person holding black ace and king spades playing cards on poker table

Poker is a game that does not exist in a vacuum. The game has been around for decades as a popular pastime and it has led to some remarkable stories, word-of-mouth anecdotes, and even competitive events reuniting players from all over the world. Today, we take a look at the legends that have shaped popularized and established poker as what it is today.

Although the game of poker undoubtedly has a long way to go, it would not be here had it not been for the people who championed it over the years, even when it was not as popular as these days. Let’s take a look at the people who made poker into one of the most popular pastimes for casino players and ordinary folk around the world. 

1. Doyle Brunson

Doyle Brunson will be remembered fondly as the “Godfather of Poker.” He was one of the most prominent and beloved figures in the game and he served as its ambassador from the early 50s when he got involved with the game after an injury ended his aspirations for an NBA career. His passing away in May 2023 at the age of 89 shook the community but it also accentuated the man’s remarkable profile.

Brunson authored several books dedicated to the game of poker, and referred to as “The Bibles,” a moniker given to their significance. In those books, Brunson described his view of poker, his experience traveling and playing around the world. His winnings weren’t the best compared to the all-time money list, but his presence was remarkable. He kept playing actively until the age of 80 and traveled to promote the game around the world.

You could catch glimpses of Brunson playing all over the world. He has visited some of the most prominent property in Europe and the United Kingdom, playing out of Grosvenor and Rozvadov casinos, and also touring Asia to experience different cultures, try his hand against different players and generally bring his easy-going attitude and signature cowboy hand bobby calmy at the green felt. 

2. Chris Moneymaker

Chris Moneymaker is a remarkable part of the poker community, having played and competed in the game, promoting its status as one of the most fun activities. Chris’s winnings from live poker are around $4 million these days, and he has been actively playing online poker. In fact, he has competed on some of the best online poker sites, which you can play here, that allowed him to qualify for the World Series of Poker and win it in 2003.

That was a seminal moment for the player and the scene as a whole. Chris made his way into one of the biggest event in history by winning a satellite $86 one-table tournament which he then turned into the whopping $2.5 million at the actual event making him one of the strongest ambassadors for the game.

Players have tried and succeeded in following Chris’s example ever since 2003. He has contributed not just to inspiring a cohort of young men and women to try their hand at poker, but he has also helped made it known that poker can be a competitive game that is based in skill more so than in random luck or chance. 

3. Phil Hellmuth 

Phil Hellmuth just so happens to have a name that ideally matches his personality at the green felt. The man has been vicious and he has gone out of his way to poke fun at opponents, which may be unbecoming for a professional such as Hellmuth, but it has led to some interesting rivalries in the game. 

Although we all want to see sportsmanship in the game, it’s also fun to see these people at each other’s throats. The rivalries add spice and excitement to the game, and fans even tend to pick one side or the other. Say what you will about Hellmuth, the man is an absolute legend in the sport. He has won $28.7 million from playing poker and has been a passionate ambassador for the game.

He has always been helpful to new players and encouraged them to try and grow. His genuine attitude – bar his occasional tantrum fits – have made him an absolute legend and someone who has inspired hundreds of thousands of people to try their hand at poker.

4. Daniel Negreanu 

What would this list be without the man who has won some of the biggest amounts out of playing poker at live tables? Daniel Negreanu is an absolute legend or “chad” in poker parlor. If most players are “the fish” he is the big bad shark.

Negreanu has won $50.7 million from playing live poker and has been one of the most influential players of all times. His most recent seven-figure win was realized at the $300,000 No Limit Hold’em – Super High Roller Bowl VII in October 2022, and he has played in dozens of events publicly ever since.

Negreanu’s winnings outstripped that of most other players with the Canadian admittedly trying to catch up to some of the other players in the All Time List, but blazing a trail for newer generations as he goes along.

5. Justin Bonomo

Speaking of all-time winners, the title without a doubt goes to Justin Bonomo, whose biggest win is $10 million from the WSOP event in 2018. He has amassed $61.2 million from playing live poker games. His legacy is that he is an exceptional player who knows how to stay competitive and bring amazing plays to the fore. 

He has been immortalized by the community and put on a pedestal beyond the grasp of the regular poker player. Bonomo, some say, has not truly revolutionized the game other in bringing a steely determination and unreadable face to the green felt which has allowed him to truly excel and dominate the poker scene. He has been an amazing person to follow and an inspiration, but mostly a person who has kept to himself. 

Published by HOLR Magazine.