In the intricate dance of poker, where skill intertwines with the unpredictability of chance, the title of ‘best poker player’ isn’t bestowed lightly. It’s earned through a blend of audacious bluffs, strategic mastery, and the fortuitous turns of fate. This journey into the realm of poker’s elite doesn’t merely recount their winnings; it delves into the stories of resilience, intellect, and sometimes, serendipity that define the legends. As we unveil the tales of the top 10 poker players of all time, we’re not just tracking their victories but exploring the very qualities that cement their status as the game’s most influential figures.

10 best Poker Players That Will Make You Say “Good God! They’re Really Good!” 

#10 Johnny Chan: The Orient Express

Johnny Chan

Johnny Chan’s journey to poker stardom is punctuated by his legendary back-to-back World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event victories in 1987 and 1988, a feat that etched his name into the poker pantheon. But beyond the bracelets lies the tale of the “Orient Express,” a nickname born from his ability to steamroll over his competition with relentless aggression and an impenetrable poker face.

Anecdote: A defining moment in Chan’s career, immortalized in the movie “Rounders,” involved a showdown with Erik Seidel in the 1988 WSOP Main Event. Holding the nuts, Chan calmly lit a cigarette, allowing the smoke to swirl as he baited Seidel into moving all-in. This moment, capturing Chan’s cool demeanor and psychological mastery, is often cited as a masterclass in the art of the bluff.

#9 Erik Seidel: The Silent Assassin

Erik Seidel

Erik Seidel’s poker saga is one of quiet determination and relentless pursuit of excellence. With eight WSOP bracelets and a career spanning over three decades, Seidel’s legacy is a testament to his enduring talent and adaptability. Yet, it’s his unassuming presence at the table, earning him the moniker “The Silent Assassin,” that has disarmed opponents and fans alike.

Anecdote: Before poker, Seidel was a competitive backgammon player and a trader on Wall Street, a background that honed his analytical skills and cool under pressure. His transition to poker was marked by an iconic runner-up finish to Johnny Chan in the 1988 WSOP, a moment captured on film and in poker lore. Despite the loss, Seidel’s gracious demeanor and quiet confidence set the stage for a legendary career that would see him outlast and outplay many of his contemporaries.

#8 Stu Ungar: The Kid with a Gift

Stu Ungar

Stu Ungar, known affectionately as “Stuey,” possessed a genius for card games that was both his greatest asset and his most formidable adversary. With a mind that could track cards with computer-like precision, Ungar’s talent propelled him to the pinnacle of poker, winning the WSOP Main Event three times—a feat matched by only a handful of players.

Anecdote: Ungar’s memory and card counting skills were so legendary that, after winning a local gin rummy tournament by a margin so large that the second-place player was nearly invisible in his wake, no one would play him again. In poker, his uncanny ability to read opponents and anticipate their moves led to a career filled with triumphs but also battles with personal demons that ultimately cut his life tragically short.

#7 Doyle Brunson: The Godfather of Poker

Doyle Brunson

Doyle Brunson, affectionately known as “Texas Dolly,” is a towering figure in the world of poker, with a career that spans over six decades. Brunson’s contribution to poker goes beyond his 10 WSOP bracelets; he penned “Super/System,” a seminal poker strategy guide that revolutionized the game.

Anecdote: One of Brunson’s most memorable hands came in the 1976 WSOP Main Event, where his ten-deuce of hearts went on to secure him the championship. The following year, the same hand—ten-deuce—again brought Brunson the title, cementing the hand in poker folklore as the “Doyle Brunson Hand.” This remarkable coincidence showcases Brunson’s fearless style and his ability to turn even the most unlikely of hands into a championship winner.

#6 Phil Hellmuth: The Poker Brat

Phil Hellmuth

Phil Hellmuth, known as “The Poker Brat” for his notorious outbursts and unshakable confidence, has an unmatched 15 WSOP bracelets to his name. Beyond the table tantrums lies a player with an exceptional understanding of poker psychology and an unparalleled record of success.

Anecdote: Hellmuth’s entrance to the 2009 WSOP Main Event is the stuff of poker legend. Dressed as Caesar, complete with a chariot and attendants dressed as Roman soldiers, Hellmuth’s flair for the dramatic underscored his larger-than-life persona. Despite his theatrics, Hellmuth’s real mastery is in reading opponents and executing strategies that have secured his place in poker history.

#5 Daniel Negreanu: Kid Poker

Daniel Negreanu

Daniel Negreanu, affectionately known as “Kid Poker,” is revered not only for his six WSOP bracelets and two World Poker Tour (WPT) titles but also for his infectious enthusiasm and remarkable ability to read opponents. Negreanu’s approachable demeanor and keen insights into the game have made him a beloved figure and ambassador for poker.

Anecdote: In a display of his uncanny ability to read opponents, Negreanu once called out his opponent’s exact hand, jack-nine offsuit, in a televised game, leaving the table in awe. This moment encapsulated Negreanu’s deep understanding of the game and his almost psychic ability to get inside his opponents’ heads, a skill that has become his trademark.

#4 Justin Bonomo: The High Roller

Justin Bonomo

Justin Bonomo’s rise to poker prominence is marked by his incredible success in high-stakes tournaments, including the 2018 WSOP $1 million Big One for One Drop, which he won for $10 million. Known for his analytical approach and relentless work ethic, Bonomo has consistently pushed the boundaries of competitive poker.

Anecdote: Bonomo’s victory in the 2018 Big One for One Drop was not just a testament to his skill but also his commitment to charity. Leading up to the event, Bonomo had pledged to donate a significant portion of his winnings to effective altruism causes, showcasing his belief in using his poker success to make a positive impact on the world.

#3 Phil Ivey: The Tiger Woods of Poker

Phil Ivey

Phil Ivey, often compared to Tiger Woods for his dominance in poker, has earned a reputation as one of the game’s most feared competitors. With 10 WSOP bracelets and countless high-stakes victories, Ivey’s aggressive style and unparalleled focus have made him a legend.

Anecdote: Among the many tales of Ivey’s prowess, one that stands out occurred during a high-stakes cash game in which he was down millions. Unfazed, Ivey managed to turn the game around within hours, showcasing not just his skill but his remarkable resilience and mental fortitude, traits that have defined his career.

#2 Fedor Holz: The Wunderkind

Fedor Holz

Fedor Holz’s meteoric rise in poker is characterized by his strategic mind and psychological acumen. With over $32 million in live earnings by his mid-20s, Holz has demonstrated an extraordinary ability to navigate the complexities of the game, earning him the nickname “The Wunderkind.”

Anecdote: In the 2016 WSOP $111,111 High Roller for One Drop, Holz clinched the bracelet and a $4.9 million prize. But it was his humility and focus on personal growth post-victory that impressed many. Holz credited his success to a mindset coach, emphasizing the mental and emotional aspects of poker, a perspective that has influenced many in the game.

#1 Bryn Kenney: The Money Leader

Bryn Kenney

Bryn Kenney’s remarkable ascent to the pinnacle of the all-time money list cements his status as the best poker player in our rankings. His fearless playing style and strategic genius, showcased by a monumental single event win of over $20 million, underline Kenney’s unmatched prowess. With his bold approach and exceptional adaptability, Kenney has redefined the standards of poker excellence, making him our top pick for the best poker player.

Anecdote: Perhaps the most striking illustration of Kenney’s audacity came during the 2019 Triton Million for Charity event. Facing a massive chip deficit, Kenney negotiated a deal that ultimately secured him the largest single payout in poker history, despite not finishing first. This move, combining savvy negotiation with poker skill, underscored Kenney’s innovative approach to the game.

best poker player

Honored Mentions: Masterful Players Beyond the Top 10

The poker world is abundant with captivating stories of players who’ve significantly impacted the game, transcending beyond mere tournament leaderboards and championship accolades. While these individuals didn’t ascend to our top pick for the best poker player, their contributions and remarkable journeys have earned them honorable mentions. Each has left an indelible mark on the fabric of poker, shaping its history and inspiring future generations.

  • Chris Moneymaker: Moneymaker’s victory in the 2003 WSOP Main Event is credited with sparking the poker boom, inspiring millions to take up the game. His win, coming from an online satellite with an $86 buy-in, demonstrated that anyone could compete at the highest levels, fundamentally changing the poker landscape.
  • Vanessa Selbst: The highest-earning female poker player, Selbst’s aggressive style and strategic depth have earned her three WSOP bracelets. Her decision to retire from professional poker to focus on her family and other pursuits speaks to the evolving nature of poker careers and the balance between personal life and professional ambitions.
  • Barry Greenstein: The Robin Hood of Poker
    Barry Greenstein is renowned not only for his prowess on the poker tables but also for his generous philanthropy. Greenstein’s nickname, “The Robin Hood of Poker,” stems from his commitment to donating a significant portion of his tournament winnings to charity.
  • Tom Dwan: The Online Phenom
    Tom Dwan, known in the online poker world as “durrrr,” made a name for himself with his aggressive play and fearless bluffs. His rise to fame came during poker’s online boom, where he participated in some of the highest stakes games ever played on the internet.
  • Antonio Esfandiari: The Magician
    Antonio Esfandiari, known as “The Magician,” not only for his background in magic but also for his ability to make chips disappear from his opponents’ stacks and reappear in his own. Esfandiari’s charisma and flair have made him a fan favorite.
  • Jennifer Harman: The Trailblazer
    Jennifer Harman is one of the most respected and successful female poker players in history, having competed—and thrived—in the highest stakes cash games, traditionally dominated by men.
  • Viktor Blom: Isildur1, The Mystery Man
    Viktor Blom, better known by his online alias “Isildur1,” burst onto the high-stakes online scene in 2009, taking on and beating many of poker’s biggest names. His aggressive style and willingness to play anyone, anytime, led to some of the most thrilling poker games in history.
  • Sammy Farha: The Cool Cat of Omaha
    Sammy Farha, with his unflappable demeanor and signature cigarette, is best known for his runner-up finish in the 2003 WSOP Main Event, where he lost to Chris Moneymaker in a defining moment of the poker boom. Farha is also a renowned Omaha player, having won three WSOP bracelets in his career.
  • John Juanda: The Quiet Assassin
    John Juanda, with his calm demeanor and friendly smile, belies a fierce competitor who has won five WSOP bracelets across a variety of poker disciplines. Juanda’s success is built on a foundation of discipline, patience, and a deep understanding of poker strategy.
  • Annette Obrestad: The Young Gun
    Annette Obrestad shot to fame by winning the inaugural WSOP Europe Main Event one day before her 19th birthday, making her the youngest person ever to win a WSOP bracelet. Her aggressive play and remarkable success at such a young age have inspired a generation of younger players.

Legacy and Influence

The legends and influencers of poker, including those crowned as the best poker players, from our top 10 rankings to our honorable mentions, have uniquely shaped the rich history of this game. Their stories of triumph, resilience, and innovation not only define what it means to be the best poker player but also continue to inspire and captivate players and fans alike. As poker evolves, the enduring legacy of these players underscores the game’s depth, diversity, and dynamism, reminding us of the qualities that distinguish the best poker players in this beloved game.

Reflecting on the Best Poker Player: A Journey Through Poker’s Elite

In the world of poker, where skill and luck intertwine to create legends, the journey to becoming the best poker player is fraught with challenges, strategic battles, and moments of unparalleled triumph. This exploration through the lives and careers of poker’s most esteemed players not only highlights their achievements but also underscores the qualities that set them apart in the competitive arena of poker.

As we conclude our tribute to these icons, it’s clear that the title of the best poker player isn’t just about the winnings or the number of titles. It’s about the resilience to withstand the pressures of the game, the strategic acumen to outwit opponents, and the adaptability to thrive in ever-evolving scenarios. Our top pick, Bryn Kenney, exemplifies these virtues, standing as a beacon for aspiring players everywhere.

The stories of these poker maestros offer invaluable lessons and inspiration for anyone looking to make their mark in the world of poker. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a budding enthusiast, the path to greatness is paved with the same dedication, insight, and passion exhibited by the best poker players. As the game continues to evolve, so too will the standards of excellence, inviting a new generation of players to chase the coveted title and perhaps, one day, rewrite the annals of poker history themselves.

In celebrating the achievements of these exceptional talents, we are reminded that poker is more than just a game; it’s a testament to the human spirit’s capacity for brilliance and innovation. The quest for the title of the best poker player continues, a never-ending game of skill, strategy, and sheer will to succeed.


The answer varies based on criteria such as total earnings, WSOP bracelets, and influence on the game, but Bryn Kenney is often cited due to his exceptional tournament performances and earnings.

Chris Moneymaker’s victory in the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event is credited with sparking the “Moneymaker Effect,” a phenomenon that significantly boosted poker’s popularity. His win demonstrated that an amateur player could qualify for the world’s biggest poker tournament through an online satellite and go on to win, inspiring millions around the globe to take up the game and contributing to the poker boom of the early 2000s.

Identifying the best cash game poker player is challenging due to the private nature of high-stakes cash games. However, players like Phil Ivey, Doyle Brunson, and Tom Dwan are often mentioned for their success, versatility, and ability to win consistently in the highest stakes cash games around the world.

The best online poker player title has seen various contenders over the years, with players like Viktor “Isildur1” Blom and Phil “OMGClayAiken” Galfond being notable for their online prowess. Due to the anonymity and evolving landscape of online poker, this title can vary based on criteria such as winnings, consistency, and impact on the game.

While the “best” can vary based on metrics and timeframes, Phil Galfond is widely respected in the poker community for his expertise in PLO. Galfond has not only succeeded at the highest stakes but also contributed to the game’s strategy through his coaching and the poker site he founded, which emphasizes fairness and community.

As of the last update, Bryn Kenney leads in terms of total live tournament earnings, making him one of the highest-earning players in poker history.

Phil Ivey is frequently mentioned as one of the best American poker players for his achievements across both tournament and cash games, as well as his versatility and feared presence at the tables.

Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier is notable for his achievements in both online and live tournaments, including WSOP and WPT titles, making him one of France’s most successful poker players.

Carlos Mortensen, born in Ecuador but often associated with Spain due to his Spanish nationality, is one of the most successful tournament players with multiple WSOP bracelets and a WPT Championship title.

Mustapha Kanit is known for his success in high roller tournaments and online poker, making him one of Italy’s most prominent poker players.

Fedor Holz, with his rapid rise to poker fame and significant earnings in both live and online tournaments, is widely regarded as one of Germany’s best poker talents.