The best poker players in the world, the nosebleed players, are at the top of the food chain – some of the legends of nosebleeds have climbed the stakes all the way up from the micros and won millions as they achieved the pinnacle of poker. Everybody has their opinion on who are best & most talented poker players of all time, and in this list we have gathered the biggest winners and most skilful players in our opinion. We like to call them the Good, the Sick, and the Famous – lets dive in to see the shortlists of all three categories!
Sami 'Lrslzk' Kelopuro
Sami is basically a legend among the online poker community, a true crusher winning in at the highest stakes in both cash games and tournaments for over a decade now. He started playing poker in 2005 and rose the highest stakes available pretty quickly. During the Full Tilt era, he challenged players like Tom Dwan and Phil Ivey at the nosebleed tables. He is technically among the very top tournament players globally, putting in hundreds of hours of ‘lab hours’ studying different spots, ICM, GTO frequencies and how to construct his ranges with different stack sizes – he has simply outworked many of his peers. This dedication combined with his talent for playing nosebleed stakes with a very rational approach to money, has kept him at the top of the food chain in poker for so many years.
Sami had probably the biggest winning session in Omaha HU seen the last few years online, both in buy-ins and moneywise when he played PLO 20k HU on partypoker
‘That night something very sick happened. I couldn’t believe it at first. Was waiting on 100/200 PLO HU and an unknown guy sits. He just wanted to gamble, and I quickly lost 85k. I was afraid of running out of balance on partypoker, as the game was crazy with nearly every hand being 3bet or 4bet. Then I won a 190k pot and had a 424k stack. My villain ran his 20k stack from to over 100k a couple of times, but never to 150k. I was starting to run very good.
At last, after $1.3M, the game was over. We had played for about 8 hours, which is a very short time to lose that many buy-ins. Same time next week, a similar type of thing happened in PLO 50/100 with a guy playing a similar style and losing 100k.
I didn’t even consider this outcome possible in 2019. I was confused for a couple of days after this, since it was hard to believe I would break my record for a single winning day after the Full Tilt years. I won 65 buy-ins total. It was also my best week ever, + $1.525M’
Linus 'LLinusLLove' Loeliger
Linus ‘’LLinusLLove’ Loeliger is a Swiss poker player residing in Malta. He is generally considered the best NLHE 6max player in the world as of this moment, having a very deep understanding of GTO strategy of the game. He started a thread on 2+2 in 2013 with a challenge to build his bankroll from $240 playing NL10 to a regular player in the NL100. He would experience ups and downs like every other poker player, but would keep playing and working on his game daily no matter what came his way.
Fast-forward 4 years to 2017, he is playing the NL40k stakes on PokerStars clashing with the best online players in the world, winning over $1.4M in 2018. According to Statname, he has won a total of $2.6M online with a winrate of 6.4 bb/100. If you’ve followed the latest poker news, it’s likely you’ve seen Linus make a headline by battling the best live poker players too. Lately he has started playing more and more live tournaments, leading the Swiss all-time money list on HendonMob with total live earnings of $1.86M. His biggest win so far is the Triton 6-handed Turbo event trophy for 690k GBP.
Linus has stated that playing three-handed NLHE against top competition is the most fun thing in poker for him. He also enjoys the swings, in good and bad, which is something not many poker players share with him.
Pauli 'Fiilismies' Äyräs
A former Starcraft 2 & CS player, Fiilismies fell in love with poker at the first try and would later become one of the best NLHE 6max and HU players the world has ever seen. He has risen to the top of the NLHE online scene at a relatively young age, and prefers to live a lavish lifestyle now that his vast poker winnings allow him to buy a bunch of stuff not available to everyone in real life.
Pauli starts his sessions around 6pm in the evening, and depending on the quality of games finishes at around 7am in the morning. This is his routine pretty much 7 days a week & 365 days a year, unless he is traveling to play High Roller live tournament series. He has stated that you begin to wonder if there is possibly something wrong with the balance of life when you sit 16 hours in front of your computer in your pyjamas and friends are calling you less and less, but being a poker pro is not an easy job – quite the opposite, it requires sacrifices and tremendous commitment. During the downswings Pauli tries to just keep his head cool and keep on playing, and he admits that losing sessions can affect his mood at times.
In the future Pauli wants to start a business and decrease the hours spent on poker – up until now, he has won more and more each year.
‘Poker has given me everything I ever wished – and even more. The first year as a professional in 2015, I won €100k. In 2016, I won €200k and became even hungrier, winning €800k the next year in 2017. I thought I had truly reached my potential back then. But, in 2018, I won €2M and thought the games are now so tough it’s hard to win more. Nevertheless, in 2019, I won €3M and again I have the same feeling as in the previous years.’
In 2020-2021, Pauli has been able to pull off very profitable trades in the stock market to further grow his net worth. At the end of June 2020, he tweeted on his purchase of $1 million worth of Tesla shares with margin. According to Pauli, this was the biggest gamble of his life and he’s not selling any shares for a long time. So far, this trade has definitely paid of for him as Tesla’s stock went on a run right after his tweet.
Ioannis 'ActionFreak' Kontonatsios
Ioannis Kontonatsios aka ActionFreak aka is a regular nosebleed player on PokerStars, playing high-stakes 6max PLO. He is one of the challengers taking part in the Galfond challenge, about to play 15k hands at €150/300 with a €150k side bet. With stakes this high, the end result of this match could easily be half a million in the red or black! He is used to playing the highest stakes possible. Ioannis is a greek player who plays mostly online and makes appearances in some live tournaments from time to time.
At the end of May 2020, Galfond ended up beating ActionFreak in the challenge after 15k hands. Many players are watching the challenge closely and speculate on the outcomes of the future match-ups.
MMASherdog is one of the biggest winners in high stakes & nosebleed NLHE games online, winning over $1M in 2018 alone. He is the co-founder & Headcoach of BluffTheSpot, one of the best poker training sites dedicated to fuel your poker success! BluffTheSpot offers top-quality poker courses, and Coaching For Profits, both for PLO and NLHE.
Here is a short story describing his character based on the Instagram stories & posts with the hastag #mmasherdog: ‘Back in the day, MMASherdog started playing 10 cent freerolls on PKR. Once he won a little bit of money, he switched to play on Bodog and managed to build a $5k bankroll pretty quickly, which was enough for him to take a shot at the mid-stakes NLHE. He realized he wasn’t ready to beat those levels just yet, and got kicked back down numerous times due to tilt and BRM problems. He took a long break for about six months, but watched trainings videos from Runitonce.com each day during the break. He returned with a $2k bankroll to PokerStars, and decided it was time to make it or break it. He turned into a $10/20 regular within 8 months. Nowadays he can be found grinding various stakes ranging from NL500 Zoom to $200/400 NLHE on PokerStars. MMAsherdog loves cars, especially Ferrari’s – just a few ppl know MMASherdog is actually also good at cooking!’
What is very special about him, is that unlike many others, he didn’t start coaching at the end of his career. In fact, he can still be found on the highest stakes possible almost every single day.
EEE27 is one the hardest working Omaha players on the planet whom very few dare to challenge. With two time Supernova Elite statuses and over 10 million hands on his belt, EEE27 has always put in a massive volume of hands. After rising up the stakes from NL10 and NL25, he was grinding rake races playing midstakes NLHE back in the days of Entraction and Ongame poker networks. He would rake as much as €50k per month playing NL200 and NL400 with over 100% RB when counting in the winnings from rake races and other poker bonuses.
Later on as the action started to dry up there after 2010, he transitioned to PLO as he predicted there would be more money to be made in Omaha. He got the inspiration to make the transition by watching the Finns play nosebleeds on Full Tilt Poker. He was hooked from the very first Omaha session, and this decision has turned out very well to him – he rose to the nosebleeds playing up to PLO40k for several years now.
‘’I’ve thought several times that it was so crazy what I did for two years: Grinding two SNE’s in a row on PokerStars and studying full-time to be a pilot, and also allocating time for my girlfriend and trying to keep her happy despite my busy schedule. Many times I grinded Sunday Majors until 7am in the morning, and school would start at 8am. I basically slept only during 6 days a week. I grinded well over a million hands per year to reach the SNE statuses, and during my poker career I’ve played around 10 million hands. I feel like making it at the higher stakes & nosebleeds requires a specific type of talent in figuring out the game on a deeper level. Obviously the game is still based on maths and so on, but grinding solvers for millions of hours doesn’t prepare you for spots where other factors are affecting the best play. I’ve seen different situations so many times over, that I can predict how the field I’m playing against is going to reach to each thing.’’
BERRI SWEET might have gotten his nickname inspiration from sweet berries, but it takes a lot more than that to become as good as he is in PLO – behind his sweet graph is a commitment to poker like no other. BERRI SWEET is a mysterious Swedish player who does not make too much buzz about himself on the forums. Over the years, he has battled against many of the other endboss-level players at the highest stakes.
BERRI SWEET has a very healthy approach to keeping the poker ecosystem a fair place for everyone. Here’s a short statement from his approach:
‘’Oftentimes, as a high stakes player, you have the choice between sacrificing a little money/EV or degenerating into narcissistically making whichever unethical choice makes you the most $ in the moment. Far too many regulars have chosen the latter path lately. “Everyone else is doing it” is one of the worst excuses of all time.’’
Timofey 'Trueteller' Kuznetsov
Born in 1991, Timofey Kuznetsov is one of the toughest Russian poker players you can face at the nosebleed tables. Trueteller was living in Moscow when he got introduced to poker, and one of his friends was winning some money playing the game. He decided he could sit down at a poker table too, and soon he found himself playing a ton of hours. In the beginning he didn’t do that well money-wise, but quite soon he was winning heavily and rose up to the high-stakes which was quite excited about at that time. The best way to improving as a player for Timofey has always been to play ultra-focused and always thinking about even the smallest things that might help him make better decisions at the tables. Although his number of live cashes is quite small, his largest live tournament cash so far is the $500k Super High Roller Bowl 4th place for $2.15M in 2015.
‘I find it really really fun and enjoyable to fight my own fears, like shoving with a bluff, and you’re trying to hide your emotions. I like both live and online poker: Live is more relaxing, more fun and you can chat with people. But online I get more hands, so it’s more fun in another way.
Andres 'educa_p0ker' Artinano
Andres is a Spanish high stakes player specializing in NLHE 6 max and HU. He has cleared the tables for several millions of dollars during his poker career, lately focusing on coaching and producing training content for Upswing poker. Andres found poker by typing ‘Win money through the internet’ on google and found his way first to sports betting and then to poker. He quickly quit the course at the University he was studying at and started playing online poker full-time to take advantage of this newfound opportunity. In 2016, he won the PokerStars SCOOP Main Event for over $570k.
Bajskorven is one of the Swedish high stakes regulars who battles long matches in Heads-up NLHE. According to rumours on 2+2 forum, Bajskorven used to live close to fellow Swedish high-stakes players Wilhasha & FastCarsss who formed a power trio among the Swedish high-stakes community. They lived close to each other to hang out together, rail each other’s heads-up matches and discussed hands & poker strategy a lot. Having a mastermind group like this with like-minded high-level players is definitely a big asset in poker, and Bajskorven’s results have been nothing short of amazing.
Alex 'Kanu7' Millar
Alex is a British player specializing in Heads-up NLHE. He has been playing the highest stakes on the major online poker sites for several years. Born in 1985 and residing in the UK, he has been battling it out on PokerStars with screen name Kanu7, and on Full Tilt Poker with name IReadYrSoul. Many years ago Alex found a Russian guy on 2+2 who approached him about a solver for NLHE, and he was using a private solver to study poker. However, he quit playing PokerStars due to their VIP changes, and thought poker was over for him. Nowadays he is a coach on UpswingPoker, teaching in their course called ‘Advanded Cash Game Strategy’ and helping fellow players to boost their win rate.
’I took a year off after University to play poker before taking a job, and I was making more money from poker than I would from the job. I live with my gf & dog, and like football a lot – hence the screen name Kanu. One of the funniest stories of my on 2+2 is the Yoghurt thread. Once I left my computer to eat some yoghurt in the other room, and while I went away a massive fish sat down at 50/100 NLHE HU tables. He started losing to other regs at a very fast rate, and by the time I came back to my computer he was gone. He lost about 250k that session, so that was quite an expensive yoghurt for me.’
VeniVidi1993 is a high stakes PLO player and the first challenger in the Galfond Challenge which has received great publicity on Facebook and Twitter due to the results so far. So far he has been destroying Galfond pretty nicely, winning over €560k since January 22nd as the challenge kicked off. VeniVidi1993 specialises in Heads-Up PLO, and they’re playing €100/200 HU PLO for a total 25k hands before the first part of the challenge is finished. That shouldn’t take too long as the schedule of the challenge is 4 hours of play per day, 5 days a week. There’s also a side bet of €200k vs €100k, in VeniVidi’s favour of the outcome of the match, and so far it looks he will be cashing out close to a milly if Galfond can’t make a big comeback!
Grazvis1’s amazing results speak for the end-boss of PLO HU: He has won over $1M in PLO 5k and over 970k in PLO10k during 2018 alone. He can be seen at the lobbies of the nosebleed PLO HU tables on PokerStars, waiting for unsuspecting opponents looking to play some cards in the great game of Pot-Limit Omaha. Based on his forum posts, his first name is Grazvydas. Grazvis1 is generally regarded as the top player in the world currently for Heads-up PLO, and we are looking forward to see him appear on the high-roller tournament scene in case he wants to reveal his identity in the future.
Fraser 'BigBlindsBets' Russell
BigBlindBets is a familiar screen name to people who follow the modern high-stakes Holdem scene. Born in the early 1990s, Fraser started his poker career from the low-stakes and posted updates of his progress to a Challenge blog on 2+2. He started to play €NL4 with a bankroll of €70 on a site called NoIQ poker, which belonged to Entraction poker network back in 2011. Here’s a quote from his Challenge blog:
‘i have lost 5buyins already. ive gotta say im pretty hopeless at cash. is there any one resonabley experienced member that could take some time to have a look at my game before i lose my roll?’
Can you imagine that just a few years later, he plays some of the biggest limits available online, crushing poker for millions of dollars? His biggest online tournament trophy was in 2019 WCOOP, when he took down the first prize of a whopping $1.67M. He has stated that talking strategy to numerous people on the way up has had a positive influence on his game, but Paul ‘Internet’ Otto was the coach to introduce him to some really smart & hard-working guys who helped him succeed in poker. Again, the power of a great mastermind group cannot be underestimated in what kind of results one gets from poker!
A high-stakes player from Finland, mokoma1 is one of the top Heads-Up NLHE players who has perfected his game through extensive usage of Piosolver. He has played both high-stakes HU tournaments and HU cash on PokerStars, where many players challenging him have failed to beat him. His nickname stems from a Finnish trash metal band that plays with death metal influences and traditional Finnish melancholic melodies.
Viktor 'Isildur1' Blom
Isildur1 is a poker legend in the online poker community, having won and lost millions of dollars overnight in a single session. Back in the Full Tilt days, this alias was still a secret before Viktor came forward and announced the account belongs to him.
Viktor was introduced to poker by his brother, who taught him Texas Holdem during his years in Junior High School. They played HU against each other and watched the episodes of a Swedish TV broadcast called Pokermiljonen. Playing home games with 15c antes, Victor started to play during all breaks at school, and also played tournaments with his friends for stakes between $3-7. The first deposit he made to an online poker room with his brother was $100. He built up a bankroll of $275k during his Junior High School years, only to lose it all in a single night. He decided to not focus on school and go all-in on poker once more, and managed to deposit $2k on iPoker. He started to grind NL200 HU NLHE and moved up in stakes quickly, appearing the Full Tilt nosebleeds tables in 2009 to challenge the best players of the time. Playing 24-36 hour sessions, he won over 6 million dollars in under two weeks, before starting to play PLO where he would end up losing millions to Patrik Antonius and Brian Hastings. Viktor has the record of losing the largest pot ever played online for $1.3 million.
Ilari 'Ziigmund' Sahamies
The sickest player to ever rise to the nosebleeds from Finland – meet Ilari ‘Ziigmund’ Sahamies!
Ilari needs no introductions, as he is the PLO player everyone loved to watch playing during the crazy Full Tilt years. He battled with the likes of Isildur1 and Gus Hansen at the highest limits possible, and played in all the big live tournament series in Europe and sometimes in Vegas during the poker boom years. Ziigmund is best known for his all-in lifestyle, where he parties hard, plays big and doesn’t hold anything back. He even starred in a rap song with Teflon Brothers, a Finnish rap band, and was featured in a famous music song together with Finnish rappers Uniikki, Elastinen & Spekti – enjoy the song & music video here.
Back in the day Ilari also owned a poker site called PowerPoker, which hosted the Ziigmund Heads-Up Challenge and wild parties on boats. Henrik ‘Normandi’ Andersson took the challenge, but didn’t manage to win against Ziggy as he got busted with a smaller straight against Ziggy’s broadway straight.
Tom 'durrrr' Dwan
As stated in Paul Phua’s interview of Tom, when it comes to modern poker icons, you don’t get more rock ’n’ roll than Tom Dwan. Tom described his life as ‘too much poker, not enough sleep’ but while he is at the tables, no one’s chips will be safe. His fearless monster bluffs in episodes of High-Stakes Poker made him the favorite player of the show for many of the viewers and poker fans all over the world, and he has battled in ultra-nosebleeds of televised poker for many years.
Born in 1986 in Edison, New Jersey, Tom Dwan became interested in games at a young age and was playing games like Magic: The Gathering and poker with his friends as a teenager. He started his grind to the top from a site called Paradise Poker with just 50 dollars, and hasn’t looked back since. Nowadays Tom can be found from the biggest 6+ Holdem live games played in Macau, Hong Kong and at the Triton Super High Roller Series.
Stu 'the Kid' Ungar
Stu ‘the Kid’ Ungar is one of the most mystical poker players the world has ever seen. Born in 1952 in Manhattan, Stu was a son of a loan shark and started gambling at a very young age. He had tremendous natural talent for gin rummy, and his talent was not left unnoticed by any player who would play against him. His mother was seriously ill when Stu’s father died, and since Stu was only 13 at the time with not too many options to support the family, he started gambling more around New York to make money.
Gin rummy action died out after Stu had won massively, and no one dared to challenge him anymore. He had to find another game to dominate, and as you would’ve guessed, live poker was his choice. He moved to Las Vegas in 1977 and entered the WSOP in 1980. Unsurprisingly, Stu beat Doyle Brunson in the HU to take home the trophy and his first WSOP title, with many more poker bracelets to come his way later on.
There was simply no match for him in poker at that time, and other players would deem him as a genius playing among mere mortals. But, there was something he lacked discipline in – every other area of his life. He was addicted to pit games, high-stakes sports betting, and also cocaine. No one can survive this type of combination in the long-run, no matter how good you’re at poker. Stu was found dead in 1998 from a cheap motel, and the list of people he owes money to is several pages long if that was written down. Only if he could manage his private life better, we might have seen even more astonishing tournament wins from this gambling prodigy of his time…
‘Show me a good loser and I’ll just show you a loser’ –Stu Ungar
Phil 'RaiseOnce' Ivey
Phil Ivey, also known as the Tiger Woods of poker, is one the most feared opponents you can face at the nosebleed live cash games. Playing under alias ‘RaiseOnce’ online, Ivey has battled some of the greatest online players of the time during the crazy years of Full Tilt Poker. He has been featured on Poker After Dark, Highstakes Poker and many other famous TV shows, cashed over $28M from live poker tournaments and elected to the Poker Hall of Fame in 2017.
Ivey started his poker career early in life. Born in Riverside California in 1977, he moved to New Jersey as a 3-year old. He played 5-card stud for pennies with his grandfather being just 8 years old, and his grandfather saw his special talent for the game immediately. Working in McDonalds at the age of 16, Ivey played in neighbourhood games but wanted to live a different lifestyle. He used a fake ID to start playing at the Atlantic City casinos, and put in 15 hour days. He could only start using his real name once he turned 21 – by that time, everyone in the US poker scene were somewhat familiar with him as his skills were phenomenal. Later on he would become one of the most famous US players worldwide. He won his first WSOP bracelet against the legendary Amarillo Slim in 2000, getting $195k for the trophy.
Daniel 'Kidpoker' Negreanu
Born in 1974 in Toronto, Canada, Daniel Negreanu was born into a family that had moved from Romania to Canada. As a little boy just 4 years old, Daniel already had dreams beyond just playing and getting new toys: He wanted to become rich and buy a new house for his mom. Daniel had very poor manners at school and nearly got expelled at some point because he was not following any rules. He was playing a lot of pool at the local club house, besides trying his hand at poker and other card games, and taking bets on sporting events regularly. He dropped out of high school to pursue playing poker full-time. Later he headed to Las Vegas, but managed his bankroll very poorly and was nearly broke not long after he moved to Vegas. That was a setback many poker pros have experienced along their path, and Daniel learned a very important lesson there, luckily being very early in his upcoming poker career.
In 1998, Daniel played his first satellite to WSOP Main Event, which at that time was a $2k Pot-Limit Holdem. Beating the likes of Dan Harrington, Todd Brunson and Johnny Chan, Daniel took home the trophy of $169k. This win was remarkable at the time for him, but nothing close to what would follow during later years. His largest win is the runner-up from $1M NLHE The Big One for One Drop in 2014, where he cashed a big 7-figure win of $8.2M. Daniel has written several poker books studied by many players, and cashed over $42M from tournaments, which gives him the top spot on Canadian All Time Money List on HendonMob and the third spot on Global All Time Money List. Elected to Poker Hallf of Fame in 2014, there is no question whether Daniel belongs to the very elite of tournament poker players of all time.
‘I’m not surprised where I am – I’ve always felt I was gonna be successful in whatever it was I did. I love nothing more than being under lights, on center stage, this is my game. When people feel that they have mastered anything in life, whatever that is, that is the precise moment when other people are about to surpass them. In 2004, I was so far above the average player in tournaments. Right now my edge is much smaller, although I’m a much better player than I was in 2004. Computer software has evolved the game, and we can actually find the correct GTO answer, and people are studying the game at a much higher level.’ –Daniel Negreanu
Patrik 'Fake Love888' Antonius
Patrik Antonius is one of the biggest winners in the history of online poker, having battled against in the biggest games running on Full Tilt Poker against anyone who would challenge him. He has done well in both PLO and NLHE heads-up games, playing stakes as high as PLO 100k & NLHE 60k stakes online and live games with blinds sometimes as high as 10k/20k. He has said he lives for the big moments at the tables, and has never read any books about poker or watched any training videos – he is a self-learned player who relies mostly on his instincts and vast experience of playing against different opponents at the highest limits. Patrik regularly travels around the world to find a suitable high stakes cash game where pots can grow into big 6-figures, sometimes even 7-figures.
Patrik also likes to bet on sports and make prop bets in tennis and golf. He was actually an aspiring tennis player as a teenager, but two back injuries prevented him from going pro in tennis. He found poker with his friends and also started to play at the local casino on a weekly basis once he turned 18. He noticed the game is great for a competitive spirit like him. He also tried jobs like modelling after the tennis injuries, but clearly poker was pulling him towards another decision. His first online deposit was to a poker site called 24hPoker which belonged to Entraction network with multiple Scandinavian poker sites. He quickly rose to $20k bankroll on that site from the initial deposit of $200, and started seeing poker as an opportunity he needs to focus on. After that moment, Patrik hasn’t looked back ever since, having tremendous success in all forms of poker he has played. Patrik holds the 1st place on Finland All Time Money list on HendonMob, and cashed his biggest tournament win in 2018 from a Macau Super High Roller Bowl with an astonishing $3.1m for the runner-up position.
Patrik also has a deep care for the overall health of the poker ecosystem, and dislikes the current extensive time usage for every decision of tournaments players at the live events. Patrik thinks poker should be made great again as a spectator sport it can be at its best, where there is fast action for everyone to follow on the live streams and TV broadcasts. To support this vision, Patrik has organized his own poker tour called PAPC, Patrik Antonius Poker Challenge. During this tournament week in Tallinn, our BeastsOfPoker ambassador KingPampo made quite a performance at the streamed high-stakes PLO cash game – watch the clip here.
Patrik has launched a great social media app for poker players called FLOP or First Land of Poker, where you can find like-minded friends, get real time information on poker rooms, find cash games in your favourite poker room, create your own game, invite your friends and meet at a casino.
‘I have great memories from the big nosebleed games back in the Full Tilt and Prima days. I did well obviously and played very long sessions, and Johhny Lodden was one of the guys I played against a lot on Prima with stakes of 200/400. Johnny was a better player in the beginning, but later I thought I had an edge. When I have a feeling I’m ready to play my best, I would play pretty much anyone. I don’t meditate, as so far I have found it quite boring – still I feel I meditate through sports, where I’m really in my own world, and I’m always trying to find a peaceful place for my mind.
The live tournaments are getting bigger with bigger fields, and it’s been fun to play them. I was so long away for tournaments, over 10 years. I mean cash game is a totally different game, as you play with the same players over and over. I like both of them. In tournaments I like the fact that we have a game where you can qualify through a satellite and win life-changing money which is like the dream for many players. This is the best thing in poker, you meet new people and you play with new players, and the game is very social at least in the early stages of tournaments.’
Dan Bilzerian is – well, Dan Bilzerian. It’s hard to describe him accurately in one sentence, but you could say he reminds us of Jason Statham in movies. In other words, he is the icon of high life, although it seems his cars are even faster and weaponry even more sophisticated than those of Statham uses. Dan plays nosebleed poker, throws around real money notes and parties like no tomorrow. With his huge following on social media, Dan became a Brand Ambassador for GGPoker in beginning of December 2020. He can be also found sailing around the world on yacht’s equipped with hundreds of Moët & Chandon special edition bottles and tens of bikini-wearing models, sometimes wearing no bikinis.
Dan is also called the King of Instagram, Dan has over 30 million followers checking out his regular updates on his lifestyle. Google statistics tell us many people are curious to find what is ‘dan Bilzerian net worth’, and the rough answer is $200 million. But, Google also tells us his source of wealth is ‘entrepreneur’. He drives a Gulfstream IV jet with a personal trademark of the head of his pet Zeus painted on the tail. He almost got sued by a porn star who got her leg broken due to Bilzerian throwing her off the roof of his house into a pool. A friend of his described his furniture with the following words: There are guns lying around casually in literally every room in his house.
“My greatest fear is that someone will break in and I won’t be able to decide what gun to shoot them with.” –Dan Bilzerian
Doyle 'Texas Dolly' Brunson
Born in 1933 in Longworth Texas, Doyle Brunson is a living legend, playing professional poker for over 5 decades from the smoky Texas saloons to the prestigious high-stakes rooms of Las Vegas casinos. He has won many millions during his long career and adapted to the changes in the game, playing very high-stakes even when the internet geniuses started showing up at the games with their GTO approach and solver-based strategies.
As a young pal, Doyle Brunson was an extremely athletic guy excelling in basketball and track & field. He set his school record for the one mile which he ran in 4 minutes 43 seconds, and earned a scholarship to Hardin-Simmons University in basketball. But, as in the case of Patrik Antonius, Doyle also experienced a severe injury which prevented him from realizing his dream as a basketball pro player. Unable to continue playing basketball, he tried out poker in 1954. He quickly found five-card draw a profitable game, and started to pay his medical bills through poker winnings. Starting as a salesman to make a living, he happened to win a 7-card stud tournament which made him change the direction of his life to that of a professional poker player.
Traveling around Texas in illegal poker rooms, Doyle played with some shady people from day to day. It was no rare occurrence to be threatened with a gun back in those days. He travelled with Dwayne Hamilton to Louisiana and Oklahoma to play tournaments, and later met Amarillo Slim and Sailor Roberts who would later become his dear friends. Once Las Vegas casinos were built and poker slowly became more popular, Doyle started playing the WSOP tournaments and has won 10 bracelets total, including two WSOP Main Event wins. The 10-2 starting hand is nicknamed as Doyle Brunson, since he won two of the bracelets with that hand as the last hand played. In 1998 Doyle Brunson got elected to Poker Hall of Fame, and he has written the book Super/System influencing many players to start playing a more aggressive style of poker.
Despite having very sharp decision-making abilities as a poker player, Doyle did make one costly mistake in the early years of the online poker boom that still hives him nightmares. He had launched a poker room called Doylesroom.com, which turned out to become quite a popular one. He was offered a nice $230 million to for his shares of the company, but expecting the poker boom to grow even further Doyle declined the offer without second thought. However, since UIGEA was put in place in 2006, Doylesroom was no longer worth anywhere near the previous offer he had received. He sold the site for an unknown sum later to Americas Cardroom.
‘I’m a gambler. I’ll always be one. I couldn’t be anything else. So, my life will always be full of wins and losses. I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s exciting. There’s never been a dull moment in my life.’ – Doyle Brunson
Phil 'Poker Brat' Hellmuth
Phil Hellmuth was born in Madison Wisconsin in 1964 as the oldest child in the family. After high school Phil found the game of Texas Holdem, often playing with his classmates. Instantly hooked by the game, he started to play tournaments in Aria. Winning tournaments was his trademark, and he moved to Las Vegas. But, his first try to make it as a pro in Vegas was not successful, and he had to return to Wisconsin to rebuild his bankroll. The second time he moved to Vegas, he stayed for good. Paying back his student loans with his winnings, he wanted to be a regular competitor in WSOP tournaments one day.
In 1989, he won the WSOP Main Event as the youngest champion ever as he defeated the two time champion Johnny Chan in Heads-up. From there on, he seemed to be an unstoppable force in tournament poker wherever he played. He won the first ever National Heads-Up Poker Championship tournaments beating Chris Ferguson as his last opponent. He got his tenth WSOP bracelet in 2006, and has won 15 bracelets total. In his spare time, Hellmuth likes playing golf as he finds it very relaxing. He also loves watching baseball and basketball. Hellmuth is well-known for his temperamental personality, which has earned him the nickname ‘Poker Brat’. With numerous titles on his belt and his total tournament prizes exceeding $23 million, and he will probably not stop playing anytime soon.
‘I can dodge bullets, baby!’ – Phil Hellmuth
Jens 'Jeans89' Kyllönen
Jens Kyllönen started his poker career as a 17-year old teenager, and later became one of the most successful Finnish players to ever be seen in poker. He was playing 2500 hours a year, with regular sessions of up to 15 hours. He won the EPT Copenhagen back in 2009 for €900k and everything from there seems to have worked out in his favour. He has stated that playing poker is no easy job, and there are downswings where you’re mentally being tested to the limits – during those times you just have to push through and rely on being superior to your opponents.
Later he started studying finance and it became his second passion, and now he is regularly blogging about stocks. His raw talent and hard-working attitude allowed him to have an internship with Susquehanna International Group in Philadelphia, where he could put his poker skills into use to learn more about trading. He has invested in poker winnings into the stock market since 2015, getting hefty returns as he has been pretty much all-in on stocks for that time period. Jens thinks luck plays a bigger role in investing than in poker though, and beating the field in investing is possible just by putting your money into ETFs. His aim is to beat the market by utilizing pricing mistakes in small cap companies, and so far this strategy has paid off well for him. He is also one of the owners of a Finnish investing forum called Sijoitustieto and a graduate from London School of Economics.
‘I started by poker career from freerolls, and my first wins were like a few dozens of euros. Little by little the wins started to grow bigger, and during high school I knew poker could become a real profession for me. I never thought at that time I could achieve all that I have achieved now!’
Doug 'WCGRider' Polk
Born in 1988 in Pasadena, California, USA, Doug started playing chess as a young boy. He started playing Warcraft 3 competitively as he turned 15 with the nickname WCGRider, a famous screen name known by Warcraft 3 and poker players alike. He started online poker at PokerStars from $0.01/0.02 blinds with just $20 deposit, turning it into $10k. He ran 80 buy-ins below EV in 2009 playing midstakes full-ring NLHE, making most of his profit from rakeback. He understood playing for 1 or 2 BB/100 winrates at the full-ring games was no way to get ahead in poker. He was even getting made fun of on 2+2 threads, where people would make jokes of him breaking even for a million hands and putting him on lists like the worst full-ring grinders of all time. He transitioned into Heads-up, running up the stakes all the way to $50/100 stakes. This was the breakthrough he had looked for, and eventually he made millions playing HU against some of the toughest competition at the time.
Nowadays Doug is a popular Youtuber, making videos of the drama in the poker world and cryptocurrencies. He is also the founder of UpswingPoker, one of the most popular poker training sites. And, when he feels like it, he plays some high-roller tournaments like the big WSOP events where he has taken home three WSOP bracelets and cashed winnings for over $9 million. Doug has a trademark of getting into arguments with various poker players, which has likely contributed to his popularity over the years.
‘Poker players are notorious for getting into involved in things they probably should not be involved in at all. If you want to get to the top and stay at the top, discipline is something you can’t simply make it in poker without. If you find yourself struggling, you need to be able to step back and start viewing things in a 3rd person view and then asking yourself if you’re making good decisions.’
Daniel 'Jungleman' Cates
Daniel Cates is one of the online Heads-up Holdem legends. Initially he was very bad at poker when playing live games, but he started to play online and gradually moved up to high-stakes and became one of the best players in the world. He was really critical of himself and objective of what kind of adjustments he should make in his poker game, and this characteristic helped him tremendously to move up the stakes.
He was getting close to his first million which was a wow moment for him, as he never thought he could make some much money from poker. But, he lost half of his bankroll to Isildur1, going from $970k to $450k. Not letting that loss affect him too much, he returned to the tables online the very next day and kept on going. In 2010, he accepted the durrrr challenge of playing 50k hands of Heads-up NLHE, with a sidebet of $1.5 million on the line from Tom Dwan and $500k from Daniel Cates. Daniel kept winning steadily, beating Dwan in over 70% of the sessions. Ironically, almost ten years later this challenge is yet to be finished.
‘I was a bit of a loner in college and didn’t have any friends. I just grinded poker and for me it was really helpful to see progress. Also for me, there was more enjoyment in winning and competing than learning. I hate the idea that someone could be better than. There’s some part of me that thinks I can beat anybody.’ –Daniel Cates
Phil 'MrSweets28' Galfond
If you’re a Pot-Limit Omaha player and haven’t watched Galfond’s training videos, you’ve missed quite a lot! Born in 1985, Phil Galfond is a legendary PLO player and the founder & head coach of Runitonce.com. Earlier as a coach for Bluefire Poker he would record training videos explaining his thought process in high-stakes games against the likes of David Benyamine and Isildur1, playing under alias OMGClayAiken.
Galfond has won 3 WSOP bracelets and played poker professionally for over 15 years. He started his career in poker playing SNGs for 1.5 years when he did pretty well building his bankroll steadily. He later moved to higher stakes NLHE cash games after a few years, starting from $5/10 NLHE. He kept grinding until he saw some good $50/100 games, where he took a shot and failed the first time, dropping back to rebuild at the lower stakes. He started to playin UB and Full Tilt, and played way underrolled in at stakes like $300/600 with just $400k bankroll. Since that time, Phil has made Pot-Limit Omaha his main game, where his success has been like no other.
In 2020, Phil has taken on multiple opponents in the Galfond challenge consisting of high stakes PLO matches with huge sidebets. The third edition of Galfond challenge during late 2020 is a match against Chance Kornuth. Phil’s match against Chance includes 35k hands at stakes of €100/200. An online poker players and a coach, Chance is the fourth person to play against Galfond in the challenge. The Galfond Challenge was founded by Phil to bring back the glory days of railing high stakes games. One of the main sponsors of the challenge is MuchBetter eWallet, which offers fast & secure deposit options on most poker sites.
‘When you’ve had a certain amount of money for a while, it’s like a mental line that’s drawn, so I would be pretty upset to cross that so I am more careful now. I’ve learned so much from all my poker friends – I guess the two friends I’ve learned most from are Tom Dwan when he was already a high-stakes cash game player, and the other one is my friend Dan who is completely unknown. When you have somebody smart to talk poker hands with, you just can’t help but learn a lot. Any time you’re thinking about anything besides the right way to play the hand, you’re wasting energy. It kind of becomes more like a personal challenge than a game where you can win a lot of money’ –Phil Galfond
High Stakes Online Poker
The beauty of online poker is you can play any stakes against players from all over the world. If you want to play high stakes live poker across many limits and game formats, you only option is traveling to Las Vegas. With online poker you have unlimited options. There are many high stakes tables running round the clock on multiple sites.
High-stakes tables run typically with stakes from $25/50 up to as high as $1000/2000 with buy-ins of $5k to $100k. Pot sizes can quickly escalate at the high stakes tables and it’s not uncommon to see 6-figure pots being played. The biggest pot ever played online occurred between Viktor Blom and Patrik Antonius when they clashed in a $1.3 million dollar pot playing Pot-Limit Omaha. Patrik clicked a 5-bet preflop and flopped the second-nut straight with two backdoor flush draws. Viktor raised his flop bet with a wrap and they got it in. Antonius ended up winning the pot with a clean runout.
The largest pot played online in Texas Hold’em occurred in August 2020 when Ali Imsarovic and Tan Xuan clashed in a $974,631 pot. Tan check-raised the flop and fired all three streets against Ali who rivered the nut flush with his AK of spades.
While Holdem has traditionally been the most popular game among high stakes players, Omaha is growing more and more in popularity. Besides cash games, super high roller tournaments are becoming more and more popular among players who like to play for big money. A few years ago 25k or 50k tournament buy-ins were quite rare, but nowadays they are seen in every online poker series on sites like PokerStars, partypoker and GGPoker. Each of these major online poker sites have multiple tournament series across the year with high roller tournaments. Many satellite players qualify for each high roller tournament to chase their one time big payout. Satellites are a great way for most players to enter high roller tournaments where you get to play against the very best players in the world.
Watching an intense high stakes game can be quite entertaining for any poker enthusiast. You get to see how world class players bet their hands and what kind of dynamics these games have. Watching big pots played online gives many players the needed inspiration to start improving their game. Besides professional poker players, high stakes games attract wealthy recreational players, such as businessmen, sports bettors and rich people who mostly play other casino games like blackjack.
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High Stakes Poker Sites: Where to play for big money?
Choosing a reputable poker site is extra important when you play high stakes. You want to make sure that your money will be safe and winnings are processed in a timely manner. It’s a good idea to contact a poker site before making a large deposit, as they might give you a sizable bonus for playing. You can find the repertoire of deposits method each site has on their website homepage.
Asking around where other players like to play can help you finding a suitable poker room for your needs. You can scan lobbies of different sites to see if they have action packed high stakes games running. Some sites better known for other forms of online gambling, like sports betting, can sometimes prove great for high stakes action in poker. Many sites have poker managers to take care of their VIP players, so make sure to get in touch with a site for extra perks when you start playing.
Our Pro Team members of Beasts Of Poker have been playing high stakes online poker on most sites accessible to European players. If you’re looking for advice on where to play, we’re glad to share our knowledge and experience of different sites and their high stakes tables. Get in touch with us by email, Skype or Telegram found in the website footer!
Since there are many formats of poker and it’s almost impossible to track all the winnings of different players, we couldn’t decide who would be the ultimate one of these 29 best poker players. Who do you think is the very best player in poker? Comment below the name of your favourite player and the reason why you think they are the best!
Johannes is the Editor in Chief at Beasts Of Poker and is an expert in both live & online poker. Johannes played online poker semi-professionally for 5 years while completing his Master’s Degree in Technology.