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.

Justin Bonomo

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Like several of his fellow professionals, including Bryn Kenney, Justin Bonomo graduated to poker from ‘Magic: The Gathering’ at any early age. He frequently played poker online in his teenage years, but first came to worldwide attention when, in 2005, age the age of 19 – that is, still not of legal age to play live poker tournaments in the United States – he finished fourth in the European Poker Tour (EPT) French Open in Deauville, making him the youngest player to make the final table in a televised poker tournament.

Bonomo won his first of his three World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelets in 2014, but his second and third in 2018, a year in which he won nine tournaments and over $25 million in prize money. Highlights of his ‘annus mirabilis’ included a Super High Roller Bowl China event at the Babylon Casino in Macau, worth HK$37.8 million, or $4.8 million, to the winner and, of course, the WSOP Big One for One Drop event at the Rio Casino in Las Vegas, worth a staggering $10 million. Bonomo has definitely benefited from the rapid increase in the number of ‘high roller’ poker tournaments in the last decade but, even so, his unprecedented winning streak in 2018 took him to the top of the all-time money list, ahead of Daniel Negreanu, with just over $45 million in live earnings alone.

Formerly a frequent and successful online poker player, under the moniker ‘ZeeJustin’, Bonomo has courted his fair share of controversy over the years and was, in fact, banned by PartyPoker for operating multiple accounts at the same time. However, in recent years Virginia-born Bonomo, 33, has focussed solely on live poker tournaments and, if 2018 and the early part of 2019 are anything to go by, appears to have made a wise decision.

 

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.