It’s not difficult to label someone as ‘the best’. Fans of a certain person will frequently mark them down as being the very best at what they do. That’s just common. Yet, are there are any people who have reached that status in a bit more of an official way? Better yet, are there any poker players who have reached that official status?
That’s precisely what we intend to look at here. The best all-time poker players from around the world. Not only that, but we’ll be looking at one or two celebrities who are known for their poker gameplay as well as their primary talent. Plus, which of these professionals has won the biggest pot while playing online poker?
So, who exactly are some of the best all-time poker players?
Best Poker Players by Earnings
Most people would assume that the more winnings from poker that a player has earned, the better they are. Well, that’s not altogether strictly 100% true.
As it happens, a player may have won $1 million in poker play from just a single tournament, whereas someone else could have been the victor in several tournaments, but only managed to come away with $900,000 in total.
However, if we were to look at tournament earnings in general, it would be ludicrous to not mention Bryn Kenney. Residing in Long Beach, New York, the 33-year-old entrepreneur is currently ranked 4th on the Global Poker Index and 1st on the Hendon Mob All-Time Money List as of mid-2019. Kenney holds a single World Series of Poker bracelet after claiming the victory in a 2014 $1,500 10-Game Mix Six-Handed event, scooping $153,220 in prize money at the same time.
Yet, it was Kenney’s 2019 run that saw many people sit up and take notice, with his biggest career cash coming in August of that year. During the Triton Million, Kenney took the runner-up finish to win himself $20,563,324. It’s proved to be quite the poker career for the player as well, considering he started out in 2007, and has been steadily adding to his overall winnings ever since. His largest single cash of nearly $2 million occurred in April of 2017, when he competed in the PokerStars Championship €100,000 NLHE Super High Roller 8-Max held in Barcelona.
Total career winnings so far? $55.5 million!
The nickname “KidPoker” will forever be remembered as being synonymous with Daniel Negreanu. This Canadian poker player is not only one of the best for his career winnings, but for his general link to the poker world. He’s won six World Series of Poker bracelets and two World Poker Tour championship titles, whilst cashing 143 times and amassing a total of $41.8 million. Negreanu has even found himself inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame as of 2014.
Born in Toronto, Ontario to Romanian immigrants, Negreanu is also linked with philanthropy, frequently appearing in charity events like Ante Up for Africa, raising money for the Darfur region of western Sudan. He’s also the founder of the Big Swing charity golf event, which occurs every year, beginning back in 2009. Negreanu’s fame has extended beyond the gaming sector though, with appearances in several films, including X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Grand. Plus, he’s appeared (albeit as a poker player) in the music video for Katy Perry’s “Waking Up in Vegas” single.
Erik Seidel is one poker player who has had quite the lengthy career already. The 60-year-old from Las Vegas, Nevada started out playing professional backgammon in his youth before moving on to becoming a trader on the American stock exchange. It was only after this that he caught the poker bug, becoming one of the group of now famous players from the Mayfair Club – a cardroom in New York City.
Seidel’s first major poker tournament was in 1988, when he finished as the runner-up at the World Series of Poker Main Event. The final hand that he played against Johnny Chan was featured in the Rounders movie from 1998. While Seidel didn’t win his first of eight WSOP bracelets until 1992 (and his most recent in 2007), he has proceeded to win bracelets in five different variations of the game, including Hold’em, Omaha and Deuce to Seven Draw. His largest cash pay-out came in 2011 when he secured $2.5 million while participating in the Aussie Millions Poker Championship $250,000 Super High Roller NLHE event.
Combined, Erik has managed to amass a total of $35.7 million from his poker gameplay – certainly no small feat.
Let’s Hear It for the Girls
Poker isn’t solely a man’s game, though. Female poker players have been making their way up the ranks throughout the years, with many of them standing out against the men.
Earnings by female players have soared into the millions as well, making this a completely mixed sex game.
Vanessa Selbst is quite likely to maintain her worldwide status as women’s number one for a long time, considering she remains as the only female to have ever earned the number one ranking in the world on the Global Poker Index. Selbst is a member of Team PokerStars Pro and she possesses three World Series of Poker bracelets, being the first and only female to have done so.
The Brooklyn-born player has experienced various finishes throughout her career, but her highest WSOP Main Event money finish came in 2012, when she placed 73rd. Adding to that, Selbst is the first woman to have ever played in a Supe High Roller event, scoring a third-place finish during the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure $100,000 buy-in tournament, which occurred in January 2014.
Her total earnings from poker play equate to $11.85 million, and that’s something that makes her one of the best in the world.
Tennessee native Kathy Liebert started out her poker career as a prop player based in Colorado. Later on, she chose to enter tournaments and she actually won the first Party Poker Million event that occurred in 2002, as well as the first limit poker tournament, scoring $1 million in prize money. It’s accolades like this that make it no surprise that she has amassed career winnings of $6.17 million.
She’s also made six WPT final tables, and she enjoyed a third-place finish at the 2005 Borgata Poker Open, too. Liebert possesses a single WSOP bracelet, which she claimed during the 2004 $1,500 Limit Texas Hold’em Shootout. What’s more, the highest WSOP Main Event finish she has ever recorded is 17th, which took place in 2000. Still participating in tournaments to this day, Liebert is a force to be reckoned with in the poker world.
If there’s a woman who can do it all, it’s Annie Duke. Not only is she a professional poker player, but she’s an author at the same time. Going by the nickname of the “Duchess of Poker”, Duke has already had quite the poker career, with many people knowing her as the younger sister of Howard Lederer – another poker player.
Duke’s first run at major tournaments took place back in 1994, and she recorded three wonderful showings at WSOP in that year – 14th, 5th and 26th in the Main Event. It was right after this that she moved to Las Vegas with her husband, in a bid to further her poker career. She would go on to win a WSOP bracelet in 2004, as well as the WSOP Tournament of Champions and the 2010 National Heads-Up Poker Championship. Annie Duke actually reigned supreme over the women’s poker sector for a long time, and she has amassed a total of $4.27 million from it over the years.
As an author, she has written several instructional books for poker players, including The Middle Zone and Decide to Play Great Poker. Her autobiography has also been published in 2005, and she also appeared on Celebrity Apprentice to raise money for Refugees International in 2009, finishing as the runner-up to Joan Rivers. During her time on the show, she raised more than $700,000 for her chosen charity.
Celebrity Poker Players
While poker players could probably be deemed as celebrities within their own gaming world, there are celebrities (including film stars, sportsmen and singers) who have taken it upon themselves to get involved with the poker world.
And some of them have become not only good at the game, but linked up to it in multiple different ways.
If you’ve ever seen Bride of Chucky, you’ll know Jennifer Tilly as the titular bride in the movie. She may be noted as an actress with a distinctive voice, but she’s also quite on top of her game when it comes to poker as well. In fact, Tilly has even gone so far as to win her own WSOP bracelet, garnering more than $992,000 from participating in tournaments. This accolade makes her the only celebrity player to be in possession of such a prize.
It must be something that runs in the family, as Tilly’s grandfather was also a poker player, and he introduced her to it by giving her the video game World Series of Poker. When she moved to Hollywood, she was taught how to play poker on a professional level by her boyfriend, Phil Laak and this led to her winning the aforementioned bracelet (as well as $158,625) in the Ladies’ No-Limit Texas Hold’em event, outdoing 600 other players.
Tilly then went on to win the third World Poker Tour Ladies Invitational Tournament in 2005, and she appeared in the eighth Celebrity Poker Showdown in 2006, which aired on Bravo. In that event, she finished third after being outdone by the online poker champion of Bravo, Ida Siconolfi.
The former Spiderman actor hasn’t put all his talents to use on the big screen. Instead, he’s been participating in poker tournaments as well, first entering such in 2004. He has finished in the money in several events and took tuition in poker from aforementioned professional Daniel Negreanu. Eager viewers of poker have witnessed Maguire participating in the World Series of Poker Main Event Championship via ESPN in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
In the mid-2000s, Maguire joined many other celebrities, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Ben Affleck, to participate in high-stakes poker at The Viper Room, hosted by Molly Bloom. Negative press soon came his way though, when he almost lost a tournament and demanded that Bloom herself “bark like a seal” to get a $1,000 poker chip from him. Shortly after, Maguire is said to have stolen the game from Bloom, and this led to her relocating to New York.
You probably wouldn’t be able to pick a huge number of movies that Shannon Elizabeth has been in, because most of them have been dark comedy and American comedy films like American Pie and Scary Movie. However, the Houston, Texas native (who now lives in Cape Town, South Africa) has had a bit more attention due to her poker gaming. It was in 2006 that Elizabeth described the game of poker as her second career, and she swiftly became one of the sector’s leading celebrity players.
According to reports, she visited the Las Vegas Valley up to three times per month, so as to be able to participate in poker games against other top players. While her tournament participation may be down these days, Elizabeth scored 12 tournament cashes between 2006 and 2010.
At the 2005 World Series of Poker, she played in the Main Event under the guidance of Daniel Negreanu, and she also went on to win a special tournament, which marked the opening of a new poker room at Caesars Palace in January of 2006. There, she defeated 83 other celebrities and poker professionals to secure $55,000.
He may be best-known for being part of the hit television series Seinfeld, but Jason Alexander also started playing in poker tournaments in a bid to raise money for charity. He appeared twice on the Celebrity Poker Showdown aired on Bravo, managing to win the final table on the eighth season of the show.
This saw him secure the $500,000 prize for the charity of his choice (The United Way of America), and the outcome of that table is considered the best in the history of the show. Having been down $11,000 in chips against Michael Ian Black, Alexander stormed back to win and the tournament raised money for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Alexander also participated in the 2007 World Series of Poker main event, although would be eliminated on the second day during that tournament. He returned to it two years later, making it to day 3 and finishing in the top 30% of the field. He also went on to sign with the PokerStars brand, and appeared on the Poker After Dark television program during the “Celebrities and Mentors” episode in 2009. During that, he finished in sixth place after being eliminated by professional player Gavin Smith.