Poker is a competition where players can win unimaginable amounts of money. That's one of the beauties of this great game that we love. That led us to wonder, what are the biggest prizes ever won in poker? This article will answer that question. These are the top 10 largest first-place prizes won by poker players.
Birthed from the mind of Canadian businessman, co-founder of Cirque du Soleil, and avid poker player Guy Laliberté, the Big One for One Drop was a gold bracelet event as part of the 2012 WSOP in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The first-ever World Series of Poker Big One for One Drop was unlike anything we’ve ever seen in poker at the time. The event had a staggering $1,000,000 buy-in that saw 48 players put on the line. The winner was none other than the popular Antonio Esfandiari. He topped Sam Trickett in heads-up play to win the event’s $18,346,673 first-place prize.
An invitational hosted by the Triton Poker Series, the Triton Million for Charity tournament had a £1,050,000 buy-in to make it the most expensive tournament of all time. A total of 54 players competed, with the field comprised of 27 recreational VIP players who could each invite one poker pro.
Originally, the plan was to see the winner take home £19,000,000 from the £54,000,000 prize pool, with the runner-up receiving £11,000,000. But the final two players, Aaron Zhang and Bryn Kenney, agreed to a deal that altered the payouts. The two struck a deal that saw Zhang get £13,779,491 ($16,775,820) and Kenney take £16,890,509 ($20,563,324). At the time of the deal, Kenney had the chip lead, leading to him taking more money from the agreement. However, it was Zhang that would go on to win the tournament after the deal was made. Had there been no deal made or had Kenney won the event after the deal, the Triton Million for Charity poker tournament would sit atop this list with the largest first-place prize in poker history.
Two years after the first Big One for One Drop, the event ran again. This time, a field size of 42 entries competed for $1,000,000 each. When it came down to heads-up play, arguably the world’s most famous poker player, Daniel Negreanu, was up against Dan Colman. Colman got the better of the match and walked away with the $15,306,668 top prize.
Coming in at number four on this list is the 2016 WSOP €1,000,000 Monte-Carlo One Drop Extravaganza that was held in Monaco. The event had a €1,000,000 buy-in and there were 28 entries in the field, stemming from 26 players and two reentries.
Elton Tsang emerged victorious to win the tournament’s €11,111,111 ($12,248,912) first-place prize.
The 2023 World Series of Poker Main Event was truly one to remember. Not only did it set the record for largest WSOP Main Event field size in history, but the field size skyrocketed to more than 10,000 entries.
Those 10,043 entries, all of whom paid $10,000 to buy in, generated a $93,399,900 prize pool. Up top was the largest first-place prize in WSOP Main Event history at $12,100,000. Winning it all was well-known poker professional Daniel Weinman.
Before the 2023 WSOP Main Event set the record for field size and first-place prize in the event’s storied history, the 2006 WSOP Main Event held the record for both.
The 2006 WSOP Main Event took place in the height of the poker boom, with 8,773 players competing in the event. The man who stood tall when it was all said and done was Jamie Gold, and Gold walked away with a $12,000,000 first-place prize.
The $1,000,000 Big One for One Drop was back on the WSOP summer schedule in 2018. The event was a bit smaller than the first two times it was part of the WSOP schedule in Las Vegas, but the field size of 27 entries still ballooned the prize pool up to $24,840,000.
Two of the game’s top tournament professionals, Justin Bonomo and Fedor Holz, went to battle heads up for the $10,000,000 first-place prize. Bonomo won the battle to win the event for a seven-figure payday.
The 2019 World Series of Poker Main Event was a big one, with 8,569 players putting up $10,000 apiece to create a prize pool north of $80,000,000. Germany’s Hossein Ensan topped Italy’s Dario Sammartino to win the tournament’s $10,000,000 first-place prize.
In 2014, the WSOP Main Event had a “guarantee” for the first time in the tournament’s history. We put “guarantee” in quotations because the guarantee was on the first-place prize only and not the entire tournament's prize pool. This was the year that WSOP officials guaranteed a first-place payout of $10,000,000.
The tournament drew 6,683 entries. With the first-place prize guarantee in place, the top prize was nearly double the $5,147,911 second-place prize. Sweden’s Martin Jacobson, a well-known professional poker player, took home the $10,000,000 top prize.
The final entry to crack this list of the top 10 biggest first-place prizes in poker history is the 2008 WSOP Main Event. The tournament may not have awarded an eight-figure first-place prize like those tournaments above it on this list, but it did come in at more than a $9,000,000 winner’s share.
The 2008 WSOP Main Event attracted 6,844 entries. Winning it all was Peter Eastgate for $9,152,416.
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