Oh, to play a game of cards in which the ranks and combinations of the cards that a player holds will determine the winner, and to earn big money out of it. Think about it…those Friday night poker games with your friends over bottles of beer are supposed to be just for fun and camaraderie, aren’t they? But for some people, the game of poker is serious business, with serious money to make out of it.
Here is the list of the top ten poker players in the world.
1. Antonio Esfandiari – $22,928,145
He is the youngest professional poker player to ever win the World Poker Tour Championship. Known for his skill and bravado, he is not afraid to lose a game, thereby allowing him to play freely with his money. Nicknamed The Magician, he has this showmanship in which he manipulates cards and chips for the camera. His real name is Amir Esfandiari, and he was born in Tehran in Iran just before the Islamic Revolution. After moving to San Jose in California, Amir changed his name to cope with the bullying and teasing he got from his classmates. He initially used Anthony, before later on settling for Antonio. He has placed consistently in the top rankings of major poker tournaments.
2. Erik Seidel – $17,285,021
Seidle has always been a gambler, starting out in backgammon tournaments where he spent eight years in the board game’s tour circuit. He then took his skills to play the stock market, before moving to the poker circuit. He achieved fame after placing second in his very first major tournament, the 1988 World Series of Poker Championships. He has seven World Series of Poker bracelets. He resides in where else but Las Vegas, the gambling capital of the world.
3. Sam Trickett – $16,613,853
He started playing poker in 2005, but the Englishman known as Tricky has already had a successful career. The native of Nottingham has recorded eight first place finishes in various major tournaments. And to think that he only started playing because an injury shattered his dreams of playing football professionally. Tricky still has a lot of upside, as he is still only 26 years old.
4. Daniel Negreanu – $16,532,751
The idol of a lot of young poker players because of his composure, Negreanu started playing the game at an early age. He was so confident of his ability that he ditched college even though he only needed just one more credit for him to graduate. His mind was set up and he wanted to pursue poker full time, and he could only do that if he moved to Las Vegas. His hunch was right, as he took two first place finishes in the 1997 World Poker Finals. He also owns three World Series of Pokers bracelets, two World Poker Tour titles, as well as 30 wins from around the world.
5. Philip Helmuth – $15,409,230
Known as The Poker Brat because of his table demeanor and tendency to needle opponents, Helmuth is one of the most successful players ever. The poker world regards him in the same manner that basketball sees Michael Jordan and golf looks at Tiger Woods. And he gets this treatment for good reason because his list of accomplishments can blow opponents away. He is the youngest player to ever win the Seven-Card Stud High-Low tournament, when he emerged as champion at the age of 24. He garnered three consecutive World Series of Poker wins in three days. He was able to win three gold bracelets in a single year, and he is the first player to have bagged 11. All these have led to endorsement and book deals and merchandising.
6. Philip Ivey – $14,660,084
Ivey first tasted success in Atlantic City. By the age of 23, he had already won three World Series of Poker bracelets. Ivey is also known as the guy who beat up on the table Andy Beal, the mathematician who had achieved fame challenging the big names of the poker world. Ivey took home $16.6 million from that match.
7. Michael Mizrachi – $14,040,406
He is known as The Grinder. Mizrachi has a consistent playing style that can be described as solid. He may not be flashy, but he seems to win almost all the time. He started playing when he was 13, and he got good training at home because his brother, Robert, also turned out to be quite a good poker player. Michael burst into the poker limelight when he won the No-Limit Hold ‘Em main event in the 2005 LA Poker Classic.
8. John Juanda – $13,077,468
The Indonesian who became a track star at the University of Oklahoma was also a bible salesman before discovering the world of poker. Known for his calm demeanor, Juanda has appeared five times in the final table of the World Poker Tour. He also has three World Series of Poker bracelets to his name.
9. Jamie Gold – $12,238,161
Known for his aggressive playing style that is balanced off by a calm demeanor, Gold struck gold in the 2006 World Series of Poker championship when he brought home more than 12 million dollars. It was the largest win in poker history. He is not averse to betting huge amounts, often exhibiting a cool and nonchalant attitude about it. The Malibu native is considered as one of the biggest stars in the poker world.
10. Joe Hachem – $11,655,609
Hachem originally hailed from Lebanon. A chiropractor by trade, illness and poor health forced him to give up his profession and look for other sources of income. He took up the game of poker, and he swept up its world by storm. In the 2005 World Series of Poker championship, 5,619 players participated. Hachem, also known as The Hash, defeated them all, including the eventual second place finisher Steve Dannenmann. The Hash took home $7.5 million that night, which was a record at that time.