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, 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.’

Erik Seidel

erik-seidelFormerly an accomplished backgammon player at the Mayfair Club in New York, Erik Seidel turned to trading options on the American Stock Exchange (AMEX) – now known as the NYSE American – before the stock market crash of October, 1987, a.k.a. ‘Black Monday’, forced him to seek new opportunities. He started playing poker at the Mayfair Club and, in 1988, encouraged by professional poker players Dan Harrington and Howard Lederer, headed to Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event.

Remarkably, Seidel finished runner-up to Johnny Chan on that occasion and, later the same year, won the 4th Annual Jim Brady event in Los Angeles. However, worries about supporting his family by playing poker alone led him back to Wall Street until, in 1995, with the encouragement of his wife, he moved away from New York for the first time and settled in Las Vegas.

Fast forward two decades or so and Seidel, who turns 60 in November, 2019, has won eight WSOP bracelets and one World Poker Tour (WPT) championship title. He currently lies third in the all-time money list, with $35.7 million in live earnings alone and, in 2010, was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in Las Vegas. Seidel enjoyed his biggest payout to date, $2,472,555, in the Aussie Millions Poker Championship in Melbourne in 2011, but he has collected seven-figure sums on three other occasions, most recently when finishing third in the Super High Roller Bowl at the Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas in 2016.