millions.
Furthermore, he is also a successful online player as well as a fantastic high-stakes cash game player. He once won $16 million in three days playing against Texan millionaire Andy Beal.
Phil also plays in the annual Big Game, a mixed cash game held at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. In 2006, Ivey won a total of $16 million from Texas millionaire Andy Beal over three days of heads-up Limit Texas Hold’em, which was perhaps the most significant event.
Ivey has routinely placed well enough in other world-class events, such as the World Poker Tour, to be considered a factor. Even though, he has not been as dominating as he has been in the WSOP.
Overall, Phil’s title as the greatest all-around world-class poker player is well-deserved.
Most Famous Poker Players #4: Gabe Kaplan
He is an old-school celebrity who made his name in the poker community, too. Gabe rose to stardom because of the classic 1970s TV sitcom Welcome Back Kotter.
Who would have guessed that the infamous “Mr. Kot-tare” could play cards? Gabe, for example. His opponents had a nice concept as well.
During Kotter’s popularity, Kaplan began playing poker. Now, keep in mind that this was before the convenience of:
- Online casinos
- Software learning aids
- Gambling Books
As well as, seminars providing a wealth of knowledge and professional analysis. Gabe is already playing old-school head-to-head poker long before the game becomes a “celebrity cool” or “mainstream cool”. He is one of the best poker players of all time when money was the only thing that mattered and everything else went away.
Gabe didn’t break any bones on a bunch of amateurs, either. Rather, he was up against hardnosed and flint-eyed seasoned pros throughout the 1970s. Gabe was already making his name when the newly founded World Series of Poker was recruiting more members.
Top Poker Names
From 1979 through 1991, Amarillo Slim’s Super Bowl of Poker (SBOP) was the top professional and serious amateur poker event in the world. Six of the SBOP’s thirteen main events were won by future Poker Hall of Famers. Kaplan won the Super Bowl in 1980, establishing himself as a world-class athlete and champion of champions.
Kaplan won the 1980 SBOP Main Event for $191 000, catapulting him into the world’s top poker players of all time. His success sent a message across the country that poker was not limited to typical preconceptions because of his daytime employment. It is something that everyone can learn and master. After all, wasn’t he the nerdy comic who used to say things like “up your nose with a rubber hose”. But the idea was that if he could win large in poker, maybe I could too…
Gabe wasn’t a one-hit-wonder. Following his triumph at the SBOP, Kaplan finished sixth at the 1980 World Series of Poker. In the years thereafter, Kaplan has been a major player in the Super Bowl. He finished third in the Main Event in 1982. In the low-ball competitions, he won championships in 1983 and 1984.
Kaplan, who is now in his 70s, continues to make money and compete in professional competitions. In 2014, the Brooklyn comedian played in the Super High Roller Hold’em tournament in Las Vegas, finishing eighth and winning nearly a quarter of a million dollars. Yes, right up your nose!
Famous Gambler Names of All Time
It’s time to shake things up a little. We’ve looked at notable and prominent poker players who have had a substantial effect on the modern poker game. But now it’s time to meet some of the world’s most renowned poker players. They are the guys who captivated millions with the suspense and drama that can only be found when high-stakes poker. Surprisingly, the most famous poker players are complete works of fiction, existing only on the big screen and in the minds of the audiences they delighted.
Don’t be fooled by this, though. Take a look at the following sections. Do you see any stereotypes in these depictions of poker players, as well as some of your own biases?
Fictional Poker Players Of All Time
Poker Celebrities List #5: Brett Maverick
He is a world-class con artist with the gift of being lucky in cards and love. This character debuted in the 1950s television series Maverick, which starred James Gardner in the lead role. Gardner would later have a supporting part in the 1994 film of the same name. This is based on the same character, in which Mel Gibson played the dashing, devil-may-care riverboat cardsharp.
What makes Maverick significant to our list is the character he embodies, a stereotype that is ingrained in the American mind. As you may anticipate from his poker nickname, this “maverick” deviates from conventional norms and expectations.
He is a daredevil; a lone wolf, if you will. A sophisticated master of deceit. He likes winning money than earning money. While his charms work on the ladies, his lifelong mistress is Lady Luck herself.
It sounds cheesy, and the stories are undoubtedly overblown and absurd. The motifs, on the other hand, are vibrant and persist wherever the game is played. While money obtained may be a source of pride and honor, who can deny the seductive and euphoric scent of money won?
Best Poker Players of All Time #6: Bill Denny and Charlie Waters
In the 1970s, known as the Golden Age of American film, the directors and performers dare to take the covers off societal concerns. So, they can reveal to the viewers the sometimes bleak and brutal reality that lay underneath and inside.
The critically acclaimed Robert Altman film California Split, starring George Segal and Elliot Gould, was one such representation. Altman reminds us that gambling, particularly poker, is a hazardous addiction comparable to a drug. Gambling addiction can swiftly take hold of the unlucky and lead to desperate ends, far from the attractive rogue gambler shown in films like Maverick.
Most Famous Fictional Poker Players
Bill and Charlie mirror the stereotyped notion of card playing that fed the public’s overall idea of the game, though from a different perspective and flavor. In addition, they also don’t have much of a humorous elegance about them. They’re neither outsiders nor insiders, but insiders like you and me who are searching for an advantage and find it in the chance of the cards. However, it is an exhausting and empty experience for them. Those who strive to flee and wind up following the dragon participate in poker and gambling in general.
These stereotypes are all portrayed in vivid, unvarnished clarity. They stayed in the public’s imagination for a long time. Then a goofy-looking comedian with a Brooklyn accent (remember Gabe?) makes headlines when he, of all people, enters this possible pit of inequality and vipers, emerging as a goofy-looking, wise-cracking poker champion rather than a burned-out casualty. The public view was shifting, and it would continue to shift until an invention known as “the internet” helped turn a popular draw poker game into a household brand known as “Texas Hold’em.”
Famous Gambler Names #6: Ricky Jay
The final name on our list is a bit of a wildcard. Technically, he doesn’t belong on our list of the best poker players of all time because his day job and reputation aren’t related to poker.
When they see him perform, many people are dumbstruck and wonder what world he comes from. We are not making this up. You should look into this guy’s work if you haven’t already. Ricky Jay is his name.
He is a magician. That’s like claiming Frank Sinatra got a job as a singer. Forget about the wand and the bunny. While he does a wide range of performances, his specialty is cards. There are videos on YouTube with Jay demonstrating card methods so skillfully that they are hard to detect, even with close-up camera lenses and Ricky outlining exactly what he was going to do beforehand.
Famous Celebrity Poker Player
Jay shuffles the decks to ensure that each player in the game receives exactly what he expects. He’ll play with his cards face up and always win. Ricky is left with whatever is available after the players choose their cards, and he beats them.
He’ll start at the bottom of the deck and work his way up. Jay knows where every card in his poker game will be and when. Even before the players sit down at the table, like seeing a skilled pool hustler pot each ball when and only when it will appear to be a lucky shot.
Ricky Jay may or may not play poker. I’m sure he’ll keep his superb deception techniques at home when he does. However, it does present a new aspect of the poker game and mystique that we’ll have to store for another day — poker and deceit.
By the way, if you’re a music aficionado and want to learn more about some of the ideas we discussed today, you might want to check out Ricky Jay’s CD Ricky Jay Plays Poker. It has a diverse and varied array of performances, ranging from Robert Johnson to Bob Dylan. All of which focuses on the poker player/gambler concept and its position in American mythology.