There are three general things that you need to do in poker: playing the hand you are dealt, betting (or raising on) your good hands, and folding your bad ones. However, one other thing is going to be more important than everything else is knowing when to abandon a losing hand and when to go all-in. We know that poker is a game of strategy, skill, and luck, but what makes the best poker players the best? Rounding up the usual suspect, we present our list of successful poker players who influenced the game in a spectacular way and won big at the poker table.
1. Phil Ivey:
Phil Ivey, better known as ‘Tiger Woods of Poker’, is considered to be the best all-around poker player in the world. His 10 bracelets at the WSOP cemented his place in poker history. Aside from being one of the most famous players today, Phil has also won one World Poker Tour title and appeared at 9 WPT final tables. He has been playing live tournaments for 15 years and cash games for about a decade longer than that.
Phil Ivey was introduced to poker by his grandfather when he was a boy. He soon fell in love with the game, because, as he put it, “I always liked puzzles,” and poker is all about problem-solving. His success at poker can be attributed to his ability to visualize hands and excel at games that involve a great deal of skill. A cool customer at the table who never lets his emotions show (except maybe a smile), Phil Ivey can be best described as an interesting puzzle wrapped in a riddle, inside of a mystery. Phil has some interesting habits when he plays poker: He refuses to touch his face or head during play; takes risks before the flop (which has increased his chances of winning bigger pots); never raises if another player has yet to check; bets large amounts more frequently than small bet amounts — just a few of the reasons that everyone swears by him. Phil Ivey’s skills at cards go beyond intuition and a sixth sense; he has actually studied and devoted hours every day to develop his game. Combining this with his ability to overcome obstacles, an eye for detail, and an instinctive sense of play, allows him to achieve optimal results.
Phil Ivey has won over $20 million playing online poker and is worth $100-$125 million. He is a popular high roller at Atlantic City’s most expensive games and a regular guest at high roller tournaments and cash games presented by Triton Poker. Dressed in a white t-shirt, grey sweatpants, and white socks on his feet, there is hardly anything flashy about his physical appearance. Even if you’ve never played poker, you’ve almost certainly seen a picture of him. It’s not every man who can earn more than a hundred million dollars by playing cards.
2. Sam Farha:
Sam Farha, a Lebanese immigrant raised in the heart of Kansas City and now residing in Las Vegas is one of the most recognizable names in poker. His second-place finish in the World Series of Poker’s main event in 2003 made him something of a celebrity. This is the same famous event won by an accountant named Chris Moneymaker, whose name has become synonymous with the 2003 WSOP for winning the tournament despite being an unknown entity prior to his appearance at the event. Sam has been playing poker for over 2 decades, winning 3 WSOP bracelets, and has attained more than $3 million dollars in winnings in US live poker tournaments, but for all his fame and celebrity status, he remains one of the most friendly and down-to-earth personalities.
Farha’s life story is one of resolve and inspiration. This Lebanese-American overcame the odds by rising from humble beginnings on the streets of Beirut to become one of the world’s elite poker players. After earning his business degree from the University of Kansas, he left his job and moved to Houston, Texas where he encountered poker for the first time. Shortly thereafter, he made a brief—and very profitable—stopover in Las Vegas before settling in Sin City permanently.
At the table. Farha is the epitome of competence. The man knows his Omaha and he pulls his weight, using a careful strategy that is as shrewd as it is aggressive. Whether he’s at a local table or in the spotlight of million-dollar action, Farha has proved to be a dangerous player that is just as good as the best in the business. Beyond his action-packed poker life, Sam has appeared on television shows such as “Poker After Dark” and “High Stakes Poker.” He’s also written a book called “Farha on Omaha”, which doubles as both a guide to Omaha poker strategy and an autobiography. Charming, witty, and smart— Sam Farah is a poker legend and a role model for amateur and professional poker players alike.
3. Chris Ferguson:
From a distance, Chris “Jesus” Ferguson is the picture of a holy man: long, flowing brown hair and beard. But his nickname belies Ferguson’s true identity as one of the most successful professional poker players who made millions at the turn of the century. In 2011, however, he went from online poker fame to infamy after Full Tilt Poker, a site he founded, became embroiled in legal trouble for running a Ponzi scheme — a scandal so big that it turned him into a pariah, with many in the poker community reviling him to this day.
Ferguson was introduced to poker at age 10 by his father, but it wasn’t until his college days that he started developing his poker skills in the online chat rooms of the early Internet. He played his first WSOP event in 1995 and has strolled the tables at casinos nationwide ever since, winning six of them to date. A computer scientist by education with a background in game theory, Ferguson relies on a strong understanding of probabilities and statistical analysis to gain an edge over his opponents. Although he is known for his quiet demeanor, he adopts a stance of motionless calm as a part of his strategy to throw off other players.
Despite his controversial past that rocked the poker community beginning nearly a decade ago, Chris Ferguson remains one of the great personalities of poker’s golden era and has a large stake in the game that still earns him untold riches. While it may be difficult to forgive his transgressions for the general poker public until he comes up with a sincere explanation, one can’t deny his accomplishments.
4. Doyle Brunson:
Doyle Brunson is a living legend. The Godfather of Poker. Nicknamed “Texas Dolly” he is like Forrest Gump: he appears in every great poker story. At age 88, Doyle is one of the last of the old poker greats still alive. Besides winning 10 WSOP bracelets, he’s known for winning two back-to-back WSOP championship finals in 1976 and 1977 with the same lucky hand — a feat still unmatched.
Brunson was, at one time, a promising young basketball player. A knee injury thwarted his professional aspirations before he had the chance to realize them and play in the NBA. When a professional basketball career suddenly didn’t look like it was in the cards, he turned to poker. Brunson was one of the most revered poker players in the game of Texas Hold ‘Em. Personable, yet wildly competitive, he played poker unlike anyone else: his strategy was more forward-thinking than his peers, and he left the game with a reputation for one-liners. He is known for his wit and personality in addition to his championship poker playing skills. Doyle helped shape the image of poker, as well as taught some of the best players in the game.
Doyle Brunson’s fame as a poker player has been matched by his fame as an author. His 1978 self-published book Super/System, often called the “Bible” of poker for that era’s players, sold more than a million copies, and in 2006 he was named by Bluff Magazine the most influential force in the world of poker. You’d think Doyle Brunson would be tired of playing poker by now. I mean, he’s technically retired after being at it for more than six decades, amassing fabled wins, poker championships, and even a cameo in the movie Rounders. But the Texas Dolly still shuffles up whenever there’s a game to be found.
5. Bryn Kenney:
Bryn Kenney is the man to beat when it comes to making money from poker. A professional poker player for over a decade, he has accumulated $56 million in winnings over the course of his career and is the all-time leader on the All-Time Money List at Hendon Mob eclipsing the second on the list by the margin of $7 million. He’s a fearless risk-taker who isn’t afraid to go all-in with a $1 million chip stack and lose it all, only to start over again. It’s rare that a professional poker player can enjoy such success at such a young age. What’s his secret? Well, it turns out he just trusts his intuition to make difficult decisions at the table.
Bryn Kenney started playing poker when he was in his early twenties, and by the age of 24, he had already won over $1 million. In the years that followed, his career path became all about taking high risks in a game, that no one else dared to take. He is often said to be reckless, but it is precisely his daredevil approach that has earned him over million dollars on eight different occasions including his insane record-breaking $20.5 million second-place finish at Triton Million in London, UK. Having only won one WSOP bracelet, Kenney’s reputation as a high-stakes player is not quite as strong as Daniel Negreanu’s or Phil Ivey’s. However, his unconventional high-risk high-reward approach to professional poker has played a major role in making Bryn a household name.
What we learned from these five great players is that when you play a good game and do the right thing, you can’t help but win. They had their differences, of course — they played different games, with different styles. But in the end, they all followed one basic principle: keep on playing good poker. And since that is what this great game is all about anyway, why wouldn’t they be successful? The poker world is full of characters and incredible stories and if going through the list made you want to learn more about it, here is a list of top gambling documentaries compiled just for you.