Poker is a game not for the faint of heart. It takes skill, an ability to deceive and many other attributes beside. It’s no surprise that over the last ten years, poker has become a popular game to watch and to play. Although the following are not household names comparable to the likes of Lionel Messi, Roger Federer or Lewis Hamilton (yet), these people are considered giants in the world of poker.
Once a professional magician, Esfandiari set up the first legal online poker site in the US. Though it closed in 2014, Ultimate Poker arguably opened up the game to players all around the world, sending it towards the level of public awareness that it enjoys today. Amongst his poker titles are three WSOP (Word Series of Poker) championships and two WPT (World Poker Tour) championships.
She was for many years one of the biggest female earners on the WSOP circuit and earnt herself the nickname “The Duchess of Poker”. She won WSOP in 2004, and in 2010 won National Heads up Poker. As well as being a great player, she has also written books on how players can improve their game and along with actor Don Cheadle, set up African development charities.
If anyone in the poker world was to become a household name, Ivey would be the one. He has won no fewer than ten WSOP bracelets (as at 2015) and one World Tour championship title; he is considered presently the world’s best player. He has many nicknames including “The Tiger Woods of Poker” and “The Phenom”.
The only woman ever to reach the top spot on the Global Poker Index, Selbst has won three WSOP gold bracelets – the only woman to win that many. She is also the only player to win back-to-back titles at the same tournament. Selbst is nothing if not consistent. The list does not end there; she has the honour in many areas of being “the first woman to…” within the world of poker.
Seidel is proof positive that you can make an impact in many games. A veteran of poker, he actually began in backgammon before becoming a stock market trader and then moving to poker in 1988. Having won eight gold bracelets, he was added to the poker Hall of Fame in 2010 and the titles keep adding up. He won both European Poker Grand Tour Final in 2015 in was ranked world number one for 11 consecutive weeks in 2011.
One of two women on the world tour to win two WSOP gold bracelets; her first win came in the year 2000. Shockingly, Harman had never played the game before that tournament and had had only a five-minute preparation from Howard Lederer (himself a holder of two gold bracelets). Her second title came in 2002; she was the first woman to achieve two gold bracelets but was later surpassed by Vanessa Selbst.
The holder of the highest number of gold bracelets (14) Hellmuth is arguably the world’s most successful poker player. In 1989, he won his first title and became the world’s youngest winner of a tournament (later beaten by Annette Obrestad). He is most famous for being “poker brat”, bad tempered responses to fellow players when he is losing a hand.
Rousso’s career has spanned the last ten years but people outside of the game will know her as a pro gambling campaigner and star of reality TV. In the game, she is a force to be reckoned with having persistently finished in money spots in most of the tournaments in which she has appeared (17 times) but she has yet to win a title. With her consistency of good placing, it should only be a matter of time.
He has won eight titles in his career – six WSOP and two WPT events but he has also won WSOP Player of the Year twice, the only person to have done so. At over $30 million, no other player has come close to matching his winnings. He is consistent too, the first player to reach the final table at all WSOP locations. He started playing casinos at an early age after dropping out of High School in his adopted Canada and never looked back.
Obrestad holds the honour of being the youngest person ever to have won a gold bracelet which she did at the WSOP Europe tournament in 2007, claiming the title the day before her 19th birthday – the prize was £1 million. At the end of the same year, she finished second in the European Poker Tour in Dublin. Obrestad started playing poker online at the age of 15.