Poker is a fairly subjective game. Different people have different methods of playing certain hands. For one, a pair of deuces is a handicap but then for another it is an opportunity. A King and a Queen for one is a stroke of luck. For another it is a hand where they really could have done without the temptation.
This subjectivity carries through into the theories of which players are regarded as the best or the most successful or the most famous. What does a player have to achieve to become more successful than a fellow professional? Is it their cash winnings? Is it their charisma? Is it their style of play? Or is it something more? Is it that one moment of brilliance or drama that remains in the hearts of those who witness it? Maybe it’s all of the above?
Based on their involvement and influence in the game over the past few years, here is a top 10 list of the most famous poker players in the world right now.
1. Phil Ivey
Phil Ivey is an institution. You utter his name and it strikes fear into his opponents but excitement into his fans. At 34 years of age, he is part of the new generation of professionals to enjoy the poker boom of the 21st century. He has had immense success with over $13m in winnings and has 8 WSOP bracelets to his name. Is there a bigger player than Phil Ivey in the game right now? If there is, then we would like to know his name!
2. Daniel Negreanu
Not only one of the finest professional players around, Daniel Negreanu has the charisma and business sense to go with his outstanding ability. With 4 WSOP bracelets and over $14m in winnings he really stands out as perhaps the most successful player of modern times. He is the face of PokerStars and is one of the most popular players on the circuit. If you don’t know Daniel Negreanu, you want to.
The man with no face. Having carved his reputation online, Isildur1, as he is known, became synonymous with high stakes betting and outrageous risk taking. Some classic battles with Phil Ivey and Tom Dwan ensured Isildur1’s epic rise to the top was swift and effective. Now he has joined the Team PokerStars Pro line up, his identity was revealed as Swedish player Viktor Blom. Viktor Blom represents a generation who learn their trade online and he has become a symbol of hope for all those who wish to make it big. The future is bright for this lad and he is without a doubt the most exciting prospect in professional poker right now.
4. Jonathan Duhamel
Jonathan Duhamel is the WSOP champion for 2010. He is the reigning title holder of the most prestigious tournament in the world of poker. His success at the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas last year has seen his stock rise through the roof. He won $8.9m by winning that tournament. His life will never be the same again and expectations are high for this young Canadian talent.
5. Annie Duke
An ambassador for all women who are trying to show that the cards game is not necessarily a man’s world any more. No other person has had such an impact in so many areas on the poker circuit. As well as playing the game professionally, Annie Duke is a writer, television presenter and poker pundit. She also coaches at the WSOP Academy and even helped celebrity actor Ben Affleck with his game. She is about to lead the launch of a new professional league at the end of this year so she is only just beginning her quest for world poker domination. It’s going well so far!
6. Michael Mizrachi
Arguably, The Grinder, as he is affectionately known, is one of the most consistent players in the world at the moment. Michael Mizrachi made the 2010 WSOP November Nine, finishing 5th to earn $2.3m. He has also won a bracelet this year and has appeared in numerous final tables throughout the year to show that his reputation as a player who grinds out his chips is paying dividends. What he lacks in charisma and show business charm he makes up for with raw poker ability and tenacity. Nobody wants to come across this guy in a tournament and for his gift of longevity in big tournaments he has earned the right to make this top 10.
7. Joe Hachem
Joe Hachem came to the public limelight in 2005 when he stormed to victory in the WSOP Main Event. He landed a record $7.5m and never before had such a charismatic figure caused such a stir. Many credit Chris Moneymaker for inspiring the 21st century poker boom but Joe Hachem became the inspiration for millions of players at home who believed they could follow in this Australian’s foot steps. Originally a chiropractor by trade, Hachem showed that any one can make it if they put their mind to it and even to this day he gives hope to all those who strive to make waves in the poker industry.
8. Phil Hellmuth
Aptly labeled as ‘The Poker Brat’, Phil Hellmuth probably has more enemies than friends. Wherever he goes, his reputation precedes and for that alone he warrants his place in this top 10. He holds the record for the most WSOP bracelets with an astounding 11 to his name. He has over $9m in winnings and was the youngest player ever to win the WSOP Main Event in 1989 at the tender age of 24 years old. He also has five top 10 finishes in the WPT which shows he is successful even outside the WSOP domain. He is perhaps not the best role model for behavior at the table but his record cannot be questioned.
9. Scotty Nguyen
If ever a film was to be made of a poker player then no player would be more fitting to star in it than Scotty Nguyen. He came to America in extraordinary circumstances aboard a drifting refugee boat from Vietnam. He was just 11 years old. He found work as a table cleaner at Harrah’s Casino in Las Vegas and it was from there that the legend was born. From such humble beginnings, Scotty Nguyen has made a fortune and become regarded as not only one of the most impressive professionals around but also the most friendly. In 1998, Scotty Nguyen’s romantic tale came to an appropriate climax as he lifted the WSOP Main Event title. It is the rags to riches tale of this incredible man, originally named Thuan Nguyen, that makes him such a popular player the world over.
10. Doyle Brunson
How can you have a top 10 without the ‘Godfather of Poker’ in it? Doyle Brunson is so famous he even has a hand named after him. The ’10 and 2’ hand became famous because it was Brunson’s hand on both occasions as he secured the 1976 and 1977 WSOP Main Event Championships. He has won 10 WSOP bracelets during his career and was the first player to win $1m in prize money. He also has a WPT title to add to his collection and many consider him to be one of the most influential figures in poker history. Even though he is not as prominent at the tables these days as he used to be, no-one can deny the impact the ‘Texas Dolly’ has had on the game.
So there it is the top 10 most famous poker players in the world today. Of course you might disagree. Other players such as Gus Hansen, Annette Obrestad, Jason Mercier, Jamie Gold, John Juanda and Chris Ferguson might be on other lists and when you look at it maybe 10 spots just isn’t enough to cover the array of talent currently present in the glamorous world of poker.