2019 marks the 50th annual World Series of Poker. The most prestigious poker festival in history has played a pivotal role in creating many of the legends and superstars of the game. To commemorate the occasion, PocketFives editorial staff each ranked the top 50 players in WSOP history in an effort to define and rank the most important, influential, and greatest WSOP players of all time.
#50 – Eli Elezra
When Eli Elezra picked up his first WSOP cash in 1999, nobody knew that it would lead to a career that included 58 more cashes and three gold bracelets. Elezra’s first bracelet win came in 2007 when he beat Scotty Nguyen heads up to win the $3,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo title. He defeated another Poker Hall of Famer to win his second bracelet, outlasting Daniel Negreanu in the $2,500 2-7 Triple Draw event in 2013. He won his third bracelet in 2015, taking down the $1,500 Seven Card Stud event. Of his 59 cashes, 14 are in $10,000 Championship events, including three WSOP Main Event cashes.
#49 – Mickey Appleman
Mickey Appleman’s four WSOP bracelets span 23 years. After playing his first WSOP in 1975, Appleman won the first bracelet in 1980 in a $1,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo event. His other wins came in 1992 ($5,000 No Limit 2-7), 1995 ($5,000 Limit Hold’em), and 2003 ($2,500 Pot Limit Hold’em). In 1987 and 2000, Appleman made the final table of the WSOP Main Event, finishing eighth and ninth, respectively. He has three other Main Event cashes (1989, 1990, 2011).
#48 – Amarillo Slim Preston
‘Amarillo Slim’ took poker to the mainstream after winning the 1972 WSOP Main Event. As much as he seemed to revel in the spotlight provided by The Tonight Show and 60 Minutes, Preston continued to prove his mettle at the table as well. Along with the 1972 win, he earned bracelets in 1974 ($1,000 No Limit Hold’em), 1985 ($5,000 Pot Limit Omaha w/rebuys), and 1990 ($5,000 Pot Limit Omaha).
#47 – Max Pescatori
In the 15 years that Italy’s Max Pescatori has been coming to the WSOP, he’s amassed 73 cashes and his four bracelet wins have come in four different games. He won a $2,500 No Limit Hold’em event in 2006, a $2,500 Pot Limit Omaha/Hold’em event in 2008 and then won the $1,500 Razz and $10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo Championship events in 2015.
#46 – Vanessa Selbst
It took Vanessa Selbst just nine years to go from respected online poker grinder to three-time WSOP bracelet winner. In 2008, she won a $1,500 Pot Limit Omaha event for her first bracelet. She followed that up by winning a $2,500 10-Game Mixed bracelet two years later. Her third bracelet came in a $25,000 Mixed Max No Limit Hold’em event in 2014.
“Vanessa Selbst is one of the most important players in the modern WSOP era, and it’s a shame we may not get to realize the extent of what her dominance could have been as she’s moved on from playing poker full time. Her résumé speaks for itself, and if she were to ever return to playing a full WSOP schedule, she’d easily be one of the top contenders to win WSOP Player of the Year.” – PocketFives Managing Editor, Donnie Peters.
#45 – John Racener
John Racener might be most famous for his runner-up finish in the 2010 WSOP Main Event, but he’s also picked up 70 other cashes covering nearly every game offered by the WSOP. Proving his mixed game abilities, Racener’s sole WSOP bracelet came in the $10,000 Dealer’s Choice event in 2017. He’s finished seventh and 11th in the $50,000 Poker Players Championship and has eight cashes in $10,000 Championship events.
“Some may just remember John Racener from his final table appearance at the November Nine, with his front row seat to one of the wildest hands that ever took place during the WSOP between Jonathan Duhamel and Joseph Cheong. However, he’s been a cashing beast year-in and year-out during the series since 2007. He won a bracelet in the difficult field of the 2017 $10K Dealer’s Choice and he’s racked up a total of 68 cashes during the summer series and another six in Europe.” – PocketFives Senior Writer, Jeff Walsh.
#44 – John Monnette
More than two-thirds of John Monnette’s WSOP cashes have come in games other than No Limit Hold’em. As a further testament to his diversity, Monnette’s three gold bracelets came in $2,500 Eight Game Mix (2008), $5,000 Seven Card Stud (2012), and $10,000 No Limit 2-7 (2017). His 21 top 10 finishes include three runner-up finishes and four third-place finishes.
“The only thing keeping John Monnette from more WSP success is the high-stakes cash game scene during the summer in Vegas, because he is as good as they come when it comes to mixed events. Although we always focus on bracelets, Monnette is a great example of how we should look a little deeper. He has three finishes in second place and four in third place. It takes an incredible amount of skill to consistently reach the top three in gold bracelet events, and Monnette is there what seems like every single year.” – Donnie Peters.
#43 – Paul Volpe
Paul Volpe, a former #1-ranked player on PocketFives, has won three WSOP bracelets while also picking up 20 cashes in $10,000 Championship events. On top of that, he’s finished sixth and 11th in the $50,000 Poker Players Championship. Volpe has also put together three deep runs in the Main Event, finishing 20th (2012), 29th (2016), and 142nd (2018).
“The early days of the WSOP were all about the best going against the best. Paul Volpe’s success comes in a very different era, but it’s all come in events where he’s up against the elite poker players in multiple variants. He’s a throwback in many ways. The fact he’s able to crush the $10K Championship events with consistency is a testament to just how talented Volpe is to his craft.” PocketFives Editor in Chief, Lance Bradley.
#42 – Robert Mizrachi
Robert Mizrachi won his first bracelet in 2007, beating 312 other players in the $10,000 Pot Limit Omaha Championship event before picking up a bracelet each year between 2014 and 2016. His four wins came in four different variations: Pot Limit Omaha, Dealer’s Choice, Seven Card Stud, and Omaha Hi-Lo. He’s cashed three times in both the $50,000 Players Championship and the Main Event.
#41 – Dewey Tomko
Dewey Tomko won three bracelets, including two in 1984, but might most famously be remembered for being one of four players in WSOP history to finish runner-up in the Main Event twice. In 1982, Tomko came second to Jack Strauss, and then 19 years later, ended up one spot behind Carlos Mortensen. Tomko’s three bracelets are in a $1,000 No Limit Hold’em event (1979), $10,000 No Limit 2-7 (1984), and $5,000 Pot Limit Omaha w/rebuys (1984).
For more discussion on PocketFives’ Top 50 Greatest Players in WSOP History, check out the latest episode of The Fives podcast.
Stay tuned to PocketFives as we continue to count down the 50 greatest players in WSOP history leading up to the start of the 2019 festival.