Fans love following poker’s all-time tournament money list.
Ungar, Brunson, Ivey, Negreanu – all players that at one point in time were the sole winningest player on the planet.
And while in recent years the poker boom has increased field sizes, and super high roller tournaments have vastly inflated the overall numbers, the chase for #1 still holds appeal for both players and fans alike.
Our friends over at thehendonmob.com have gone out of their way to help us create this list of Main Event champions and High Roller regs. A total of 14 men have stood atop the money pile at some point in their careers. And so without further ado, here they all are starting with the earliest.
1. Johnny Moss (1971-1972, 1974-1976)
Johnny Moss’s victory in the 1971 WSOP Main Event occurred during the only year the buy-in was $5k and not its current $10,000. He spent a total of 36 months as poker’s all-time tournament earner.
2. Puggy Pearson (1972-1974)
Despite officially getting second, in 1972 Puggy won $32,500 compared to champion Amarillo Slim’s $15,000. Happy with the money and not the attention, Puggy and Doyle Brunson worked out a deal to walk away with the cash and let Slim walk away with the title. Puggy would successfully “defend” his title in 1973.
3. Doyle Brunson (1976-1984)
With his back-to-back victories Doyle held the number one spot from May of 1976 until February of 1984, almost eight years. Six of his ten bracelets were won during this stretch.
4. Stu Ungar (1984-1985, 1987-1988)
Ungar won the Main Event in 1980, 1981 and later in 1997, yet none of those victories ever put him atop the all-time money-list. The first year he ever played the Main Event and the last year he ever played the Main Event, he won.
5. Dewey Tomko (1985-1986)
Tomko held the top spot for only 22 months. The man who knocked him off? The same he replaced. Ungar would return to No. 1 after winning three events in January of 1987.
6. Jack Keller (1987-1988, 1993-1997)
Keller and Stu Ungar would exchange the top spot five different times in the late 80’s when both were at the peak of their game. Keller was a final table machine in the 90’s. He held the top spot for a total of four cumulative years despite having only one six-figure cash.
7. Johnny Chan (1988-1994, 1997-1998)
Chan spent four and a half years uninterrupted as poker’s all-time earner from 1988 until early 1993. He is the most recent (and likely last ever) player to win back-to-back Main Event titles.
8. T.J. Cloutier (1998-2006)
T.J. shares a reluctant honor with Dewey Tomko. They are the only men to finish second in the WSOP Main Event… twice. Cloutier has also finished fifth (1988) and third (1998).
9. Jamie Gold (2006-2009)
Gold’s win was so massive that were it his only cash ever he would still rank #49 on the all-time money list today. Gold is the only player on the list without multiple WSOP bracelets although he has notched six-figure scores in each of the last two years.
10. Phil Ivey (2010)
Ivey held the top spot for the shortest time of anyone on the list – just 12 months. He currently holds a three-way second-place tie for most WSOP bracelets in history. Ivey, Johnny Chan, and Doyle Brunson all hold ten while Phil Hellmuth sits atop the mountain with fifteen.
11. Erik Seidel (2011-2012)
While immortalized in Rounders as the guy who finished runner-up to Johnny Chan, Seidel appears to have gotten the last laugh. Seidel has now out-earned Chan in tournaments by nearly $26 million.
12. Antonio Esfandiari (2012-2014)
Esfandiari would hold the title of all-time money earner for exactly two years until the second Big One for One Drop. Born in Iran, he is one of only three foreign born players to hold the top spot. Johnny Chan (China) and Daniel Negreanu (Canada) also hold that distinction.
13. Daniel Negreanu (2009, 2011, 2014-2018)
While currently second on the all-time money list, Negreanu has over double the amount of his closest competitor (Jonathan Duhamel) on the Canadian all-time money list. Negreanu was the overall #1 for a total of four and a half years before finally falling behind:
14. Justin Bonomo (2018 – Present)
Bonomo’s bracelet win in the 2018 WSOP $10k Heads-Up event was remarkably only the fifteenth largest score of his 2018 so far. Justin has won 10 titles in 2018 alone. And there are still four months left.
And there they are. The 14 players who have stood atop poker’s all-time tournament earnings list at some point in their careers. How long will Bonomo maintain the top spot? Will his High Roller success keep him #1 for years to come? Or will old school players like Erik Seidel and Phil Ivey soon make a comeback?
Only time will tell.
Special thanks to Wesley McKenzie and Roland Boothby who, in addition to having excellent-sounding names, were instrumental in helping craft this list. And an extra special thanks to all the people working at thehendonmob.com. I am in their debt.
Photo Credits: Laura Rauch/AP Photo, Pokerlistings.com, WPT.com, PokerPhotoArchive.com, Allinmag.com, PokerCentral.com
Keith Woernle is a writer, comedian, and semi-pro poker player based out of New Jersey. He was a producer for season 10 of the World Poker Tour. He won a WSOP circuit ring in 2011. And he likes poker a lot. Follow or contact him on twitter @WoernlePoker.