From the riverboats and saloons of the Old West to Las Vegas and the internet, poker has a long and storied history, attracting all manner of players from all walks of life. Poker has always been the great equalizer, class and social status mean nothing at the tables. Over the years, there have been many great players, but some have proven themselves to be true titans of the sport with their names known by all, even long after their death. From the legendary figures of the Old West to the current batch of players born out of the online poker world, here are some of the most famous poker players of all time.
FAMOUS POKER PLAYERS OF THE OLD WEST
During the days of the Old West, poker was king, in the towns of Dodge City, Tombstone, Deadwood and Virginia, all manner of desperadoes played with their guns at their side and backs to the wall. Whether it was in a riverboat sailing the Mississippi, or a dingy salon, fortunes were won and lost playing the games of the day—stud poker, five card draw, and faro, a betting game using a standard 52-card deck. Some of the players have passed into history, their names lost forever; however, a select few have managed to stand the test of time and their expertise at the tables is still remembered.
JAMES BUTLER HICKOK (1837–1876)
"Wild Bill" Hickok was a soldier, lawman, showman and actor, but among his many noteworthy achievements, he was also arguably the most famous poker player of his day. Not only because of his prowess at the tables, but because of how the game eventually got him killed and spawned the 'Dead Man’s Hand'. The day before his death, Hickock was playing five card draw at the Nuttal & Mann's Saloon in Deadwood, South Dakota, when another player, Jack McCall, lost every cent he had. In what would prove to be a fatal mistake by Hickock, he offered the unlucky McCall money for food and some free advice, "Don't play again until you can cover your losses." McCall was insulted and left immediately. Nobody could have anticipated what happened next, or how badly McCall would take the perceived insult.
The next day, Hickok returned to the poker tables; however, his favoured seat with the back to the wall was occupied. By this time in his life, he had gained many enemies and had grown justifiably paranoid about being shot. To keep himself safe, he always sat with his back to the wall so he could see everyone who approached the table. Unfortunately for Hickock, the player in his favoured seat refused to move, and he was forced to sit elsewhere, leaving himself vulnerable. McCall entered the saloon later that day and saw Hickock back at the poker table, flying into a fit of rage, he stormed over to the legendary gunfighter and shot him in the back of the head, killing him instantly. As the story goes, when Hickock's cards were retrieved, the hand composition was two pair, black aces and eights, and is now forever known as the Dead Man's Hand.
Hickock's impact on the game didn't end with his death. When the Poker Hall of Fame was established in 1979, James Butler' Wild Bill' Hickok was among the first to be inducted.
ALICE “POKER” IVERS (1851–1930)
Alice Ivers first started playing poker in the town of Deadwood. Widowed and broke, she tried several different jobs to support herself, but eventually, she found her way to the poker tables where she played and worked as a dealer to earn money. Over the next few years, she forged a reputation as a cigar-smoking, gun-toting, tough as nails player who rarely lost. As her skill and winnings grew, so too did the crowds of spectators who would come to watch 'Poker Alice' ply her craft. Using her good looks, card counting and mathematical skills, she found herself winning upwards of $6000 a night at her peak. Overall, she claims to have won $250,000 during her career as a player, most of which she used to support her family.
Around 1910 she opened Poker's Palace, a saloon in South Dakota, offering gambling, liquor and prostitutes. However, she ensured it was always closed on Sundays to keep with her religious ideals. She found herself in trouble with the law after she fired her gun at some drunken soldiers who were acting unruly and causing wanton destruction in her establishment. One died, and another was injured. Alice only spent a short time in jail, after the court ruled she acted in self-defence, but her saloon was shut down as a result.
In her later years, she was continually in trouble with the law for operating a brothel, bootlegging and public drunkenness (we’ve all been there, right?). After retiring, her health began to fail and she died in 1930 at the age of 79. She was buried at St. Aloysius Cemetery in Sturgis, South Dakota.
JOHN HENRY “DOC” HOLLIDAY (1851–1887)
Doc Holliday started his adult life as a well-respected dentist in Georgia, but after being diagnosed with a mild case of tuberculosis, the course of his life would change forever. Holliday's tuberculosis got increasingly worse as the years went on, and his pool of clients quickly dried up as his coughing became more prominent, and people became fearful of catching the disease. Eventually, Holliday was forced to give up his dental practice, and he instead turned to other pursuits, eventually becoming a notorious gambler and violent outlaw.
With more time on his hands, Doc started spending most of his days in the local saloons where he learnt how to play poker. He spent many months honing his skills and eventually became so good, there were none who could beat him. After growing bored with playing the same people repeatedly, Holliday started travelling between states, playing in every saloon he came across. While on the road, his temper and willingness to solve problems with violence, saw him gain a reputation as not only a good poker player, but a man that shouldn't be trifled with. Quick with a blade, and his Colt Army revolver, Doc was said to have killed many men during his travels, although modern historians refute some of the deaths attributed to the former dentist.
Holliday’s biggest claim to fame away from the poker tables was his participation in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. After the feud between the Earp family and a gang of outlaws dubbed the ‘Cochise County Cowboys,’ turned violent, Holliday didn't hesitate to join his good friend Wyatt Earp and his brothers Morgan Earp and Virgil Earp in gunning down three of the outlaws in the 30-second shootout. Arguably the most famous gunfight in the Old American West, the events of that day would eventually have far-reaching consequences that would see several more men dead, and send Wyatt Earp on his famous Earp Vendetta Ride with Holliday in tow.
Holliday would keep travelling across the country playing poker for a few more years after the end to the Earp Vendetta Ride, but his health continued to deteriorate, along with his gambling skills. He eventually died due to complications caused by Tuberculous at the Hotel Glenwood in Colorado Springs, California.
His long-time common-law wife Mary Horony, also known as 'Big Nose Kate' was said to be there when he breathed his last breath. Doc Holliday's skill as a poker player and gunfighter has seen him remembered long after his passing with TV shows, movies and novels based on his life.
WYATT EARP (1848–1929)
One of the most famous figures from the American West, Wyatt Earp is known as a staunch lawman, fearless gunfighter and long time gambler. Like many men of the era, his life was filled with violence, brushes with the law, and tragedy, losing his first wife Urilla Sutherland to typhoid fever when she was in childbirth and one of his brothers to the feud with the 'Cochise County Cowboys' in Deadwood. Like his good friend doc Holliday, Earp spent many years travelling around the country, changing job titles frequently. The only constant as he travelled between the dusty boomtowns of the Old West was his fondness for gambling, which was his primary source of income for most of his adult life. Earp wouldn't play in his first faro game until 1875, but he quickly saw the benefits of the game. Like modern poker, faro uses a 52-card deck, but unlike the modern game, it was far easier to rig the dealer box, which meant it was easy for operators like Earp to make considerable profits.
Despite his very colourful life, the event he is most well known for is the gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona which saw the lawman, his two brothers Morgan and Virgil, and Doc Holliday kill three 'Cochise County Cowboys'. The outlaw gang would retaliate by killing Morgan and wounding Virgil, which would result in Wyatt going on his famous Earp Vendetta Ride which would see the newly minted Deputy U.S Marshal form a posse and kill four more cowboys. He spent the years after the end to his vendetta ride travelling between towns and gained a reputation as a rounder, a slang term for a man who makes the rounds of saloons, brothels and gambling halls. His success at the tables would go up and down, and he was involved in plenty of scams and other dodgy deals to settle his gambling debts, including the famous refereeing decision in the Fitzsimmons–Sharkey boxing match, which saw Earp vilified and accused of accepting bribes.
Earp would eventually die in 1929 at the age of 80; however, the details of his life are still widely debated by historians who argue many of the stories surrounding the man's prowess are fabricated. Regardless of where the truth lies, Wyatt Earp is still one of the most famous poker players of the Old West.
BAT MASTERSON (1853–1921)
Throughout his life, Bat Masterson was a lawman, army scout, journalist, gunfighter and prolific gambler who used his winnings to fund his passion projects. Born to a working class family in Quebec, he moved to the Western frontier as a young man where he made a name for himself as a hunter and scout.
Among his other talents, Masterson also began to establish himself as a force to be reckoned with at the poker tables. During his travels, he would frequent the saloons and walk away with more than a few large wins under his belt. Before long he crossed paths with another Old West legend and poker player, Wyatt Earp, and the two became fast friends.
While working as the sheriff in Dodge City Kansas in the early 1870s, he formed the 'Dodge City Gang' also known as the 'Dodge City Peace Commission' with the Earp brothers and notorious poker player and outlaw Doc Holliday. The group took on the task of policing the town and were involved in more than a few shootouts. Despite his reputation as a fierce gunfighter, historians are unsure if he ever actually killed anybody.
Aside from his frequent stints in law enforcement, Masterson also managed gambling wherever he went, overseeing poker and faro games in multiple towns, including the Oriental Saloon in Tombstone. It wasn't until 1881 he achieved near-mythic status though when a young writer from the New York Sun heard a story vastly exaggerating Masterson's exploits. Once the writer had duly exaggerated the tales further, he published them transforming Bat Masterson into a household name.
By the mid-1880s, Masterson moved again, this time to Colorado, where he moved away from poker and games of chance to sports betting. He would eventually attend every important fight in the United States from that moment until he died in 1921. Later, a friendship with fellow poker player President Theodore 'Teddy' Roosevelt would see him receive a federal appointment as one of the 'White House Gunfighters'.
A move to New York City in 1902 saw him change professions again, this time to a reporter covering sport, war and politics. By the time he died in 1921, he was known throughout the country as a leading sportswriter and had achieved celebrity status thanks to his high-profile friendships, and frequent depiction in news articles detailing his life as a gambler, gunfighter, and lawman.
KITTY LEROY (1850–1877)
Kitty Leroy was among the most proficient poker players in the Old West. Born in 1850, the young women from Michigan started performing as a dancer at a young age and would eventually move onto performing in dance halls and saloons. It was here she picked up new skills that would serve her throughout life, including a proficiency with various firearms, knives, and expertise in games of chance. By age 20, she was among the most popular entertainers in Texas, but she gave it all up to become a professional faro dealer and gambler. Along with her skill at the tables, she also became known for always being armed to the teeth, openly displaying several guns and knives which she used to lethal effect when provoked.
Among the many tall tales stories surrounding Leroy, is how she killed her third husband. The story goes that a man became very enamoured with her, and she challenged him to a fight. He turned her down, refusing to fight a woman, so Leroy changed her clothes to look like a man and rechallenged him, this time gunning him down in the street. Feeling guilty, she called for a preacher and married the dying man before he died.
When the gold rush began in South Dakota, Kitty travelled to Deadwood on the same Wagon as Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok in 1876. She was quick to put her mark on the town, opening the Mint Gambling Saloon. In 1877 she married her fifth and final husband, a man named Samuel R. Curley. For Kitty, it was just another fling between gambling and running her business, but Samuel didn’t see it that way.
After an argument over her many alleged affairs with former husbands and other local characters such as Wild Bill Hickock, Samuel killed her, before turning the gun on himself. A journalist would later remark that “Kitty Leroy had five husbands, seven revolvers, a dozen Bowie knives and always went armed to the teeth.”
FAMOUS POKER PLAYERS OF THE 1900S
By the 1900s, poker started to move from the Old West saloons and gambling houses to more legitimate establishments that would lay the groundwork for the casino industry that is thriving to this day. With the start of a new century, came a whole new wave of poker players that would leave their mark on the game.
JOHNNY MOSS (1907–1995)
Johnny Moss was a trailblazing poker player who achieved many firsts in his career, he was the first person to win the World Series of Poker World Championship, and he was also one of the first to win a multi-million-dollar pot. Born in 1907, Moss grew up in Dallas, Texas, which was where he learned how to gamble, and was taught how to cheat. When he was a teenager, he worked at the local saloon, watching the games for cheaters using the skills he learned as a boy. A few years later, like many of the poker players in the Old West, he became a rounder, travelling around the country looking for the best places to play poker. In 1949, he allegedly took part in a game against a high-roller by the name of Nick the Greek. Moss would walk away from that encounter with more than $2 million. However, the story has been called into question many times in the past, and nobody truly knows if the game ever took place, or whether it's just another poker tall tale.
In the 1950s, he moved to Texas and became part of the oil and gambling boom, which would result in him being part of one of the largest poker games Texas had ever seen. When the first World Series of Poker event took place in 1970, Moss was elected champion by his peers when they all voted for him as the second-best player at the tournament; every other player voted for themselves as the best which resulted in the judge giving the top spot to Moss.
He would later go on to win the following year, and again in 1974. For the rest of his career, he won nine bracelets and had 25 money finishes at the World Series of Poker. He also set the record for being the oldest recipient of a World Series of Poker bracelet. Moss's legacy was cemented in 1979 when Benny Binion, the owner of the Horseshoe Casino created the Poker Hall of Fame and made Moss the first inductee.
Johnny Moss had his last big tournament in 1988; he won $116,400, which added to his $13 million in career poker earnings. Only a few years later in 1995, Johnny Moss, one of the best known and well-respected poker players, died at the age of 88.
THE UNITED STATES PRESIDENTS
Believe it or not, quite a few U.S Presidents have been avid poker and card players, going back to the very first. George Washington gambled long before he took the top job, keeping meticulous records of his wins and losses. Whist was his game of choice, a classic English card game with many similarities to poker.
When poker was sweeping across the country during the 1800s, a young Abraham Lincoln, still a few decades away from becoming the 16th American President, was introduced to the game and continued playing well into his presidency. Ulysses S. Grant famously led the Union to victory in the civil war, eventually becoming the 18th president. While in office he was known to play poker frequently.
Numerous politicians were known to indulge in poker at the close of the 19th century, including a young man by the name of Theodore Roosevelt who used poker to enter higher social circles while moving up through the ranks. After William McKinley was assassinated in 1901, Roosevelt—who was Vice President at the time—stepped up and became the 26th U.S. President. His successor, William Howard Taft, was also known to play poker, occasionally joining games hosted by industrialist Henry Frick.
Warren G. Harding, the nation’s 29th president, was known for many things through his two-and-a-half years in the top job before his death, corruption, extra-marital affairs and his twice a week poker games. The players were all members of his administration who would smoke and drink whiskey, despite prohibition, earning them the nickname, ‘The Poker Cabinet.' Harding may have been the most powerful man in the land, but at the poker tables, he insisted on being like everyone else, asking the other players to treat him as they would any other opponent.
Harding's successor, Calvin Coolidge, also enjoyed poker, but next in line Herbert Hoover was less of a fan and famously declined invitations to any of the President's poker games. Franklin D Roosevelt succeeded Hoover, and quickly moved to bring back the tradition of poker in the White House, hosting several low-stakes games every week.
Harry Truman, the 33rd president of the United States, was also a keen player, allegedly bringing his poker buddies with him to the Whitehouse to fill positions in his cabinet. His desk had a sign reading "The Buck Stops Here," a personal slogan that he took from poker.
Dwight D. Eisenhower rose to prominence as a five-star general and Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces during WWII, eventually going on to become the 34th president of the United States. He learned to play poker growing up in Kansas and supposedly spent a lot of his time while training in the army routinely winning poker games. After he graduated, he continued to play while working his way up the chain of command.
Eisenhower's successor—John F. Kennedy—preferred bridge, but the man who took over after Kennedy's assassination, Lyndon B. Johnson, loved poker. According to one poker tall tale, he won a sports car from Ronald Reagan in a high-stakes game.
The 37th American President, the infamous Richard Nixon, also played poker throughout his time in the oval office. He was a well known bluffer, and there are many stories of his daring bluffs at the table. Nixon became a poker hound while serving in the Navy during WWII. As the story goes, he even funded his first Congressional campaign with poker winnings.
Barack Obama, the 44th president of the U.S., was a frequent player at the poker tables. Much like Theodore Roosevelt, Obama used poker as a way to network early in his political career, playing a weekly game with fellow state senators. Later, as president, his games involved participants from both sides of politics.
DOYLE BRUNSON, THE TEXAS DOLLY
Doyle Brunson played professional poker for more than 50 years, and even though he retired in 2018, he is still considered a legend. Throughout his illustrious career, he won the World Series of Poker Main Event twice, and was the first recorded player to win $1 million in a poker tournament.
In his youth, he was an athlete competing in various sports, but a severe knee injury would see his dreams of becoming a sports star end early. At some point, Brunson discovered poker and instead turned his attention toward a new career goal. Brunson would go on to hone his poker skills in all manner of illegal and back alley games. In the mid-1970s he moved from playing in dodgy bars to the big time in Las Vegas casinos.
He won the World Series of Poker Main Event in 1976 and 1977 with the same hand, 10-2 off-suit. During his poker career, he cashed out a total of $6.1 million in tournaments and won at least ten World Series of Poker bracelets, which has him in second place for most wins of all time, along with Phil Ivey and Johnny Chan. In 1988, he was forever immortalized as one of the greats when he was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame.
Along with his success at the tables, Brunson also authored several books on how to play poker, including his *Super System*, which was the first book to outlay strategies for Texas Hold 'em. On his last day of playing before his retirement in 2018, he entered a $10,000 play and won $43,963 from a sixth-place finish. His time on the poker circuit might be done, but he still plays small scale cash games and is active on social media.
MOST FAMOUS POKER PLAYERS OF THE MODERN ERA—THE TV HEROES
Boasting ten World Series of Poker bracelets, many list Phil Ivey as the best poker player in the world, he is also one of the most well known. He has been given quite a few nicknames over the years, 'The Phenom' 'The Tiger Woods of Poker', but his first, 'No Home Jerome'; was gained when he used a fake ID to play poker while still in his teens.
Ivey is currently tied with Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan for the second most bracelet wins in the history of the World Series of Poker and has amassed a fortune of over $100 million in poker games, both live and online throughout his massive career.
Phil Hellmuth is known as the 'poker brat', and for very good reason, his outbursts and overreactions, especially after receiving a bad beat have seen him become one of the most well-known poker players of his generation. All his antics aside, Hellmuth is also a very talented player with 15 WSOP bracelets to his name and career earnings in live tournaments of over $23 million.
His first notable accomplishment came in the 1988 World Series of Poker where he scored his first big cash win at the $1,500 Seven Card Stud Split event. The following year at only 24 years old, he became the youngest player to win the Main Event of the World Series of Poker, taking out two-time defending champion Johnny Chan in the process. His record was eventually broken a few years later.
Away from the poker tables, he is known for his instructional poker videos, and multiple appearances on various poker-related TV shows. Phil Hellmuth is considered one of the most polarising figures to ever play the game.
The man they call 'Kid Poker' discovered a talent for gambling at a young age, hustling pool and playing poker at gambling halls in his hometown in Canada. When he turned 21, he moved to Las Vegas intending to become a professional poker player. Negreanu quickly found that his small town skills weren't up to scratch and his dreams were thoroughly crushed when he lost his entire bankroll and had to return home.
Humbled, but undeterred, he continued to work on his skills and would eventually start having success in 1997 with three major tournament wins. The following year he entered the World Series of Poker event for the first time, and would then go on to win six World Series of Poker bracelets and two World Poker Tour championship titles. As of 2019, he is ranked as the third biggest live tournament poker winner of all time behind Justin Bonomo and Bryn Kenney, with his lifetime winnings estimated at over $42 million.
In the years since his rise to stardom, he has been involved in more than a few controversies, in part due to posting his views on social and political issues on social media, stirring up many debates over the years. Regardless of whether you like or hate the man, it's hard to deny he is one of the best known poker players in the world.
Introduced to the game at the tender age of 12, Patrik Antonius didn't have any interest in pursuing a professional gambling career at first. Like many of the poker players of the old West, Antonius would make his mark in a few other professions before settling on being a professional poker player. Starting in tennis, a young Patrik Antonius was touted as an upcoming talent with a bright sporting career ahead of him, but a back injury derailed those dreams in his teens.
At the age of 18, Antonius began his poker journey in his hometown of Helsinki, Finland, while also coaching tennis, and a brief stint as a male model, he honed his skills. His first significant poker win came in 2005 when he came third in the European Poker Tour Barcelona Main Event, pocketing $145,000 for his trouble. The next month, he took out the title and over $340,000 at the European Poker Tour Basel. He ended the year on a high note with a runner-up spot in the Five Diamond World Poker Classic, taking home more than $1 million in prize money. Unlike many of the poker players in his generation, Antonius has made a large part of his lifetime earnings online. Joining the Full Tilt team in 2008, he gained significant exposure in the media, and also managed to make a big profit, estimated to be close to $11 million.
However, he eventually decided to give up playing online and instead focus on live poker. Over the years, he has developed a reputation for being a calm and silent presence at the tables. Silent and calculated, his calm demeanour and humble attitude have earned him many fans. While he may not have any World Series of Poker bracelets or as many accolades to his name as some of the other pros, he is still a significant force to be reckoned with at the tables, and one of the most well-known poker players on the circuit.
Erik Seidel is said to have always had a keen mind for games; he grew up playing backgammon and even spent some time as a stock trader. He began his time as a poker player at the Mayfair Club in New York, which was the inspiration for the film Rounders, which he was also featured in, with his final hand in the 1988 World Series of Poker Main Event, where he lost to Johnny Chan.
He would later win his first World Series of Poker bracelet in 1992, and would later win another seven, with his most recent coming in 2007. Seidel has also won bracelets in five different game types, giving him the fifth most bracelets in the history of the World Series of Poker behind Phil Hellmuth, Johnny Chan, Phil Ivey, Doyle Brunson and Johnny Moss.
His other accolades include 26 money finishes, eight final tables and one title win at the World Poker Tour, one title win at the European Poker Tour and a career earnings total of nearly $35 million. In 2010, he was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame, forever securing his legacy as one of the best to play the game.
CELEBRITY POKER PLAYERS
Poker has long attracted people from all walks of life, from blue-collar workers to sports stars, entertainers and actors. Armed with large sums of cash, many celebrity poker players have tried their luck at the tables to varying levels of success.
Hollywood actress Jennifer Tilly has dozens of film and TV credits to her name, but you might not know that she is also a well-known face around the poker table as well. Her father was a regular gambler and poker player who sparked her interest in the game when he gave her a video game, World Series of Poker at a young age. However, it wasn't until she moved to Hollywood as a fledgling actress that she learnt how to play the game from her boyfriend. She has since won over $1 million in live poker games.
Tilly's first big win came in 2005 when she won the World Series of Poker Ladies' No-Limit Texas Hold‘em event, beating 600 other players and earning her first bracelet. In the same year, she came third in the World Poker Tour Ladies Invitational Tournament. She has also appeared in the Celebrity Poker Showdown, Poker After Dark and in the World Series of Poker Tournament of Champions 2007 Edition video game with her boyfriend, poker pro Phil Laak.
Few can argue that Ben Affleck is one of the biggest movie stars alive today, and believe it or not; he has achieved some success at the poker tables as well. He is one of the few celebrities who has a State Poker Championship win to his name, which he won in 2004.
Along with a stable of other high-profile actors, he was also a member of the now infamous ‘Molly’s Game’, a regular poker game run by Spiderman star Tobey Maguire and Molly Bloom. Aside from his success at the poker tables, Affleck has allegedly won more than $1 million at the blackjack tables, which has subsequently seen him banned from at least one venue.
Regardless of his real-life success at the tables, Matt Damon will always be known in poker circles for his film *Rounders*, arguably the best gambling film of all time. The actor apparently practised heavily for the role, and allegedly lost close to $25,000 while learning to play for the film.
Damon has made regular appearances at The World Series of Poker and was also part of 'Molly's Game'. However, most of his poker games take place behind closed doors away from the public eye.
At one point, Toby Maguire was an actor at the top of his game demanding millions for every film appearance. While he was juggling a successful movie career, he was also making a killing at the poker tables playing both online and live. Maguire is also believed to be the original operator of the infamous celebrity poker game dubbed 'Molly's Game'. Molly Bloom was later brought in so he could focus on playing.
When Molly Bloom wrote a book about the game, which turned into a movie, Maguire, albeit under an alias, was tarnished as a childish bully who would go to extreme lengths to win. Whether the allegations are true, is unknown, and Maguire has never publicly addressed the book. Molly's game no longer runs, and Maguire’s star has long since faded in Hollywood, but he is still known to frequent poker tables.
Best known from his days on the hit show Seinfeld, Jason Alexander has also achieved fame at the poker tables. He won Celebrity Poker Showdown in its 8th season, winning $500,000 for his chosen charity. His skills at online and live poker has also seen him generate interest from top online poker sites for sponsorship opportunities.
A name and face you might not recognize, but rest assured, as one of the co-creators of the Simpsons, Sam Simon was one of the most successful celebrities to take up poker. Before tragically passing away in 2015 from cancer, Sam was a regular at cash games and won money at several World Series of Poker events.
He was introduced to poker relatively young at his weekly family poker games and casino trips with his grandfather, but he did not consider himself a serious poker player for many years. While he never pursued a career in poker, he still racked up some serious cash throughout his time playing.
Simon's private poker game with his celebrity friends also gained significant attention, but unlike "Molly's Game', his game was said to be wildly entertaining and fun. The reputation for hosting a fun poker night eventually saw him host a one-off celebrity poker TV show called Sam's Game.
THE RISE OF THE ONLINE POKER PLAYERS
Most of the big names in poker today started their careers playing in dingy casino poker rooms and tournament circuits, but the new breed of poker pros has the distinct honour of being the first generation to hone most of their skills online. Many of them have already amassed vast fortunes and have shot to poker fame far quicker than their older counterparts.
Born in 1986, Bryn Kenney grew up playing the card game, Magic: The Gathering, but he transitioned to poker as an adult and hasn’t looked back. He played his first poker tournament in 2007; however, his first six-figure payday didn’t come until two years later at the World Series of Poker Main event where he came in 28th place to win $255,242.
This was only the beginning though; he spent the next few years amassing large sums of cash in other games. In 2014, he reached a new high with his first World Series of Poker bracelet, in a $1,500 10-game event for $153,220. He came close the next year with a runner-up finish in Las Vegas.
In 2016, he achieved his first seven-figure payday, winning $1.7 million at a Super High Roller Event. The same year, he added another $1.4 million to his bankroll at the Triton Super High Roller, and in 2017, he scored another pair of wins for over $1 million.
2019 saw him win a pair of Triton high-roller events for a total of $3.1 million, and not long after, he finished as the runner up in the $1 million Triton event for a $20.5 million prize. He is still young and has an extensive career ahead of him, but Bryn Kenney is already one of the more successful players in the game.
The young German boasts an IQ of around 155 and career earnings in poker of over $30 million. Like many of the young pros, Holz, began his career online, using the screen name ‘CrownUpGuy’. It didn’t take long for him to make the transition to live poker though, and ever since then, he has been one of the rising stars of the game.
He has already scored a dozen cash wins at the World Series of Poker and continues to win frequently in online tournaments as well. After dropping out of school to pursue poker full time, he has become a common sight at high roller tournaments around the world.
After a rough start to his poker career, Dan Colman has slowly clawed his way back. Primarily an online player under the screen name ‘riyyc225’ and ‘mrGR33N13’ Colman found himself banned from PokerStars for more than a year due to poor bankroll management and multi-accounting. Naughty naughty!
He eventually cleaned up his act and switched to live poker, winning a massive World Series of Poker prize worth $15 million, and his first bracelet. Aside from the win to his name, he has also scored ten cash wins in other World Series of Poker events. Colman has achieved a considerable level of success in other poker events as well, and his current career winnings sit at close to $30 million.
Originally an online player with the screen name ‘JAKoon1985’, Jason Koon started his poker career in 2006. After transitioning to live poker, he scored 124 cash wins over 12 years. It wasn't until 2018 that he started to make waves in the poker world when he doubled his career earnings in less than a year. Koon is currently a regular player at live high-roller events such as Triton and Poker Masters.
Still relatively young at only 26 years old, Adrian Mateos has already amassed $20 million in prize money and three World Series of Poker Bracelets. Debuting in live poker at only 19 years old, the Spanish player also has the occasional jaunt online under the screen name ‘Amadi_017’. To date, he has won money at more than 150 poker events around the world.
Carrel started small, learning his craft at low-stakes online games while still a teenager. Under the screen name ‘Epiphany77’, he made a name for himself as a solid poker player, before hitting the big leagues in 2013 with the PokerStars Sunday Scoop. After moving away from online poker, Carrel quickly racked up a few wins in the Grosvenor Poker Tour and European Poker Tour Monte Carlo. He won the PokerStars Caribbean Championship in 2017, and then went on to amass another series of wins including his all-time career-high of $1.6 million at the 2019 Triton Poker London event.
THE NEXT GENERATION
Poker is continually evolving, and with the invention of new technologies, the game has never been more accessible. Every day new players from all around the world start playing. While their names are unknown now, the next generation of famous poker players are currently honing their skills for a chance at glory.
*As rated by Global Poker, at the time of publication.
Note this is a reference article to famous poker players throughout history. It is for information and entertainment only. It is not related to, nor a reflection of, Global Poker, its products, content, or its games.