Phil Ivey

phil-ivey-300x200Phillip ‘Phil’ Ivey Jr. started playing poker, illegally, in Atlantic City, New Jersey as a teenager. In fact, one of his nicknames, ‘No Home Jerome’, derives from the fake identification he used to play live poker in those early days. Nevertheless, Ivey, who turned 42 in 2019, has blossomed into, arguably, the best all-round poker player in the world. He currently lies twelfth in the all-time money list, with $26.4 million in live earnings.

In the World Series of Poker (WSOP), Ivey has won ten bracelets, the same number as Johnny Chan and Doyle Brunson and five fewer than all-time leader Phil Hellmuth, who has fifteen bracelets to his name. Ivey won his first WSOP bracelet in 2000, when he defeated the late Thomas Preston Jr., better known as ‘Amarillo Slim’, heads-up in a Pot Limit Omaha event at Binion’s, Las Vegas; it was, in fact, the first time his illustrious opponent had been beaten heads-up at a final table in the WSOP.

In 2017, Ivey admitted to ‘edge sorting’ – that is, exploiting subtle defects on the back of playing cards to identify them as beneficial or otherwise – at the Borgata Casino in Atlantic Jersey. Consequently, he and his playing partner, Cheung Yin ‘Kelly’ Sun, were found in breach of the casino contract and ordered to repay $10.1 million in winnings They did not and, in early 2019, a federal judge granted permission for the Borgata to pursue assets belonging to Ivey in Nevada, having discovered that he holds non such assets in New Jersey.

Phil Hellmouth

phil-hellmuth-300x269Phillip ‘Phil’ Hellmouth Jr., still known to many as ‘The Poker Brat’, despite turning 55 in 2019, was born in Madison, Wisconsin. He went to college locally, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, before dropping out to focus on his poker activities. In the World Series of Poker (WSOP), Hellmouth earned his first cash as long ago as 1988, when he finished fifth in a Seven-Card Stud Split event at Binion’s, Las Vegas. However, the following year, at the age of 24, he won the WSOP $10,000 No Limit Hold’em World Championship at the same venue, making him, at the time, the youngest player to do so.

That record was beaten by Peter ‘Icegate’ Eastgate, aged 22, in 2008 and again, by Joe ‘The Kid’ Cada, aged 21, the following year, but Hellmouth still holds several WSOP records, including the most WSOP bracelets (15) and the most cashes (137). His victory in the WSOP Europe Main Event in 2012 also made him the only player ever to win the WSOP Main Event and the WSOPE Main Event. Hellmuth was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2007 and currently lies nineteenth in the all-time money list, with just shy of $23 million in live earnings.

For all his success in Texas hold’em and other poker variants, Hellmuth is still prone to foul-mouthed temper tantrums, particularly after a bad beat, and fully deserves his derogatory nickname. He was widely criticised for launching a verbal assault on James Campbell at the 2018 WSOP Main Event, simply because Campbell re-raised, all-in, after – at the time, unbeknown to Hellmuth – flopping a flush draw. As it turned out, Hellmuth folded, but Campbell failed to make his flush and lost the hand to the third player in the hand, Alex Kuzmin.

John Juanda

john-juandaJohnson Juanda, usually known as ‘John’ or by his nicknames, ‘J.J.’ or ‘Luckbox’, was born in Indonesia, but has resided in the United States since 1990 and is currently based in Marina del Rey, California. He currently lies fourteenth in the all-time money list, with $25.2 million in total live earnings.

Since turning professional in 1997, Juanda has won five World Series of Poker (WSOP) gold bracelets in poker variants including Texas hold’em, Omaha hold’em, stud and draw lowball, a European Poker Tour (EPT) title and numerous other tournaments worldwide. Indeed, he won his last tournament, a Triton Poker Super High Roller Series event in Budva, Montenegro – for which he collected HK$4,720,000, or $601,358 – as recently as May, 2019. His biggest payout, though, came in another event in the same series in Macau in 2017, when he claimed the first prize of HK$22,410,400, or $2,870,092, by defeating Fedor Holz heads-up.

Juanda, who turned 48 in July, 2019, has a reputation as a conservative, low-profile player and a man of few words; in fact, he is known, in some quarters, as the ‘Silent Assassin’. Nevertheless, he is one of the most successful and consistent players, online and live, of the last twenty years or so and was, quite rightly, inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in Las Vegas in 2015. Fellow professional Daniel ‘Kid Poker’ Negreanu, who introduced Juanda at the Hall of Fame ceremony at Binion’s, once called him ‘the most underrated and neglected superstar’ in poker.

Fedor Holz

Fedor_Holz-683x1024Still only 25, Saarbrücken-born Fedor Holz has already enjoyed an extraordinary poker career. So far, he has won just one World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet, in the High Roller for One Drop event in 2016, but collected $5 million for his trouble and enjoyed his biggest payout yet, $6 million, when finishing runner-up to Justin Bonomo in the WSOP Big One for One Drop event in 2018. In his short, but highly lucrative, career, Holz, who specialises in high roller tournaments, has pocketed seven-figure earnings on five other occasions. Currently ranked sixth on the all-time money list, with $32.6 million in live earnings alone, he is, unquestionably, one of the most talented and, arguably, luckiest tournament poker players of his generation.

Holz started playing poker, informally, as a 17-year-old student, before turning to online poker once of legal age. Subsequently, under the auspices of a prominent multi-table tournament (MTT) player, he received the instruction, and stake, required to progress his career as a professional poker player, both online and live. Holz won his first cash prize, €15,320 , or $19,288, for finishing runner-up in the GPT II Deepstack Series Main Event at the King’s Resort Live in Rozvadov in the Czech Republic in 2012. He became a full-time professional poker in 2013, settled in Vienna, Austria – where he still resides – in 2014 and, later the same year, under the moniker ‘CrownUpGuy’, saw off 2,141 other players to claim the $1.3 million first prize at the World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) Main Event.