Poker's 'great' debate
By Chris Tessaro, Special to the QMI Agency
|Daniel Negreanu, left, and Doyle Brunson, right, are part of poker's old guard. In the case of Brunson, really old. Nearly 80, Brunson still finds time to play in the highest stakes games in the world. (QMI Agency files)
Probably one of the most heated areas of debate amongst every level of poker player and fan is a simple one: Who’s the best poker player in the world?
Since it’s a pretty subjective topic, there’s usually a great deal of debate. Old-timers or newcomers? Cash game or tournament players? Live or online? Lots of factors to consider.
So, with virtually no criteria other than personal opinion, here’s a roster of some of the best players in the world.
The Old Guard
Doyle Brunson: Making the assumption that old means over the hill would be a very expensive proposition sitting at a table with Doyle Brunson. Ten World Series Of Poker bracelets to his name, and the soon to be 80-year-old Brunson still finds time to play in the highest stakes poker games in the world.
Erik Seidel: Despite the stigma of being outplayed by Johnny Chan and having that immortalized in Rounders, Seidel remains a force in the high buy-in live tournament world.
Daniel Negreanu: ‘Kid Poker’? Old guard? Yup. As Daniel hits his 40’s, he’s definitely part of the history of the game. But the most popular poker player in the world still can play in any game, at any level, and more than hold his own.
Phil Hellmuth: For years, people have been saying that Hellmuth is over. Two more bracelets this year. The Poker Brat is the best big tournament hold ‘em player in the world. Period. End of story. Not sure? Ask him. He’ll tell you.
The Young Guns
Tom Dwan: No one burst onto the scene with more commotion than Dwan. The young online phenom won millions online and played the very best in the game at absolute nosebleed stakes. Currently demolishing rich businessmen playing live in Macau.
Antonio Esfandiari: Antonio seems like he’s been around longer than his 34 years. Perhaps that’s because he wins everything. Including the 18 million dollar first prize in the inaugural Big One For One Drop million-dollar buy-in WSOP event.
Players to watch
Phil Galfond: An American living in Vancouver to ply his trade as an online poker genius. He made so much money that he built a five million dollar New York apartment that featured a slide from the second floor to the first.
Sam Trickett: A Brit who has established himself as a force in live tournaments and huge stakes cash games. He finished second to Antonio in the million-dollar buy-in WSOP event.
Marvin Rettenmeier: A German that became the first player to win back-to-back WPT events. He’s a crazy fun loving force that Party Poker made one of their few sponsored pros. He’s in the mix in any tournament he plays.
Jennifer Harmon: One of the best high stakes cash game players in the world. Harmon was the only member of the poker ‘corporation’ formed to play heads up poker with Texas billionaire Andy Beal for stakes that topped 25 million dollars.
Liv Boiree: The guitar shredding metal queen/astrophysicist Boiree is brilliant, beautiful, and deadly at the tables. Many deep runs in tournaments showcase her talents as well as her personality.
Vanessa Selbst: There are few tournament players as feared as Selbst, man or woman. Her relentless aggression causes opponents to wilt under the pressure, and no one is more capable of a massive bluff than Vanessa.
And then there’s Ivey
Phil Ivey: The poker world is rarely in agreement on anything. But there are few that would dispute that Ivey is far and away the best poker player on the planet. He wins WSOP bracelets. He wins WPT bracelets. He wins millions online. He wins millions playing live in the high stakes games in Vegas and Macau. There is no player as feared on the felt as Philip Ivey Jr. His nickname is ‘The Tiger Woods of Poker’. But not even Woods can dominate the way Ivey can. Fear him. He’s just that good.