Type “Greatest poker player of all time” into Google and the name Phil Ivey comes out as the highest-ranking answer.
Further down the first search page is the Wikipedia entry for Stu Ungar, alongside Top 10 lists of players, often ranked with subjectivity rather than science.
After all, how does one reasonably determine who is the best poker player ever? Is it the player who has amassed the most career prize money, even though this favours the modern-day player over those racking up the tournament wins in the 1970s?
Is it the player to have cashed the most times? The player to have competed at the top of the tree for the longest? The player to have accumulated the most tournament victories? The player who has shown the most versatility by winning more World Series of Poker Bracelets in different poker disciplines? After all, poker shouldn’t just be looked at through the limited lens of no-limit Texas Holdem.
To try to answer the question once and for all, we have devised our own ranking criteria, analysing the performances of 30 legendary poker players in the following areas:
- World Series of Poker Main Event wins
- Total World Series of Poker bracelets
- Versatility (bracelets collected in different poker disciplines)
- Tournament wins
- Years active
- Career winnings
- Career cashes
- Poker books published
- Biggest career payday
- World Poker Tour wins
- European Poker Tour wins
Each player was ranked in all of the 11 categories and the 15 players to have performed best overall progressed to the final table. Unfortunately for Jason Mercier, he finished on the bubble.
Each category was then given a weighting based on how important they were deemed in deciding the greatest poker player ever. The weighting system was based on the order of the categories above.
So the player who has been rewarded with the biggest career payday was handed 15 points, while the lowest in this category received just one.
Meanwhile, the top player for Main Event wins collected 150 points and the lowest just 10.
Once the top 15 had a score in each category, these were totalled up and the greatest poker player of all time was unveiled. Here are the final 15: