New poker champions are turning up all the time, with many tournament winners making their way from online poker rooms to the major events. Recent World Series of Poker ( WSOP ) winners Chris Moneymaker (2003) and Greg Raymer (2004) arrived at the WSOP from online satellite events as total unknowns, and went home with huge cash prizes.
Over the years, several poker players have become legends in the game, while others have impacted the game with their especially electrifying performances or personalities:
Doyle Brunson was WSOP champion in 1976 and 1977, winning the two events with the exact same poker hand—a full house (tens and deuces). Doyle is widely regarded by many as the best poker player of all time. He ties the all-time WSOP bracelet list along with Phil Hellmuth and Johnny Chan, with nine bracelets each. Doyle won the 2004 Legends of Poker World Poker Tour (WPT) at the age of 71, collecting $1,198,290 in what was the biggest ever WPT field at the time. In 2004 he was one of the first three inductees into the Poker Walk of Fame.
Johnny Chan won the WSOP two years in row, in 1987 and 1988. Chan returned to the WSOP to try to win an unprecedented three titles in a row, but ended up second to Phil Hellmuth (listed below). “Not only did Johnny win it twice and come in second, he won two other tournaments in-between. He won four big tournaments in a row and came in second in the next one. It was very extraordinary,” said fellow poker legend Doyle Brunson.
In 1989, Phil Hellmuth became the youngest person ever to win the WSOP at age 24. Since then he has won eight more world championship titles and has been named by his peers as “the best poker tournament player in the world.” In 2003, Phil tied Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan as the leading WSOP bracelet winner and ranked third overall in top money-winners among men, with over $2.8 million won in 34 finishes. In all, Phil has won over 50 poker tournaments since his career began in 1988, including becoming the first American to win the European Poker Championship in October 2000.
Considered “the Grand Old Man of Poker,” Johnny Moss won the first WSOP ever, in 1970, although there were only six players invited to participate in the tournament. Johnny defended his title the following year, and won again in 1974. He was one of the charter inductees to the Poker Hall of Fame in 1979. The starting hand Ace-10 is named “the Johnny Moss” in his honor. Johnny died in 1997.
Stu Ungar won the WSOP in 1980 and 1981, becoming the youngest poker champ at the time. He came back in 1997 and defeated more than 300 competitors to take home a $1.1 million pot for his third WSOP championship. According to some, Stu’s accomplishments in poker are second to none and he is considered by many to be the greatest no-limit Hold’em player of all time. Stu was also an expert gin rummy player, had a genius IQ and a photographic memory, leading him to be banned from blackjack tables everywhere. After years of drug abuse, Stu died in 1998 at the age of 42.
Miami John Cernuto
Miami John Cernuto once claimed that his poker name brought him luck, since after he took on the name he entered the 1988 Superbowl of Poker and won his first big pot and the 7-Card Stud title. Miami John seems to have been right, since he has only continued to rise in stature since his dynamite start. In 2003 alone, he won the Heads Up Poker Tournament in Vienna, beat 381 other players at the LA Poker Classic, and placed fourth at the limit 7-Card Stud Championships in the United States Poker Championship at the Trump Taj Mahal. Miami John is one of poker’s biggest present-day stars.
One of the most well-respected players in the tournament scene, T.J. Cloutier recently wrote a book called Championship No-Limit and Pot-Limit Hold’em, which is one thing that author certainly knows a lot about. Among his many accomplishments, T.J. was the all-time leading money-winner at the World Series of Poker in 2001. He has won more than 50 major tournaments in his career and is the only player ever to win a WSOP bracelet for all three kinds of Omaha Poker: Omaha Hi-Lo, Omaha High, and pot-limit Omaha.
Thuan “Scotty” Nguyen
Nicknamed “The Prince,” Scotty took the WSOP championship title in 1998 and is among the highest earning players of all time. He is consistently ranked in IPF’s Top 10, having already won several major cash prizes in 2005. A Vietnamese immigrant to the United States, “The Prince” is known for his aggressive gambling style and has a first-place ranking on the Omaha All-Time List. A casino dealer before becoming a player himself, Nguyen was a student of the game before becoming one its most recognizable personalities.
Although Chris Moneymaker shouldn’t yet be classified as a poker “legend,” we feel it’s important to include his story right up there with the best of them. Almost every online poker player admires Chris Moneymaker as being the accountant who turned $40 into $2.5 million in the 2003 WSOP. Moneymaker was the one who entered the tournament via his online poker room, giving hope to thousands of poker players worldwide and, in the process, changing the way the game is perceived. And by the way, his name is real! Truly one of poker’s most amazing individual success stories.
Seidel is a highly accomplished player and placed second to Johnny Chan in spectacular form during the 1988 WSOP championship event. While Chan enjoys superstar status in the world of poker, Seidel has a subtler, quieter personality. He might best be described as an always careful player whose intelligence has kept in the game for so long. While the general public might not recognize Seidel as they would some other players, he is widely respected among poker players themselves, and deservedly so.
“Amarillo Slim” Preston
Amarillo Slim, also known as the Poker Ambassador and The Non-Stop Source of Tall Tales, is one of poker’s best-loved personalities. Most people would agree that no other poker player has brought more attention to the game, or to himself for that matter, than Amarillo Slim. Preston has been competing in WSOP events since the tournament’s inception, and while he has a number of bracelets to his credit, he seems to be more famous for his Texan cowboy hat and his timeless quotations. “Look around the table and try to find the sucker,” Amarillo Slim once advised. “If you can’t find the sucker, get up, because you are the sucker.”
As the WSOP gets bigger and bigger, the competition gets fiercer and fiercer. You could also say that the winners, therefore, have to be better and better. 2004’s WSOP champion was Greg “the Fossilman” Raymer, so named because of the fossils he uses at the table as card protectors. Like Chris Moneymaker, Raymer is not yet at the level of poker legend, but managed to get from a modest online tournament to the WSOP and take the cake. Against a field of 2,576 opponents, the Fossilman walked away with a cash prize of $5 million. That’s as impressive as it gets.