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.
#20 – Men Nguyen
For over 30 years Men ‘The Master’ Nguyen has made his presence felt at the World Series of Poker. A seven-time bracelet winner with over $3.3 million in earnings, Nguyen’s success at the series is often accompanied by rumblings and allegations of cheating at points in his career (all of which he denies.) A player of all the games, four of his seven titles have come in a variant of Seven-Card Sud, the most recent of which took place in 2010 when he earned the bracelet and first-place prize of $394,807 in the $10,000 Seven-Card Stud Championship Event. His 95 WSOP cashes currently puts him seventh on the All-Time WSOP Cashes list.
#19 – TJ Cloutier
Poker Hall of Fame member TJ Cloutier has earned just under $4.5 million over the course of his nearly 35 years attending the World Series of Poker. Cloutier has six bracelets to his name, two of which he picked up in the same year. In addition to his six titles, Cloutier finished as the runner-up in five other bracelet events. He’s finished in the top 10 an astonishing 42 times out of his 70 WSOP cashes. Additionally, Cloutier plays all the games, earning a bracelet in Razz, Pot Limit Hold’em and three in a variant of Omaha. His most recent bracelet was back in 2005 when he took down the $5K No Limit Hold’em, one of the most difficult events of the summer, for over $657,000.
#18 – Joe Cada
Winner of the 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event for over $8.5M, Joe Cada has been a force at the WSOP for nearly a decade. He has four bracelets, two of which came in 2018 when he had one of the best years in WSOP history. Cada kicked off the 2018 series with his third bracelet in Event #3 ($3,000 No Limit Hold’em Shootout). Then he went on to his second post-Moneymaker final table, finishing in fifth place for $2.15M. Immediately after busting the Main Event, Cada register for, and eventually won, Event #75 (The Closer, $1,500 No Limit Hold’em) for his fourth bracelet and another $612K.
“Joe Cada already has four gold bracelets and is coming off an incredible summer that had him contending for the WSOP Player of the Year award. When Cada won the WSOP Main Event in 2009, he was the poster boy of an online poker player. He’s graduated to become one of the top tournament players we see at the WSOP and is someone who can be considered as legitimate a threat as any to win a bracelet each summer. Placing first and fifth in the WSOP Main Event in the post-Moneymaker era in nothing short of tremendous, and at just 31 years old, the sky is the limit for Cada at the WSOP.” – Donnie Peters, PocketFives Managing Editor
#17 – John Hennigan
Five-time WSOP gold bracelet winner John Hennigan is a master of all the games. As one of the most respected mixed game players, his most notable bracelet win came in the 2014 $50,000 Poker Player’s Championship. The PPC is an event that he has made the final table of three times, nearly taking it down again in 2018. The Poker Hall of Famer has also won titles in $2,000 Limit Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo (2002), $5,000 Limit Hold’em (2004), $10,000 2-7 Lowball Triple Draw Championship (2016) and $10,000 HORSE (2018). Hennigan has over $5.4M in earnings since his first WSOP cash back in 1999.
“JOhn Hennigan might not have triple digit WSOP cashes, but for my money, he belongs higher up on this list ahead of some players who do. He plays a very limited schedule at the WSOP and focuses most of his energy on cash games. But when he does come to the Rio and buy-in to an event, he’s always a threat to go deep. Three of his bracelets came in events that elite level players hold in high regard: $10K HORSE, $10K Triple Draw 2-7, $50K Poker Players Championship.” – Lance Bradley, Editor in Chief
#16 – Johnny Moss
Nine-time bracelet winner Johnny Moss was a player in the World Series of Poker from the very beginning. Back in 1970 the very first WSOP Main Event was not the tournament format it is today. It was a cash game where the title was awarded through a vote by fellow players and Moss was selected to win, not a bracelet, but the inaugural silver cup. The series changed to a tournament the next year and Moss went on to win the Main Event. He won the Main Event again in 1974. A fixture of the WSOP, Moss, a Poker Hall of Fame member, was a Seven Card Stud specialist, winning four of his nine bracelets in a Seven Card Stud variant. He was a fixture of the series right through to 1995, when he passed away at the age of 88.
#15 – Mike Matusow
One of the biggest poker superstars to emerge in the wake of the poker boom is Mike ‘The Mouth’ Matusow. The television cameras were drawn to Matusow’s overwhelming self-confidence and his seemingly non-stop table talk. Matusow has nearly $4M in career WSOP earnings and four gold bracelets spanning his 20+ year career. A threat in any game, Matusow has bracelets in No Limit Hold’em, Limit Omaha Hi-Lo, No Limit 2-7, and Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo. He’s made two Main Event final tables and finished in the Top 10 21 out of his 62 cashes. Stats aside, Matusow’s personality is equally important to the WSOP brand as his exploits dominated ESPN’s televised coverage for years.
“Bold, brash, and extremely polarizing, Mike ‘The Mouth’ Matusow is the archetype of the heart-on-your-sleeve old school poker player who seemed to live and die on every flop, turn and river. His antics at the table drew the television cameras to him and it left an impression on every up and coming poker player who tuned in to see what he would say next. But the things is, he’s the kind of guy who talks a big game and then shows up to back it up. A premiere mixed game player, Matusow is a player, still to this day, is a final table threat in just about any tournament he enters.” – Jeff Walsh, PocketFives Senior Writer
#14 – John Juanda
Longtime live grinder John Juanda remains one of the most respected poker players in the world and much of that is due to his success at the WSOP. This year will be Juanda’s twentieth at the series where he’s accumulated over $4.7M in earnings and five gold bracelets. In 2003, Juanda scored two bracelets in the same year taking down Event #21 ($2,500 Limit Seven Card Stud) and Event #33 ($2,500 Pot-Limit Omaha). In 2008, Juanda won himself the WSOP Europe Main Event title for over $1.5M. Dangerous in any game he plays, each of Juanda’s five bracelets was won in different poker variants. Equally impressive is Juanda ability to go deep in tournaments as he has made the top 10 in over that over half of his 65 WSOP cashes.
“It really is amazing that more than half of John Juanda’s cashes at the WSOP have resulted in top 10 finishes, and his five bracelets speak to the diversity of his skills as they come in five different games. Juanda has been a model of consistency at the WSOP for a long period of time. He may be a quiet, unemotional player, but his presence is one of the game’s most powerful and he remains one of the most feared opponents at the table.” – Donnie Peters
#13 – Billy Baxter
Deuce to Seven specialist and one of the WSOP’s earliest attendees, noted professional sports bettor Billy Baxter has earned seven World Series of Poker bracelets, five of which have come in the aforementioned game. Baxter’s first recorded WSOP cash back in 1975 and four of his first five recorded WSOP scores were for wins. He has continued to appear at the series for over 40 years, having gone deep in the $2,500 Mixed Triple Draw Lowball event in 2018. Baxter’s longevity has helped him pick up 35 cashes and over $1.1 million in earnings.
#12 – Allen Cunningham
Allen Cunningham has quietly crushed the World Series of Poker since he first cashed in the series back in 1998. Cunningham has won five bracelets and over $7.2 million in earnings over 69 total cashes. His first bracelet came back in 2001 in a $5,000 Seven-Card Stud tournament. After picking up his third bracelet in 2005 and reaching three additional final tables that year, Cunningham earned himself the WSOP Player of the Year. He came back in 2006 to make the final table of the Main Event, finishing in fourth place for over $3.6M. Then, in 2007, he returned to capture his fifth bracelet in the $5,000 Pot-Limit Hold’em Championship. His 69 cashes puts him in the top 25 on the All-Time WSOP Cashes list.
#11 – Scotty Nguyen
One of the most iconic players in World Series of Poker is Scotty Nguyen, baby. Dubbed ‘The Prince of Poker’, Nguyen is a five-time bracelet winner with over $5.8 million in earnings and nearly an equal amount of historic televised moments on the felt. He took home the Main Event title in 1998 for $1,000,000 and followed that up with his infamous bracelet-winning performance at the 2008 $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. Championship (later renamed the Poker Players Championship) for another $1.98M. Nguyen’s flare and style combined with his poker prowess turned him into a poker celebrity the likes of which has endured to this day…baby.
“There’s only one Scotty, baby. The only player to have won both the Main Event (1998) and the $50,000 Poker Players Championship (2008, then called World Championship H.O.R.S.E.) Scotty’s WSOP results speak for themselves. But Scotty is a standout personality like none other – he fled Vietnam and came to the U.S., discovered poker and turned his skill into the American Dream. He picked up five bracelets (so far) along the way and he’s won over a legion of fans with his trademark gold chains, loose table talk and the ability to end every sentence with ‘baby!’. Some may say the game has passed him by, but over $600,000 of his nearly $6M in career earnings came in 2018.” – Jeff Walsh, Senior Writer