Daniel Negreanu

daniel-negreanu-300x200Daniel Negreanu, christened ‘Kid Poker’ after winning a World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet at his first attempt, at the age of 23, in 1998, is one of the most popular, if not the most popular, tournament poker players in the world. At the time of writing, he has since won five more WSOP bracelets and two World Poker Tour (WPT) championship titles; he currently lies second, behind only Justin Bonomo, in the all-time money list, with just over $40 million in live earnings. Negreanu won the WSOP Big One for One Drop, worth $8.3 million to the winner, in Las Vegas in 2014 and, in that same year, was named Global Poker Index (GPI) Player of the Decade and inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in Las Vegas.

Born in Toronto, Canada, to Romanian émigré parents, Negreanu first played poker in Las Vegas in 1995, at the age of 21, but needed to return home, more than once, to rebuild his bankroll, before achieving his breakthrough victory three years later. Between 2007 and 2019, Negreanu was a member of PokerStars Team Pro, in what was the highest-profile sponsorship deal in poker but, as recently as May, 2019 – shortly after his marriage to former PokerNews host Amanda Leatherman – announced that he had stepped down as a brand ambassador for the online poker room, in what he called an ‘amicable split’. On the subject of marriage, more recently still, Negreanu was involved in a Twitter feud with his ‘nemesis’ Shaun Deeb, which descended into infantile name-calling, followed by a prop bet on whose marriage would last longer.

Daniel Colman

daniel-colman-300x300Massachusetts-born Daniel Colman currently ranks seventh on the all-time money list, with live earnings of just shy of $29 million. His position is thanks, in no small part, to the second largest payout in poker tournament history, $15,306,668, which Colman took home after winning the World Series of Poker (WSOP) ‘Big Drop for One Drop’ tournament in 2014. In fact, 2014 proved to be a seminal year for the 23-year-old Colman, who collected four titles, including the European Poker Tour (EPT) Super High Roller event in Monte Carlo and the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open in Hollywood. Nevertheless, Colman caused controversy by flatly refusing to give interviews after Big Drop for One Drop and later calling poker ‘a harmful game’.

Colman began playing poker as a 17-year-old, in online heads-up sit-and-go tournaments, where he attracted the attention of former hedge fund manager Olivier Busquet, nowadays heralded as one of the best players of that form of poker in the world, who became his sponsor. By his own admission, in 2012, Colman was on the verge of abandoning poker to return to his college studies but, having ‘messed up’ his applications, decided to give the game one last try. The following year, he became the first player of hyper-turbo poker – in which blind levels increase every three minutes or so – in online history to win over $1 million in single calendar year; in fact, in just nine months, Colman amassed a total $1,018,708, before rakeback, on the Pokerstars network.

Antonio Esfandiari

antonio-EsfandiariFollowing his victory in the inaugural ‘Big Drop for One Drop’ in 2012, Antonio Esfandiari received $18,346,673 – the largest payout in the history of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) – and instantly became the richest man in poker history. Even today, having curtailed his poker activity, to some extent, following the birth of his son in 2015, Esfandiari ranks tenth on the all-time money list with over $27.7 million in live winnings.

At the last count, Esfandiari had won two World Poker Tour (WPT) titles, including the LA Poker Classic in 2004 – which, at the time, made him the youngest player to win a WPT event – and three World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelets, including a unique platinum bracelet for Big Drop for One Drop. Esfandiari was, briefly, a brand ambassador for Ultimate Poker – the first company to offer licensed, real-money online poker in Nevada – but the company ceased operations in November, 2014 after projected online revenues failed to materialise.

Known to many as ‘The Magician’, Esfandiari admits to having been ‘completely hypnotised’ by the first magic trick he witnessed, as a 17-year-old. He subsequently learned the tools of the trade, changed his name – he was born ‘Amir Esfandiary’ – and embarked upon a career as a professional illusionist. His previous occupation taught him how to assess human behaviour – a prerequisite for playing poker – and helped to develop extraordinary manual dexterity, which he frequently demonstrates with elaborate chip manipulation tricks. Indeed, in 2005, he produced a DVD, entitled ‘Chip Mastery’, on the subject.

Bryn Kenney

Bryn-Kenney

Bryn Kenney, who hails from Long Island, New York and currently resides in New York City, currently ranks fourth on the all-time money list, with nearly $35 million in live earnings. His biggest payday, so far, came as recently as March, 2019, when he collected in excess of $3 million for finishing second, behind Timothy Adams, in the Triton Poker Super High Roller Series on the South Korean island of Jeju. That said, he also collected a total of over $4 million for winning two events in the same series, in the space of three days, in Budva, Montenegro in May, 2019.

Renowned for his globe-trotting exploits, after a series of near-misses, including four final tables, Kenney finally won his first World Series of Poker (WSOP) gold bracelet – so far, his only one – in a six-handed 10-game mixed event at Rio Las in July, 2014.

Nowadays, Bryn Kenney is a highly-respected professional poker player but, in his pre-teen and early teenage years, he also excelled at the online strategy card game known as ‘Magic: The Gathering’ and was, at one point, the best player in the world in his age group. In was in that sphere that he became with several future poker professionals, including Justin Bonomo, and gravitated towards poker as a more lucrative alternative. The turning point in his career apparently came when, in 2006, he was invited, and bankrolled, by former online poker opponent Zack Stewart to play no-limit Texas hold’em at the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles. He embarked upon a lengthy winning streak and has never really looked back.

Doyle Brunson

doyle-brunsonDoyle Brunson retired from tournament poker in 2018, having turned 85 in August that year, after more than five decades as a professional. In his long, illustrious career, Brunson won a total of ten World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelets, including the WSOP Main Event two years running, in 1976 and 1977, and amassed just over $6.1 million in live earnings. His biggest payout was $1.2 million for winning the World Poker Tour (WPT) Legends of Poker event in Los Angeles in 2004.

Brunson also has the distinction of having two hands named after him. The first, ten-two, was his final hand in the WSOP Main Event in both 1976 and 1977 and, in both cases, he made a full house on the river to win what is considered the world championship of poker. The second, ace-queen, is known as a ‘Doyle Brunson’ because it is a hand that he never played or, at least, a hand that he tried never to play.

Brunson was born in Longworth, Texas – hence his nickname ‘Texas Dolly’ – but settled in Las Vegas, where he still resides. He regularly contested the WSOP Main Event from its inauguration in 1970, finishing second in 1980, fourth in 1982 and third in 1984, in addition to his two wins. In 1988, at the age of 54, Brunson was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in Las Vegas and later in his career, in 2006, ‘Bluff’ magazine declared him the ‘most influential force in the world of poker.’