Over the years, plenty of poker stars have been born. Some of poker's most notable faces have grown to become quite famous, even outside of the poker world.
Who are the most famous poker players and what makes them famous? Is it their celebrity status within the game, WSOP bracelet wins, or additional notoriety on the felt? As you'll see in our list of 20 famous poker players that you should know about, it's a combination of everything that makes these players renowned by so many.
Nicknamed "Kid Poker," Daniel Negreanu is a legend in the game. He is currently signed to GGPoker as their lead ambassador after representing PokerStars for several years. Negreanu isn't just the most successful Canadian poker player in history; he's one of the most successful poker players, period. Negreanu has six WSOP bracelets, two WPT titles, and more than $51,000,000 in live tournament earnings, according to TheHendonMob.com. In 2022, Negreanu won Super High Roller Bowl VII for $3,312,000.
Phil Hellmuth is a poker titan amongst men. The record 17-time WSOP bracelet winner is an absolute superstar in poker. His record of tournament success speaks for itself, and if it doesn't, he'll tell you all about it. Hellmuth is also one of the biggest poker personalities around, if not the biggest. Highly decorated, Hellmuth has the happy knack of creating headlines whether he wins or not. His demeanor might rub some people the wrong way, but others truly love Hellmuth and the colorful entertainment he provides. At the 2023 WSOP, Hellmuth won his record 17th WSOP gold bracelet.
Legendary players don’t come much bigger than the 10-time WSOP gold bracelet winner. Phil Ivey is respected by all of his peers and is widely considered to be the best player to ever hit the felt. Ivey is a major force to be reckoned with, whether in high-stakes cash games or the biggest tournaments in the world. He's been a featured player on High Stakes Poker for many seasons. In addition to his 10 WSOP gold bracelets, Ivey is a World Poker Tour champion and a Triton Poker Series title holder. Through June 2023, Ivey had 10 seven-figure tournament scores.
Appropriately referred to as "The Godfather of Poker," Doyle Brunson is poker's most iconic figure. Known to many as "Texas Dolly," Brunson won two WSOP Main Events in back-to-back years in the 1970s with the same hand, ten-deuce. He is a 10-time WSOP bracelrt winner and a WPT champion. You won’t find a player who stood the test of time longer than Brunson did, especially when it comes to the stakes he frequented. He truly is the best of the best and there will never be another Doyle Brunson. Sadly, Brunson passed away at the age of 89 on May 14, 2023.
Erik Seidel is the consummate professional. He may not be the loudest and he may not grab the headlines like some of the others on this list do, but every year Seidel shows up in poker and performs. Through June 2023, he's won more than $43,000,000 in live poker tournaments. In 11 prior years, Seidel has scored seven figures in poker tournament prize money. He has nine WSOP gold bracelets, a World Poker Tour title, and a U.S. Poker Open tournament win all under his belt, and he's been doing it all since 1988.
One of the most enigmatic players in the world, Tom Dwan was the darling of the uber-aggressive online poker world before becoming a high-stakes cash-game legend in shows such as High Stakes Poker and Poker After Dark. Dwan has two Triton Poker Series titles to go along with a handful of deep runs in WSOP and WPT events, although he's yet to win a WSOP bracelet or WPT title yet. Compared to some of the other poker greats on this list, Dwan wasn't done nearly as much in the tournament game, but that doesn't mean he's still not one of the most famous poker players ever. He is.
Antonio Esfandiari burst onto the scene during the poker boom, winning both a WPT title and a WSOP gold bracelet in 2004. "The Magician" as he's so commonly known has two WPT titles and three WSOP gold bracelets to his credit, and he's most widely recognized as the winner of the first-ever WSOP $1,000,000 Big One for One Drop that he won in 2012 for a whopping $18,346,673. Esfandiari spent many seasons battling with the biggest names in the game on High Stakes Poker and is one of the most popular figures in the industry.
Johnny Chan is a 10-time WSOP gold bracelet winner who won the World Series of Poker Main Event in back-to-back years of 1987 and 1988. What many may not know is that he almost won it for a third consecutive year but ultimately placed second to another player on this list, Phil Hellmuth, in 1989. Chan's notoriety rose when he was featured in Hollywood's most famous poker movie, 1998’s Rounders. In televised games, Chan has played in High Stakes Poker, Poker After Dark, and Poker Superstars.
Gus Hansen is a Danish professional poker player who won the first-ever World Poker Tour event that was held back in 2002 at Bellagio in Las Vegas. That's when a poker star was born. Since then, Hansen has won two more WPT titles, a WSOP gold bracelet, and an Aussie Millions title while also battling in some of the largest cash games ever played. "The Great Dane" as he is known in the poker world, Hansen is also an elite backgammon player and experienced tennis competitor.
In the moment just before he won the 1998 WSOP Main Event, Scotty Nguyen told his heads-up opponent Kevin McBride, "You call, it's gonna be all over, baby!" McBride did make the call and the rest is history, with Nguyen taking home the $1,000,000 top prize. Nguyen can often be found with a smile on his face and a beer in hand, and rightfully so after a career that has seen him win five WSOP gold bracelets, including the 1998 WSOP Main Event and 2008 $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. World Championship, and a World Poker Tour title in the WPT Gold Strike World Poker Open in 2006.
Shaun Deeb could very well be the most consistent WSOP player in recent history. Every World Series of Poker, Deeb is very much in the thick of it all for the WSOP Player of the Year race, and he'll likely continue to be a contender here as long as he puts in the incredible volume that he's known for. Deeb is a six-time WSOP gold bracelet winner and a player who epitomizes the successful transition from online poker to live poker. Online, Deeb has eight World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) victories and five Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP) titles.
One of the most tenured high-stakes cash-game professionals in the poker world, Patrik Antonius is as respected a player as they come. He may not have the tournament résumé that some of the other players on this list tout, but Antonius is far from someone you'd like to sit down at your table. Antonius is a regular fixture is some of the biggest cash games in the world, including the $2,000-$4,000, $3,000-$6,000, and $4,000-$8,000 games that run in Las Vegas. In 2005, Antonius won the EPT Baden Classic for €218,180.
Currently No. 1 on poker's all-time money list with more than $61,000,000 in career live tournament earnings, Justin Bonomo is one of the toughest and winningest competitors the poker world has ever seen. He has a tournament résumé that includes 10 seven-figure scores, three WSOP gold bracelets, and three Super High Roller Bowl victories. In 2018, Bonomo won a whopping $25,428,935. That year, Bonomo won Super High Roller Bowl China for HK$37,830,000 ($4,823,077), Super High Roller Bowl for $5,000,000, and the WSOP $1,000,000 Big One for One Drop for $10,000,000.
Darren Elias is the most decorated player in World Poker Tour history with four WPT titles to his name. Elias is the winner of the WPT Borgata Poker Open, WPT Caribbean, WPT Fallsview Poker Classic, and WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic. Additionally, Elias has the most cashes and most final tables on the WPT Main Tour. Elias lives in New Jersey and is an ambassador for BetMGM Poker. He is still searching for his first-ever WSOP gold bracelet but does have a trio of third-place finishes from WSOP events.
In a legendary underdog story, Chris Moneymaker won the 2003 WSOP Main Event for $2,500,000 after qualifying online in an $86 satellite tournament. The accountant out of Nashville, Tennesse, defeated Sam Farha in heads-up play in the 2003 WSOP Main Event and helped ignite the poker boom. What followed after Moneymaker's win is known in the poker world as the "Moneymaker Effect" and he's been a poker superstar ever since. Although Moneymaker doesn't travel as much for poker nowadays as he once did, he's recognized everywhere he goes around the industry.
Mike Matusow is a great example of a poker player who has brought much more to the game than merely his results. Matusow is one of the most colorful poker personalities and entertaining players to watch. He's a four-time WSOP gold bracelet winner and twice has reached the WSOP Main Event final table (2001 and 2005). Matusow placed ninth at the WSOP Main Event final table in 2005 and won $1,000,000. Also in 2005, Matusow won the WSOP Tournament of Champions for $1,000,000, making him the first player ever to have two $1,000,000 scores in the same year.
Jamie Gold won the 2006 WSOP Main Event in dominating fashion, holding quite a large chip lead for a large period of the tournament. He topped what was at the time the largest WSOP Main Event field ever - 8,773 entries - and won $12,000,000. The field size and first prize were the biggest in WSOP Main Event history and those records stood for 17 years before the 2023 WSOP Main Event set new highs. Gold is known for his talkative play at the table and eating blueberries all the way to the winner's circle in the 2003 WSOP Main Event.
Doug Polk is an American professional poker player, YouTuber, training site founder, and cardroom owner. On the felt, Polk is known for his success playing high-stakes heads-up no-limit hold'em, winning three WSOP gold bracelets, and feuding with Daniel Negreanu that led to the two playing one on one and Polk winning. Polk is a popular YouTuber who can be found commentating on recent happenings in the poker world, he co-founded the training site Upswing Poker in 2015, and in 2022 became co-owner of The Lodge Card Club in Texas.
Maria Ho wears many different hats in the poker world. She's a professional player with millions of dollars in live tournament earnings, an award-winning broadcaster (2019), and Women in Poker Hall of Fame inductee (2018), to name a few. She also regularly appears on televised poker shows such as Poker After Dark and No Gamble, No Future. In 2009, Ho competed on the reality TV series The Amazing Race when she teamed up with fellow poker player and good friend Tiffany Michelle.
Considered one of the game's brightest minds, Jason Koon has won more than $47,000,000 in live poker tournaments and crushed many dreams in high-stakes cash games. Koon is another player on this list with numerous seven-figures paydays. Eleven times in his career Koon has cashed for $1,000,000 or more in a live poker tournament. Koon won his first WSOP gold bracelet in 2021, and he currently leads all players with the most Triton Poker Series titles (seven). In 2022, Koon was crowned High Stakes Duel 3 champion and won the 2022 PGT Championship for $500,000.