Top 5 Poker Players of All Time

Written by:
Patrick Flanigan
Published on:
Top 5 Poker Players of All Time

Charles Joel of Yahoo Sports rated the Top 5 Poker Players of all time.

Phil Hellmuth, the World Series of Poker bracelet record holder, is ranked at number five on Joel’s list.

“Best tournament player ever but not the best poker player ever,” says Joel.

Many would argue Hellmuth is the best ever, but I simply don't agree. I've watched him play cash games against some of the world's best and he's bullied. Particularly, Antonio Esfandiari outplays him with little effort during cash games.

According to Hellmuth, however, he had success playing in the highest stakes of Hold'em available in Vegas during the early '90s. He wants us to assume that his performance thus far on live TV cash games is not representative.

Sorry Phil, but we've seen enough.

Best tournament player ever, but not the best poker player.

Coming in at number four on Joel’s list is the late Johnny Moss, elected the very first WSOP Champion by his peers.

Moss was also famed for being a master of heads-poker, poker between just two players, and legend says that he won about 4 million dollars in a match with "Nick the Greek" in the late 1940s. Considering inflation, winnings like that could make him the most successful poker player ever.

Phil Ivey comes in third. 

He has eight WSOP bracelets and 42 money finishes already, which means he's already one of the best tournament players alive and will probably break every major tournament record. On top of that, Ivey is the best cash game player on the planet and has earned over 20 million playing poker in his young life.

Still, what separates Ivey from the rest of this list is that he has never won the main event. In my opinion, poker has reached such a level of popularity, however, that Phil Ivey could never win the main event and still go down as the best player ever.

Doyle Brunson, not surprisingly, ranks among the top two greats of all time. 

Further, Doyle has been a profitable player in the Big Game, the highest stakes game available in Vegas, for over 40 years. He is still considered one of the best cash players in the world and is undaunted by the young wave of hyperagressive internet players.

So who is number one?

That would be the late great Stu Ungar.

In his prime, he was unstoppable, noted Joel.

Mike Sexton has said many times that Ungar had a super genius-level IQ and could recall images and sounds with an abnormal preciseness.

His math ability made him the best gin rummy player in the world by a wide margin and also made counting cards in Blackjack second nature to him. On the poker table, Ungar calculated odds and interest exactly. But, this is not even Stu's most impressive attribute.

He had an almost clairvoyant ability to know what his opponents were holding.

It's rumored that Ungar won some tournaments without ever looking at his hole cards. And, if you watched Stuey play, you might even believe it.

He did have his fair share of demons, most notably a drug addiction.  Ungar passed away with traces of drugs in his system.

- Patrick Flanagan,

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