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Who is the Best Poker Player in the World?

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Problems with Identifying Who is the Best Poker Player in the World

The game of poker has been filled with a menagerie of some outstanding talents.  The likes of Phil Hellmuth, Phil Ivey, Tom “Durrrr” Dwan, Johnny Chan and Daniel Negreanu all have strong claim to be recognized as the best poker player in the world.

The problem with deciding who is the best poker player in the world though is that it’s subjective.  There are a number of criteria we could use to decide which poker player is the best.  Below I’ve outlined the best poker players in the world according to various criteria.

Most WSOP Bracelets

Phil Hellmuth has a very strong claim to be the world’s best poker player.  He has a record 11 WSOP bracelets, and also holds records for the greatest number of WSOP cash outs (75) and final table positions (41).  Many argue however, that when deciding who the best poker player in the world, we should be looking at success across all poker games.  Hellmuth won all his WSOP bracelets in Holdem events, and is known not to be as good at cash games.

Most Cash Winnings in Poker

Daniel Negreanu is top of the all time money list and tournament cash list.  This means out of all the best poker players in the world, he’s made the most money including cash games, tournaments and internet poker.  Negreanu is definitely a candidate if we’re to realistically consider who is the best poker player in the world.  Along with his substantial cash winnings, Negreanu has 4 WSOP bracelets and has won the WPT Championship twice.  The WSOP 1998 bracelet also earned him a record as the youngest ever WSOP winner at the time (24).  Realistically, the only thing holding Negreanu from being regarded as the best poker player in the world is that he’s Canadian. However since Negreanu received his green card in 2009, we can’t really count this against him.

Best All Round Poker Player

Phil Ivey is widely considered by many to be the best all round poker player in the world.  In tournaments he’s won 7 WSOP bracelets and a WPT Title.  And although only 2nd in the tournament winnings rankings (one below Negreanu), Ivey has shown technical ability and dominance in a number of different poker variants.  Winning 3 WSOP bracelets in one single year in 2002, Ivey has won WSOP events in No Limit Holdem, Pot Limit Omaha, No-Limit 2-7 Draw Lowball and Omaha Hi/Lo.  During 2009 Ivey made $13,500,000 in poker through all his activities and events – making him at least one of the best poker players in the world today. He’s a regular participant on NBC’s Poker After Dark and has also appeared on NBC’s new show Face the Ace.

Allen Cunningham, although a relatively unknown quantity, is rightly regarded as one of the world’s best all round poker players.  Voted by fellow professional poker players as the best all around player under 35, Cunningham has won 5 WSOP bracelets in events covering Seven Card Stud, Deuce to Seven Draw, No Limit Holdem and Pot Limit Holdem.  Cunningham also has 2 final table WPT finishes, has won 3 consecutive WSOP bracelets, and has live tournaments winnings exceeding $11 million. 

Most Interesting Poker Player to Watch

Mike “The Mouth” Matusow is well known as one of the most rambunctious and ‘trash talking’ poker players at the tables.  Also known as Mike Matusow “Blow-up” or “Mike Matusow Meltdown”, this player is very prone to monumental bust ups on the tables which makes him so fascinating to watch.  He’s also well known for ending hours of perfect play with outrageous or terrible moves.  Aside from his fascinating persona – which includes stealing from his mother’s purse, attending alcohol anonymous meetings and publicly trying to lose weight; Matusow is widely regarded as one of the best poker players in the world.  His poker achievements include 3 WSOP Bracelets, the 2005 WSOP Champion Title and 4 final table finishes in the WPT.  Matusow is also a member of the Full Tilt Poker Team.

Best Internet Poker Player

Tom “Durrr” Dwan is pushing Phil Ivey off the perch in poker.  At just 23 years old, Tom Dwan currently plays some of the highest stakes in internet poker and live poker history.  Regularly seen on Full Tilt Poker under the screen name “Durrrr”, Dwan regularly plays stakes of up to $1000/$2000 – multi-tabling no less than 4 tables at a time.  Dwan also holds the record for the greatest live poker cash pot, worth $919,600 against Barry Greenstein on High Stakes Poker.  Although Durrrr hasn’t won nearly enough tournaments to be considered the best poker player in the world; at just 23 years old he has plenty of excuses. In fact Dwan only just missed out at the last 2008 WSOP final table – coming 8th, and already has a final table finish to his name at the WPT.  His recent Million Dollar Challenges have astounded the poker world, and overall Dwan offers a completely new consideration in determining  who is the best poker player in the world.

Best Poker Player of the 20th Century

Although not quite as successful as he used to be, Johnny is Chan will always be remembered as one of the best poker players in the 20th century.  With a prodigious 10 WSOP bracelets, Chan also won consecutive WSOP bracelets in 1987 and 1988. Shooting to fame in the 1980s, Johnny Chan is still playing poker professionally and cashed in at the 2008 WSOP for the first time since 1992, earning $32,166 in winnings.

Doyle Brunson is also recognized as one of the world’s best poker players, matching Chan’s 10 WSOP Bracelets, and still a regular winner in the 21st century poker circuit.  A Poker Hall of Fame inductee, Brunson is a legendary doyen of poker with a collection of books and strategy articles to his name, along with his own internet poker site DoyensRoom.com.  He’s notably one of only two players, along with Bull Boyd, to have won bracelets at the WSOP in four consecutive years.

Lastly, it seems to be negligible not to include Johnny Moss into the debate of who is the best poker player in the world.  Professional poker player from 1907 – 1995, Johnny Moss is the only poker player in history have had a starting hand named after him in his honour – A10.  Participating in the first ever WSOP in 1970, he won the event after being nominated by his peers, and also went on to win a total of 9 WSOP events in his career.  One of the charter inductees to the Poker Hall of Fame in 1979, Johnny Moss will always be remembered as one of the greatest poker players that lived.


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