Profiles in prosperity: the richest poker players of our time

Dollar bills and poker chips image

📖 Published on: November 19th, 2023

✍️ Updated: December 1st, 2023

⏳ 6 mins read


It’s been 20 years since an accountant from Tennessee walked into the World Series of Poker and changed the way America views professional gambling. Chris Moneymaker took down professionals with his unorthodox style and won the Main Event on ESPN, lighting the fuse on a nationwide boom for the game. Players across the country with Internet access, free time, and money to burn began betting and raising on platforms and websites, convinced they could become millionaires with the right amount of patience and luck.


While poker is a quick game to learn and very fun to play, not everyone became rich overnight. Home players can still win big tournaments, including the Main Event, but most longtime professionals play in high-stake cash games, with fortunes changing hands multiple times a night. It is a vocation that requires incredible investment of time, skill, passion, and still can break the best if a dealer turns over the wrong card. (Just ask Phil Hellmuth).


The internet craze died down and the game has been largely confined to tables in casinos and a few states that allow online play. Some stars of the 2000s have faded from the spotlight but some have turned that moment into steady income, adding sponsorships and expertise to money earned at tournaments and cash games. Those who continue to carry the field are among the wealthiest names in poker.

Wealthiest Pros:


Phil Ivey - Called “the Tiger Woods of Poker” the Jersey boy started playing in Atlantic City before he legally could. At 23, he won his first WSOP bracelet in Pot Limit Omaha against living legend Amarillo Slim, the first to ever bust Slim heads-up at the final table in the most prestigious tournament on Earth.


Ivey plays with a steely focus and remarkable skill like the billionaire golfer. He’s also at times boring on the table, not prone to outbursts or clever barbs. Ivey throws chips at a pot and intimidates the cards to fall his way.


Phil Ivey image


In 2002, Ivey won three bracelets in the World Series, tied for the best ever year among players. His 10 total is second-best of all time, yet he has not claimed one since 2014, and only made one Main Event final table. He has found success in cash games across the globe, including Macau after the internet poker implosion. In 2014, he launched a poker training site called “Ivey League” with professional coaches.


Poker isn’t the only game Ivey fancies. He has a special zest for baccarat. In fact, that got him in trouble due to edge sorting, a strategy for players to seek an advantage that most casinos ban. His efforts cost him millions in winnings and legal fees over cases in London and AC.


Phil Ivey Net Worth: Estimated $100-$125 million

Chris Ferguson: People who discovered poker in the 2000s wanted to be Chris Ferguson like people who discovered baseball in the 1920s wanted to be Babe Ruth. His long hair earned him the nickname “Jesus”, and his ability to turn complicated math theories into executable strategies seemed otherworldly.


After graduating with a computer science degree from MIT, Ferguson revolutionized poker with his analytical style. In 2000, he captured the Main Event and became a megastar in the sport. He also pioneered the online game by co-founding Full Tilt Poker, one of the first online platforms for the game.


Chris Ferguson image


Ferguson’s fortunes in the game stem more from his investment in Full Tilt than his ability to cash in tournaments. He has won six WSOP bracelets and the 2008 NBC National Heads Up Poker Championship. However, he took hits when the online market all but closed in the States, along with a 2011 lawsuit from the federal government accusing Full Tilt of running a Ponzi scheme and bilking players of hundreds of millions. Charges against Ferguson were dismissed in 2013. Despite being less active in poker, he remains one of the most successful players in history.


Chris Ferguson Net Worth: Estimated $80 million

Daniel Negreanu: One of the most respected names in the game, Negreanu started playing cards in Toronto as a teenager before moving to Las Vegas at 22. He failed at first, but came back and became a mainstay in the professional scene, winning at cash games and tournaments.


Negreanu built his reputation before the sport took off in the early 2000s. When the networks ran poker seemingly around the clock, the quiet Canadian could usually be found winning hands and being generally affable. He has 10 WSOP bracelets to his name, six from the US, two from Europe, and two from the Asia-Pacific region, becoming the first player to make final tables and win events in all three regions. He is also the only player to win WSOP player of the year twice, in 2004 and 2013.


Daniel Negreanu image


In addition to his prowess on the felt, Negranu remains one of the game’s most visible players. He spent over a decade on Team PokerStars, returning to Canada after laws severely limited online play in the states. He has written articles for magazines and his own system book, Power Hold’Em Strategy. He’s appeared on many TV events, including a reality show in 2007.


Daniel Negreanu Net Worth: Estimated $60-70 million

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