The global poker boom in the mid-2000s might have brought poker into our homes through TV coverage, but the game has been popular since the 19th century and maybe even earlier, in various guises.
Modern poker is all about the betting structure, with professional players going all in to win millions in tournaments – and thanks to the internet and innovations in camera work, we can be there with the best when they head for Showdown with a winning hand.
High-value poker tournaments have not only made players millionaires in their own right, but also made them celebrities – endorsements and sponsorship deals, TV appearances, and even publishing books.
Of course, some of the greatest players of modern poker have been in the game for only a few years, but the World Series of Poker (WSOP), which is arguably the biggest poker tournament globally, has been running since 1970, and has seen a fair few people winning a ‘bracelet’. The WSOP bracelet is the most coveted non-money prize in poker, awarded to the winner of every event featured at the WSOP.
With that in mind, here are some of the most well-known poker players from around the world.
Although he retired a few years ago, Doyle Brunson had played professional poker for more than 50 years, and was the first player to win a million dollars in tournaments.
‘Texas Dolly’, as he is known, learned his trade playing in illegal poker games in Texas before moving to Las Vegas to become a pro. As well as his career earnings, Doyle also won 10 WSOP bracelets, with the first coming from the inaugural WSOP tournament.
Later in his career, he turned some of his poker knowledge, along with some from other famous players, into a well-known and highly-regarded poker strategy book called Super/System, and he famously said that publishing that book gave away so much poker knowledge it probably cost him tournament winnings in the long run.
Vanessa Selbst is the highest earning female poker player of all time, in a world that is dominated by men. She is also the only woman to hold the number one spot in the Global Poker Index.
Born in Brooklyn, Vanessa earned a degree in Political Science as well as a JD from Yale University, and burst onto the professional poker scene to win 3 WSOP bracelets.
Vanessa took her poker knowledge and applied it to helping others; becoming a coach and an executive producer for the poker training site DeucesCracked.
There are many who might say Daniel Negreanu, also known as ‘Kid Poker’, is the most famous poker player of the modern era, but it is fair to say that he is definitely recognised as the nicest.
Born in Canada, Daniel speaks fluent Romanian – and he is a keen blogger who credits his excellent poker record to being a vegan.
Daniel holds six WSOP bracelets, and has won a staggering $42 million in tournament prizes after gaining notoriety during the poker boom of the 2000s.
Phil Hellmuth might have the most wins in WSOP history, with 16 bracelets – but he is much more famous for being the ‘Poker Brat’. His abrasive personality, vocal complaints, and other antics during tournaments might make him an entertaining character when it comes to TV time (and it has definitely made him one of the most recognisable players), but it has also made him quite unpopular with other players.
Hellmuth won his first bracelet in 1989 at the age of 24, and currently resides in California.
This British poker champion won the European Poker Tour Sanremo in 2010, following an appearance on a poker-based reality show.
Before entering the professional poker world, Liv earned a First Class Honours degree in Physics with Astrophysics. While studying she was also the lead guitarist in a heavy metal band and spent time modelling clothes for alternative fashion brands.
Liv is the only female player to have won both a WSOP bracelet and the EPT, and although she retired in 2019 she still ranks in the top ten list of highest female poker player winnings.
The highest earning poker player in the world deserves a quick mention – with more than $60 million won, Justin Bonomo is a real high roller.
An online star from Sweden called Viktor Blom swept in surprisingly in 2009, taking on the big boys to win high-stakes games, including the EPT.
Let’s not forget the celebrity poker players that get involved – those that are famous for other things but like to play high-stakes games like the WSOP such as Gerard Pique, James Woods, Shane Warne and Kevin Hart. While these celebs might not have what it takes to knock the professionals out of the competitions, they have enough skill for a place at the table.