Doyle Brunson

Notable Poker Players and Their Most Memorable Moments

Identifying the best poker players can be a lot tougher than other sports. It’s one thing to keep tabs on metrics like cash winnings and tournament victories, but stats alone aren’t enough to nail down what makes a poker player truly one of the greats.

It’s easier sometimes to look at the names that are going to stand the test of time – players who, through skill and charisma, have made their mark on poker and will be remembered long after they’re gone.

Justin Bonomo

Justin Bonomo tops this list as the all-time top money earner in poker with a total of $61 million earned throughout his career. A huge chunk of his winnings came in one of his best moments in his poker career. In the 2018 World Series of Poker (WSOP), the big-shot player earned a staggering $10 million in the Big One for One Drop event. Bonomo has 34 tournament wins under his belt, including a wreath of WSOP bracelets, Triton titles, and EPT honors.

Like many players on this list, Bonomo started out online under an alias, ZeeJustin. Despite a slap on the wrist for multi-accounting, Bonomo got a win in just about every major online tournament on the biggest poker sites like PokerStars and 888 Casino.

Phil Ivey

Ivey’s a natural talent among poker players. He shot to stardom in the big poker boom of the early 2000s, becoming a staple on any televised game throughout the decade. He’s got 10 WSOP bracelets under his belt and has taken over $26 million in tournament money, but experts wager that there’s a likelihood Ivey has won a lot more. Known as the Tiger Woods of poker, Ivey can turn his hand to any game, be it online, live tournament, or cash, and clear the board with ease.

His most famous cash game achievement is a win of $16 million while playing a three-day marathon against Texas billionaire Andy Beal.

Daniel Negreanu

Daniel Negreanu, a.k.a. Kid Poker, is as much of a household name as poker players get. Like Ivey, he burst onto the scene in the 2000s poker boom, but Negreanu sought the spotlight. He was the face of PokerStars between 2007 and 2019 and is ranked the most popular poker player of all time, Negreanu is the Doyle Brunson of the modern era.

But Kid Poker isn’t all TV appearances and interviews. In his career, he’s taken home six WSOP bracelets and raked in over $51 million in live tournament winnings. Another winner of the Big One for One Drop that boosted Bonomo to the top of the rankings, Negreanu scored $8 million in the same tournament in 2014.

At one point, Negreanu topped the All Time Money List and now sits pretty at third place, below only Justin Bonomo and Bryn Kenney.

Doyle Brunson

The next player on this list comes on a melancholy note. Known as the Godfather of Poker, Doyle Brunson recently passed away at 87 years old. Doyle was playing and winning until the very last. He had one of the most epic careers of any poker player in history and is part of the foundation of poker today.

Poker Players poker player, Doyle Brunson
Image Credit: Dignity Memorial

When Doyle passed away this spring, he had been playing at the table for over 50 years and had plenty of wins to show for it, including 10 WSOP bracelets. Texas Dolly won consecutive main events in 1976 and 1977, made a WSOP final table at 84, and had the renown of being the oldest winner of a poker tour, at 71 years old.

With his amazing instinct and longevity, Brunson’s certainly not going to be forgotten any time soon.

Vanessa Selbst

Vanessa Selbst is the number one ranked female poker earner of all time, with her best rank on the all-time money list pegged at 20th. That’s an outstanding record to have in a male-dominated game. She’s also the only woman to have topped the global poker index.

Selbst has won three WSOP bracelets while still a career poker player, and has sat at the final table in two World Poker Tour tournaments.

Phil Hellmuth

Often known as the Poker Brat, Hellmuth is one of the toughest players in the game. He has the most WSOP bracelets of any mention on this (or any) list – a whopping 17 – alongside upwards of $29 million in total earnings. The Poker Brat has an innate knowledge of the game, and his controversial personality and natural skill make him one of the most popular poker players at the table.

Phil won his 17th WSOP bracelet just this past summer, to great acclaim and recognition of his dominance at poker. However, one of his most famous events was his win against Daniel Negreanu in an epic head-to-head duel back in 2021.

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