There is money in everything, as long you’re the best at it. This saying definitely holds true in poker. Although they say that the house always wins (which they do), in a game of poker you are not playing against the house. You are competing against other players with the only advantages being luck and skill. Certain players have fine-tuned their game to the point where cashing out in the millions after a successful tournament is somewhat routine. At the top of their game, professional poker players earn incredible sums of money. Granted, most poker players do not succeed at high stakes grinding in the card room, but for this list we will focus on the ones that do.
Over the years, poker has changed quite a bit. Starting out as a recreational activity, poker is now one of the most popular card games. The internet age helped poker grow exponentially, too. Today, anyone with internet access can test their skill in a real-time online poker room, and maybe even compete with the best of the best. The countdown begins with the ‘poorest’ of world’s richest poker players – read on.
#10 – John Juanda ($4.4 Million)
Unless you’re a superfan of professional poker, it’s quite likely that you’ve never heard of Juanda. In short, the Indonesian-born American is a rather successful professional poker player, who over the years has won four World Series of Poker titles. His success with poker has led to his very modest net worth of $4.4 million. While $4.4 million might seem like peanuts to some of the bigger players, it’s certainly not a bad fortune considering it was made playing cards.
Juanda learned of his potential during his first flight to the United States. And shortly after (in 1996) he decided to play full time. As a testament to his skill, it only took Juanda 3 years to make it to the final table of the World Series. Additionally, Juanda was hailed as Cardplayer Magazine’s player of the year in both 2001 and 2002 – not a small feat.
#9 – Annie Duke ($8 Million)
Next on the list is our first female poker playing professional. Annie Duke has been crowned the “Duchess of Poker” for her amazing achievements in the sport. Even in her early days, Duke has seen her fair share of success. For starters, at one point in her early career she tutored Ben Affleck – not a bad catch for any player.
Her popularity, however, didn’t skyrocket until 2004, when she won the World Series of Poker golden bracelet. And ever since that amazing win, Duke has been absolutely unstoppable – both in poker and the rest of her professional and personal life. Besides being a poker superstar, Annie is also a published author, philanthropist and she has even released a DVD series aimed to educate beginners on the ins and outs of poker. As if that isn’t enough, Annie has also appeared in many TV shows, including the Celebrity Apprentice.
#8 – Andrew Feldman ($10 Million)
Feldman is – or was (more on that later) – a poker millionaire from the United Kingdom. His success in poker, along with great wealth, didn’t come from winning the World Series or similar tournaments, but rather from online card rooms. The English tycoon started playing online poker as soon as it was legal – at the age of 18. His quick success in poker contributed to his gambling addiction.
It’s been rumored by some that by the age of 27, Feldman went on a gambling spree – losing everything he had. Reportedly, he then attended Gamblers Anonymous, but apparently he gave that up, too. Fortunately enough, his bad luck spree didn’t last long, and when he returned to poker, he was able to win back his money, along with much more. Incredible sums of money are known to contribute to a person’s greed for more, and it’s often easy to get caught up in a downward spiral. Lucky enough, Feldman was able to turn it around before it was too late.
#7 – Daniel Negreanu ($15 Million)
Despite the fact that Negreanu is a Canadian-born high school dropout, he is widely considered to be one of the best poker players in the world today. By 2015, the 40-year-old has won not one, not two, but six World Series of Poker bracelets and two World Poker Tour championship titles – an achievement more than impressive of any player.
His poker playing ability along with some luck has contributed to his tremendous wealth. Over the years, the poker playing pro was able to amass a net worth of over $15 million. That being said, Negreanu is not stingy with his money – quite the opposite actually, he somewhat of a philanthropist. Besides being philanthropic in nature, Negreanu is also a published author, and a TV personality – appearing on several shows, both reality as well as fiction.
#6 – Antonio Esfandiari ($17 Million)
This Iranian-born, American is a professional poker player that is estimated to be worth in the neighbourhood of $17 million. He has amassed this fortune due to his surprisingly impressive poker playing ability. Before starting to play poker professionally, Esfandiari worked as a magician. Eventually (when invited to a game of Texas Hold’em) Esfandiari fell in love with the game and started to play professionally.
In 2004, he won his first World Poker Tour title during the L.A. Poker Classic. He eventually went on to win another one in 2010. Aside from winning two titles, Esfandiari also won 3 World Series of Poker bracelets and sat at six final tables – an overall impressive achievement for any professional player.
#5 – Chris Ferguson ($25 Million)
This 52-year-old, California-born, cowboy looking poker playing pro has won 5 World Series of Poker bracelets and many other poker tournaments. Interesting sidenote, Ferguson was born to very educated parents. Both of his parents have Ph. D. degrees in mathematics, and his father teaches game theory at UCLA. It’s likely his parents’ extensive education that contributed to Chris’ own scholarly ambition. Ferguson has attended UCLA himself, where he eventually earned a Ph. D. in computer science (focusing on virtual network algorithms).
Undoubtedly, Ferguson is very intelligent, despite his somewhat rough appearance. And his great success in poker has made him a very wealthy man. Today, he is worth somewhere in the neighbourhood of $25 million. Besides playing poker competitively, Ferguson also directs his own online poker room – Full Tilt Poker. If you at all follow poker, then you’re likely familiar with the Full Tilt Poker scandal a few years back. This legal controversy revolved around an alleged Ponzi scheme that was supposedly run at the online site directed by Ferguson.
#4 – Erik Seidel ($41 Million)
Seidel is an American professional poker player, and father of two. The Las Vegas-born pro has won eight World Series of Poker bracelets and a World Poker Tour title (that came with a very modest $1 million cash prize). Although Seidel can be found at poker table today, his original game of choice was backgammon, which he played for eight years prior. Between backgammon and poker, Seidel also tested his luck on the stock market.
Worthy to note – Seidel is another stinky-rich poker player on this list that is also a dropout. Goes to show that a formal education isn’t vital in the world of poker. Thanks to his poker skill, Seidel was ranked as the best poker player in the world for 15 weeks straight back in 2011 – a feat not many can claim. Although he is no longer as relevant in the poker scene, Seidel still ranked #25 on the Global Poker Index in August of 2015.
#3 – Phil Ivey ($100 Million)
Ivey is without a doubt one of the best poker players of our time. During his time playing poker professionally, he has won 10 World Series of Poker bracelets and a World Poker Tour title. And as if that’s not an impressive resume, Ivey has also appeared at nine World Poker Tour final tables. His poker playing abilities have helped him amass a great fortune, although Ivey’s net worth is not certain – estimates allege that he is worth something to the tune of $100 million.
The “Tiger Woods of Poker” first realised his passion for the game back when he worked at a telemarketing firm, where he practiced with his co-workers. Besides playing poker, Ivey has also tried his hand in business by starting two profitable firms. And although he has more money than he can spend, Ivey has never forgotten about his community. He regularly gives back to the community through various charitable causes.
#2 – Sam Farha ($100 Million)
Sam Farha is a Lebanese-born American poker playing pro. Since dedicating his life to the game in the early 1990’s, Farha has made a fortune playing poker. And since, he has become one of the best-known players in the game. He is best known as the runner-up in the 2003 World Series of Poker – where he was, unfortunately (for him) defeated by Chris Moneymaker.
Although he didn’t win the 2003 tournament, Farha doesn’t have any financial concerns. Farha is estimated to be worth somewhere in the neighbourhood of $100 million. When not winning insane sums of money in poker pools, Farha has his hands full with other endeavours. He has co-authored a book on Omaha poker strategy, and he is currently working on another book at the moment. Additionally, Farha is working on a new reality TV series and a video game.
#1 – Dan Bilzerian ($150 Million)
Even if you aren’t familiar with the last 9 players on this list, you’ve probably heard of Dan Bilzerian. Bilzerian is known for his playboy lifestyle consistent of lavish purchases, guns, cars and women. Who can blame him, though? What would you do if you had more money than you could ever spend?
During his professional poker career, Bilzerian won millions of dollars over many poker tournaments and competitions. His most recent poker winnings consist of $10.8 million won back in 2013 – not too shabby.
Although Bilzerian was a notable poker player at the peak of his professional playing career, he is much more involved than that today. From co-founding an online poker room (Victory Poker) to performing stunts in Hollywood’s Olympus Has Fallen, Bilzerian has his hands full. Interesting fact – before trying his hand at acting and poker, Bilzerian was actually involved with the military. In fact, he has attended SEAL training but dropped off the program just two days before graduation.
The list of world’s richest poker players above is testament to the fact that there is money in literally anything. The only problem is that only the best of the best get to make the serious dough doing what they love. That being said, if you’re considering becoming a professional poker player, don’t let that fact discourage you. Get out there and practice – who knows, maybe in a few years you’ll make the list.
Frankly, it’s more than unlikely, but hey – not impossible.