Poker is an exciting game. The adrenaline rush of pulling a big bluff, dragging in a huge pot, or winning a major title can be compared to a few things in things in this life. Over the years, we’ve witnessed numerous such moments and it’s hard to pick out the most important ones. Every big hand has its own magic.
When there are so many moments to choose from, making any sort of top list-type of an article is difficult. This article will focus on top 10 biggest poker wins. But, it won’t focus on the sheer cash amount. There are other things that make a poker win big even if the amount won doesn’t seem as significant in the overall scheme of things.
1. Chris Moneymaker Wins 2003 WSOP Main Event
When an unknown accountant from Tennessee qualified for the 2003 WSOP Main Even via a satellite tournament on PokerStars, nobody could imagine how big of an effect this would have on the game of poker. The man with a catchy surname and not much else going for him in poker terms came to Las Vegas filled with dreams and hopes. His story wasn’t unlike one of the so many others coming to Sin City, looking for their share of luck.
However, Moneymaker stood out from the rest. He managed to outlast every single player in the Main Event, seizing the title and the $2.5 million prize to go with it. In an epic ending, he squared off against famous Sammy Farha and prevailed.
Thanks to television, Moneymaker’s story gave wings to hundreds of thousands around the globe. If a Tennessee accountant could do it, anyone could. In the years to come, the popularity of poker, online and offline, would keep growing, reaching unthinkable proportions. That 2003 Main Event changed the game of poker forever.
2. Antonio Esfandiari Takes Home Big One for One Drop
Back in 2012, a professional player Antonio ‘The Magician’ Esfandiari took home the biggest prize in tournament poker. Playing in the first $1,000,000 buy-in event, Esfandiari managed to be the last man standing in the 48-strong field consisting of top professionals and wealthy businessmen.
In the end, ‘The Magician’ took home a prize of $18.3 million, for a cool profit in excess of $17 million. To this day, this is the biggest single prize won in a poker tournament, and it is a record that won’t be easily surpassed.
3. Jamie Gold and a $12,000,000 Victory
Following Moneymaker’s 2003 victory, fields in the annual WSOP Main Event kept growing. The 2006 Main Event saw the largest-ever WSOP ME field, gathering a total of 8,773 players and creating a massive prize pool of $82.5 million. Of this amount, $12,000,000 was reserved for the winner.
The man who took home that amount was Jamie Gold. Gold, who’s a TV producer and a talent agent, has been a regular fixture in poker tournaments over the years. However, he wasn’t a professional player. That didn’t stop him from outlasting the huge field to seize the prestigious title and the $12 million win.
Jamie’s victory will be remembered for a long time for reasons other than money, though. For the entire duration of the tournament, Gold kept talking, trying to extract information from his opponents. Without going into the merits of this strategy, one thing is certain. Watching Jamie Gold doing his thing at the tables was loads of fun.
4. Victoria Corren Mitchell Becomes the First Two-Time Female EPT Winner
The European Poker Tour (EPT) is one of the biggest, best-known poker tournament series aside from the WSOP. Although it is being discontinued as such, EPT will certainly be remembered for years to come. It created many great champions, produced hundreds of nerve-wracking moments, and gave us a lot of entertainment.
In the sea of champions, Victoria Corren Mitchell stands out as the only female player to win two EPT titles. First, in 2006 Victoria became the first-ever female EPT winner by triumphing in London. Then, in 2014, she repeated her success by going all the way in San Remo. These two wins combined brought her in excess of $1.5 million and, more importantly, added her name to the pages of poker history.
5. Martin Jacobson and an Even $10,000,000 Win
After Gold’s victory in 2006, WSOP Main Event never really saw such a huge field of players descend on Las Vegas. Prize pools were still quite significant, but they didn’t reach that magic $10 million mark. That’s why WSOP organizers decided to up the ante by offering $10,000,000 for the 2014 Main Event winner.
That amount eventually went to the Swede Martin Jacobson who outlasted the field of 6,683 players and took home the huge amount. One peculiarity about this year was that tournament organizers had to water-down the prize pool somewhat to meet the first place guarantee. Thus, runner-up Felix Stephenson won “only” $5.1 million for his second place finish.
6. $15,000,000 for Dan Colman
The WSOP 2014 saw another huge winner. That year was the second time the $1,000,000 buy-in Big One for One Drop was staged, once again attracting some of the game’s best to the tables. The field was slightly smaller, as 42 players showed up to play this time around, but it was still a prize pool of $37,000,000 to be distributed only among the few of the highest finishers.
The top prize of $15.3 million went to Daniel Colman, a player who built his reputation primarily at a virtual (online felt). Finishing runner-up that year was one of the best-known faces in poker, Daniel ‘KidPoker’ Negreanu, who banked just shy of $8.3 million.
7. Tom Dwan, Phil Ivey & Largest Pot in Televised History
We all love seeing high stakes televised cash games. Many believe that’s poker at its best, with high-pressure moments, huge bluffs, and missteps that can cost players high six figures. Over the years, we’ve seen a number of big pots take place, but one of them remains remembered as the largest one in televised history.
The hand was played between two of the game’s greats, Phil Ivey and Tom Dwan. Both well-known high stakes professionals, Ivey is certainly better known to the poker fandom. However, this particular pot didn’t go quite as planned.
The pot in question took place on Season 4 of the Million Dollar Cash Game show. The action was three-handed, but Patrik Antonius decided to sit this one out. Ivey and Dwan kept at it, and after they both had made straights on the turn, all the money went in, creating a $1.1 million pot. Dwan held the absolute nuts and Ivey was drawing dead with his smaller straight, making Dwan the man who took down the biggest pot in poker televised history.
8. Johnny Lodden aka ‘bad_ip’ High Stakes Adventure
We can’t discuss biggest poker wins without at least mentioning online poker, as this is a very big and significant segment of the game. Back in a day when online poker was still rather young, Johnny ‘bad_ip’ Lodden wracked havoc on the Prima network. He’s been known to play in the highest games available, and for a while, he was considered the biggest winner to hit the felt on the network. Although no one knows exact numbers, Lodden’s wins were measured in millions.
However, it all came to a crashing end for Johnny as he admittedly lost his entire bankroll on Prima. According to Lodden, the amount was in a vicinity of $10,000,000. Norwegian pro thus went from being one of the most feared online players around to being broke in a span of a couple of years. Lodden did manage to rebuild his bankroll later on thanks to a stake from a friend.
9. Largest Online Poker Pot ($1.3 million+)
High stakes action has been going strong at online tables for over a decade now, and many big pots have exchanged hands. There is no doubt that significant amounts of money went back and forth between the players on lesser-known rooms, away from prying eyes of curious railbirds.
However, one pot officially stands out among the biggest poker wins in online history. It was played between two high stakes regulars, Patrik Antonius and Viktor ‘Isildur1’ Blom. The two squared off at a heads up pot limit Omaha table and, sitting with more than $600,000 in front of them (each), they managed to put it all in the middle. The end result? A pot worth $1,356,946!
10. Largest Online Tournament Win ($2,278,097)
Rounding up this list of top 10 biggest poker wins in history, we must mention the biggest ever online tournament win. That honor went to Tyson ‘POTTERPOKER’ Marks. He triumphed in the 2010 PokerStars World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) Main Event, taking home just shy of $2.3 million.
Marks had to battle his way through the field of nearly 2,500 players. It was an uphill battle but the one well worth the effort as he came out of it a couple of million richer!