Famous Best Poker Players #5: Phil Hellmuth Career & Winnings
If there is one famous poker player that almost every fan knows about, it must be Phil Hellmuth.
Known as ‘The Poker Brat,’ Hellmuth definitely has an impressive poker resume, but he is much better known for his antics at the table.
Phil is not a good loser, and he’s become infamous for his long rants berating other players and liberally calling them donkeys and other colorful names.
Phil Hellmuth Jr., as is his full name, was born in 1964 in Wisconsin. He grew up in a family with four other siblings. Being the eldest, he always felt the pressure to be the best in various games, and he explained later that this was a significant influence on him, helping him develop a very competitive character.
Although Hellmuth played cards during his early years, it wasn’t until college that he discovered poker and took a liking to it.
He brushed up his skills playing in local cash games while studying at the University of Wisconsin. After three years, having built a big enough bankroll, he dropped out of college and move to Las Vegas to give a professional poker career a chance.
He started playing in Vegas in 1988, and it wasn’t long before he began to leave his mark in the poker world.
Already in 1989, Hellmuth went on to win the Main Event, becoming the youngest-ever WSOP Main Event winner at the time.
Phil was only 24 when he defeated Johnny Chan, already a legend at the time, to snag his first WSOP trinket and the $755,000 first-place prize.
It was just the beginning of what would turn out to be one of the most successful professional poker careers in the history of the game. In the years to follow, he would go on to surprise the poker community, claiming titles left and right.
He is currently holding the record for most WSOP bracelets won, and other players have a lot of catching up to do.
Hellmuth has no fewer than 15 bracelets to his name, and since he is still playing, it’s entirely possible he’ll get a few more in the years to come.
His lifetime tournament winnings are currently at almost $23.5 million, with his single-biggest cash coming from the 4th place finish in the $1,000,000 Big One for One Drop event in 2016.
Phil Hellmuth's net worth and his poker achievements are undoubtedly admirable, but it is his public persona that got him a huge amount of popularity with the fans.
While his poker skills are certainly great, his ego is much greater.
He’s become famous for his poker quote: “if luck weren’t involved, I’d win every tournament,” indicating that his opponents could never outplay him – they could only get lucky.
Of course, this isn’t true, and even Phil knows it. He often explained that his public persona isn’t really who he is. He accepted the image of ‘The Poker Brat’ and built a very successful brand around it, which opened many doors for him and helped him develop other successful businesses.
The Brat may be annoying at times, but he’s putting up a show for a good reason.
Although Hellmuth hasn’t been as active in the poker world as of late, he certainly isn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet.
He’s been playing fewer tournaments and focusing on his family, but there is nothing that can keep Phil away from the felt. As long as there are bracelets up for grabs, he’ll be coming after them, making sure anyone who tries to break his record has a serious mountain to climb.
Famous Best Poker Players #4: Stu Ungar Legend
Although he lived and played before the poker boom, Stu ‘The Kid’ Ungar is one of the most colorful and iconic players to have ever lived.
With a natural talent for card games and a strong passion for being the best in every game he tried, Ungar was on the path to becoming one of poker’s best.
However, haunted by his own demons, Stu never achieved the greatness many believed he was destined for.
Ungar was born in New York in 1952. He was exposed to gambling at a very early age and was a rapid learner. According to some stories, he even won a local gin tournament when he was only 10.
Gin rummy was actually Stu’s game of choice during the early period of his career as a professional gambler.
He became one of the best, if not the best, gin players around, always ready to take up anyone who was up for a challenge. It worked for a while, and Ungar was able to make a fair bit of money crushing the competition.
However, words travel fast in gambling circles.
After a few years, Stuey (as he was often called) became so notorious that he could no longer find an opponent. Even the proudest of gin players accepted the fact Ungar was the best there was and weren’t willing to throw good money after bad.
With gin action drying up, Stu started to look for new venues to make money, and he discovered another game where one’s skill could put him miles ahead of the competition – poker.
In 1977, he moved to Las Vegas, and this was the start of his career as a poker player.
In 1980, Stu Ungar took the poker world by surprise when he took down the World Series of Poker Main Event.
This was only the second-ever poker tournament in his life, but the natural talent for card games and his ability to read his opponents helped him become the youngest Main Event winner at the time.
At the age of 26, he defeated the absolute legend of the game, Doyle Brunson, in the heads up battle, claiming $365,000.
One win could be a fluke but two in a row? Hardly.
In 1981, Ungar went back to back and won the Main Event again! T
his time around, he won $375,000 but also etched his name in poker’s history, becoming one of just four players to go back-to-back in Main Events.
The world was looking in awe as young Ungar conquered poker with almost no effort. Appearing out of nowhere, ‘The Kid’ took over Las Vegas, demonstrating the knowledge of Texas Holdem strategy that has never been seen before.
Despite all of his success at the tables, Stu was haunted by his demons, which would eventually spell his doom. In 1979, shortly after arriving in Las Vegas, he started abusing cocaine.
At first, he only used drugs recreationally to stay awake and alert during long poker sessions, but this eventually turned into an addiction.
On top of that, poker wasn’t the only game Stu loved. He was also a keen gambler, regularly playing blackjack and betting on sports, losing more money than he could make playing poker despite his skills.
By 1990, Ungar was already seriously struggling. He entered the Main Event that year but was unable to finish it as he was found unconscious in his room on the third day of the tournament.
Even with that, he managed to finish in the 9th place that year thanks to a massive chip lead he accumulated in the previous days.
In 1997, Ungar was nearing the end of his path. According to his friends, his health had deteriorated by this point, and he accumulated a lot of debt over the years. Still, he managed to enter the Main Event thanks to $10,000 given to him by Billy Baxter and encouragement from Mike Sexton.
And, even though he was really struggling to keep things together, Stu did it again – winning his third Main Event bracelet! This time around, he claimed a cool million, which he split with Baxter.
Although some saw this as the big comeback of ‘The Kid,’ it turned out that Main Event was Ungar’s swan song. In 1998, although Baxter offered to front him the money for the Main Event again, Stu refused.
By this point, Ungar was starting to unravel, and he was afraid he couldn’t keep it together at the tables and would embarrass himself.
A few months later, in November, a maid found Stu Ungar’s body at Las Vegas Oasis Motel. His body, weakened by the years of substance abuse, just couldn’t take it anymore. At the age of 45, ‘The Kid’ had passed away.
During his poker career, Stu Ungar accumulated close to $3.7 million in tournament winnings, which was a really substantial amount for that period in poker history. He also claimed five WSOP bracelets, three of which came from winning the Main Event.
Had there not been for his demons, who knows where Ungar’s career could have taken him. To this day, many of those who knew him claim he was the best poker player they’d ever seen.
Would he continue crushing the competition and winning titles? Would he be able to keep pace with new generations of players?
These questions will remain unanswered, but the legend of Stu Ungar keeps on living. If you’d like to know more about the story, check out poker movie about him. It’s well worth your time, I promise.
Famous Best Poker Players #3: Phil Ivey Fun Facts
Often dubbed ‘Tiger Woods of Poker,’ Phil Ivey is definitely one of the most iconic poker players around.
Recognized by the poker fans and his peers as one of the best poker players, Ivey has always had an aura of mystery around him.
Calm and composed at the tables and taking things in strides, he’s one of those guys who always seem to have an ace up their sleeve.
Ivey was born in 1977 in California, but his family moved to New Jersey shortly after. He was introduced to poker very early during his childhood by his grandfather, a detail which would probably play an important role in his future life and career.
As the years went by, his love for poker only grew stronger. Ivey became one of the regulars in Atlantic City casinos long before he turned 21.
He acquired a fake ID, which allowed him to enter poker rooms all over the city, and he regularly put in long sessions.
It was during this period that he got the nickname ‘No Home Jerome.’
The time Phil Ivey spent at the tables and his passion for winning would pay dividends. He honed his skills and got better by the day. However, he still had a long way to go before becoming one of the most feared players on the circuit.
Once Ivey turned 21, he was finally able to start playing under his real name, which encouraged him to give tournaments a go. Up to that point, he was only playing in cash games as he knew that he would probably have problems cashing out any big tournament scores with a fake ID.
Phil quickly fell in love with the tournament circuit, and in 2000, he entered his very first World Series of Poker.
Poker gods clearly had big plans for Ivey as his first swing at the WSOP was a very successful one. He cashed in several events and went on to claim his first (of many) bracelets that year.
Ivey claimed the victory in the $2,500 PLO event, defeating legendary Amarillo Slim Preston in the heads up skirmish and pocketing $195,000 for his efforts.
This was just the beginning of one of the greatest professional histories in all of poker. In the years to follow, Phil would go on to win countless tournaments and amass huge winnings.
Phil Ivey's net worth from tournaments alone is over $30,000,000 at the moment, and it’s impossible to tell how much he won over the years of dominating the highest stakes cash games around the globe, but probably much more than that.
In 2017, he was inducted into the prestigious Poker Hall of Fame, receiving official recognition for his tremendous success.
When it comes to the World Series of Poker, Ivey has cashed in 70 different events and has 10 WSOP bracelets to his name.
Despite all his achievements as a poker player, Ivey’s presence in the media in recent years was more related to the infamous baccarat edge-sorting scandal.
Ivey was accused of taking advantage of two separate casinos at high stakes baccarat tables using the technique known as “edge sorting” to win millions.
Although Phil was quite forthcoming about the events and steadfast in his conviction that he did nothing wrong, things didn’t quite go his way.
He lost court cases in the UK and the US. In the UK, he was denied his winnings, but in the US, Borgata is seeking to claim back its losses to the tune of $10,000,000.
Because Borgata was able to secure a court verdict in its favor, it was given legal tools to access the high roller’s bank accounts in the States. During the 2019 WSOP, his winnings from one of the events were actually blocked before he was able to cash out.
Because of these developments, Ivey hasn’t been around poker as much lately, at the disappointment of his many fans around the globe.
The rumor has it he’s been staying in Macau, rubbing his elbows with wealthy Asian businessmen and other high rollers, playing for obscene amounts of money. But, since these games are very private, there is very little verifiable information to rely on.
Famous Best Poker Players #2: Doyle Brunson Story of Poker Greatness
Known as ‘The Godfather of Poker,’ Doyle Brunson is one of the biggest legends in the poker world. The man who’s seen it all, from illegal games in backrooms of dodgy bars to high stakes tables at the fanciest casinos, Brunson has experienced every imaginable side of poker.
In addition to being a great player, he’s also authored “Super System,” the poker book that’s often described as poker’s Bible.
Brunson was born in 1933 in Longworth, Texas, which is why he is also known as “Texas Dolly.”
During his youth, he was an active and successful athlete, competing in long-distance running and showing a lot of promise as a basketball player.
However, Doyle’s hopes for a career in sports were brought to an abrupt end due to a severe knee injury.
The injury may have killed Doyle’s chances to become a professional basketball player, but it didn’t hurt his competitive spirit. In fact, he became even more determined to succeed, even if he couldn’t pursue his youth dreams.
Somewhere along the way, Brunson discovered poker.
It was a game that one could beat using their brains, and he took a liking to it. Of course, during those early days, the poker scene looked much different from what it is today. Doyle honed his skills in many illegal games in Texas and other parts of the US.
Later in his career, Doyle would sometimes recount these old days, sharing stories with his fellow players and fans alike.
Being a professional poker player back then wasn’t always smooth sailing, as Brunson often had to deal with cheaters and players who didn’t like losing too much. But through all the hardships, he persevered, becoming one of the poker’s greatest players.
It was during the mid-1970s that Brunson started playing in Las Vegas casinos, becoming a more modern version of a professional poker player.
He substituted dodgy card joints with much safer and regulated poker rooms in Las Vegas, but the skills he developed over the years came in very handy.
Brunson won the WSOP Main Event in 1976 and 1977, going back to back. Although the fields were quite small back then, this was still an achievement.
However, Doyle didn’t just go on to win the Main Event two years in a row – he actually managed to do it with the same hand, 10-2 off-suit.
After that, the poker hand name was named after him, and ‘Texas Dolly’ would often play it for fun in televised cash games despite it being one of the worst starting hands in Hold’em.
Over his long and successful career, Brunson won as many as 10 WSOP bracelets and cashed for a total of $6.1 million in tournaments.
Of course, no one knows what Doyle Brunson's net worth is as he’s been a regular fixture in legendary high stakes games at Bobby’s Room for decades and, according to those in the know, he’s done quite well for himself over the years.
Brunson’s contribution to poker goes beyond his personal achievements, though. In 1976, he published his Super System, which was the first book to really outlay strategies for Texas Hold’em and give players access to knowledge that wasn’t available to them before.
In many ways, Doyle Brunson changed the game of poker forever, bringing it closer to the masses. Although he is no longer as active on the circuit, he continues to play in cash games whenever he can.
‘Texas Dolly’ is also very active on his Twitter, so if you want to know what he’s been up to, give him a follow (if you aren’t already).
Famous Best Poker Players #1: Daniel Negreanu Life & Career
The Canadian-born superstar, Daniel Negreanu, is easily one of the best poker players around. His results speak for themselves in terms of competence, but ‘Kid Poker’ has also done a lot for the game away from the felt.
Although he’s often been involved with many controversies, there is no denying Negreanu is one of the best-known faces in poker.
Born in Toronto in 1974, Negreanu discovered his affinity for gambling during his teen years. Hustling at the pool tables and brushing up his poker skills at charity gambling halls of his home town, he slowly and steadily built his bankroll and paved the way for his future career.
When he turned 21, Daniel Negreanu decided to pack up his stuff and move to Las Vegas to give the career of a professional poker player a decent chance.
By this time, he was already a consistent winner in the games back home, so he was filled with confidence he had what it takes to succeed on the “big stage.”
As it turned out, confidence alone was not enough.
Negreanu soon discovered that Vegas games were much tougher than the ones spread in charity casinos in Toronto. Despite his best efforts, he lost his bankroll and had to move back home. However, determined to succeed, he kept playing and working on his game.
All the hard work paid off eventually.
In 1998, Daniel entered his very first (of many to follow) World Series of Poker.
This was the beginning of his rise to stardom. Negreanu managed to take down a $2,000 Pot-Limit Hold’em tournament, winning his very first bracelet.
Being only 23 years old, he became the youngest player ever to claim the prestigious achievement at the time, which earned him the nickname ‘Kid Poker.’ Apparently, the Canadian took a liking to it as he continued using it on social media and as his online alias.
From that point onwards, there was no looking back.
Daniel would continue to dominate the live tournament scene for the years to come. As of right now, Hendon Mob puts Daniel Negreanu's net worth at over $42,000,000. This puts him in the third spot of the All-Time Money List.
It is hard to name all the important titles ‘Kid Poker’ has claimed during his rich career. To date, he’s claimed six WSOP bracelets and one WSOP Circuit ring. This number could have been much higher as well since Daniel had quite a few runner-up finishes in bracelet events.
In terms of winnings, Negreanu’s biggest score came in 2014 when he finished the runner-up in the $1,000,000 Big One for One Drop tournament.
This finish brought him $8.2 million. In 2018, he once again came short of claiming the win in the $300,000 Super High Roller Bowl, but finishing second was still good for $3,000,000.
Of course, he’s had quite a few more seven-figure scores as well as dozens of six-figure wins scattered across his lengthy and extremely successful career.
Beyond the green felt, Daniel Negreanu is also known as the face of PokerStars. Although he is no longer involved with the company, he was the site’s leading ambassador for many years. ‘Kid Poker’ has undoubtedly helped PokerStars maintain its leading position in the online poker market.
These days, Negreanu splits his time between playing poker, creating coaching videos for his MasterClass course, and working in his new role as an ambassador for GGPoker.
He is very active on his Twitter and Instagram profiles as well, where he has thousands of followers. And, while poker may be his main preoccupation, ‘Kid Poker’ has always been very vocal about other social and political issues, stirring up many debates over the years.