2019 marks the 50th annual World Series of Poker. The most prestigious poker festival in history has played a pivotal role in creating many of the legends and superstars of the game. To commemorate the occasion, PocketFives editorial staff each ranked the top 50 players in WSOP history in an effort to define and rank the most important, influential, and greatest WSOP players of all time.
Before jumping into who made #31-40, make sure you check out the names of the players who made #41-50.
#40 – Jay Heimowitz
New York’s Jay Heimowitz has captured six bracelets over the course of four decades, the first of which he won back in 1975 ($1,000 No Limit Hold’em). His sixth bracelet was won 26 years later in 2001, taking down the $1,000 Seniors’ Championship 26. At 81 years old, Heimowitz continues to make the trek to the World Series of Poker, having cashed in each of the last three Seniors events as he continues to add to his $1.5 million in WSOP career earnings.
“Modern day players may not know the name Jay Heimowitz as he wasn’t one of the pre-Moneymaker grinders to make it big on TV during the boom. However, his resume speaks for itself and his consistency and dedication to the WSOP, having played and cashed in the series in every decade in its history, makes him one of the greats.” – PocketFives Senior Writer, Jeff Walsh.
#39 – David ‘Chip’ Reese
The man that Doyle Brunson once declared as “the best poker player that ever lived” was David ‘Chip’ Reese, winner of the WSOP’s very first $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. tournament for over $1.78M. After Reese’s death in 2007, the WSOP honored him by putting his name on the trophy for the prestigious event (later named the Poker Players Championship). Widely considered one of the best cash game players of his era, Reese made a lasting impact on the WSOP by winning three bracelets and over $2.2 million over the course of his 25 cashes.
#38 – Chris Bjorin
Sweden’s Chris Bjorin is a model of World Series of Poker consistency. His first WSOP cash came back in 1991 and he’s had a presence at the series ever since. Amassing 86 cashes in Las Vegas, and another six during the WSOPE, Bjorin has earned over $2.6 million from WSOP events, helping him to the #2 on Sweden’s All Time Money List, right behind WSOP Main Event Champion Martin Jacobson. Bjorin picked up bracelets in 1997 ($1,500 Pot Limit Omaha) and 2000 ($3,000 No-Limit Hold’em).
“The consistent nature that Chris Bjorin brings to the WSOP is remarkable. He’s one of Europe’s most distinguished players and has been recording numerous cashes each summer at the WSOP for decades now. His success, done so through performances across all variants, served as a model for European players at the WSOP.” – PocketFives Managing Editor Donnie Peters
#37 – Sammy Farha
Legendary gambler Sammy Farha’s contribution to the explosion of poker in the early 2000’s simply cannot be overlooked. With his unlit cigarette dangling from his mouth, Farha’s one-of-a-kind personality made almost as much impact on the WSOP as the man he sat across from at the final table of the 2003 Main Event. Farha, as we all know, finished runner-up to Chris Moneymaker, an event that served as ground zero for the poker boom. After that, Farha remained a fixture of the WSOP. He showed up and played in some of the biggest events of the series. He picked up two of his three gold bracelets after 2003, winning one in 2006 ($5,000 Omaha Hi-Lo) and another in 2010 ($10,000 Omaha Hi-Lo or Better Championship).
“The character that is Sammy Farha is as important to WSOP history as is Sammy Farha the poker player. He epitomizes the gambler and his legend only grows in that regard when you realize his game of choice is and will always Omaha. Farha only has 11 WSOP cashes, but that’s largely because he focuses on high-stakes cash game play and only really plays tournaments when they are Omaha. Even so, six of those 11 cashes have resulted in top 10 finished and three of them were bracelet wins. Omaha is the second most popular variant in WSOP history and Farha is one of the most iconic Omaha players the WSOP has ever seen.” – Donnie Peters
#36 – Jonathan Duhamel
The first of the modern day Main Event winners to grace this list, Jonathan Duhamel seemed to come out of nowhere when he took down the 2010 Main Event for $8.9 million. That victory alone is not enough to land in the top 50 of all-time, however, Duhamel was more than a one-hit wonder. He continued to make the trip to Las Vegas and in the years since has tacked on two more bracelets. First, he won the $111,111 High Roller For One Drop in 2015 for another $3.989M and then added a WSOPE bracelet in the same year in the €25,600 NLHE High Roller for $628K. Duhamel has over $14.6M in WSOP earnings with 11 final tables over the course of 40 cashes.
#35 – Dan Harrington
Despite his limited WSOP resume, Poker Hall of Fame member “Action” Dan Harrington (and his iconic green Boston baseball cap) was an important presence during some of the biggest moments of the WSOP. In 1995, Harrington bested the 273 player field to take home the $1,000,000 first-place prize of the Main Event. He then made it back to the final table in 2003, finishing in third place to Farha and Moneymaker for $650,000. He navigated the field in 2004 to reach his third Main Event final table, finishing in fourth place for $1.5 million.
“Harrington may only have 13 cashes at the World Series of Poker, but this results made a major impact on the WSOP brand and poker itself. His back-to-back final tables in the Main Event came just as cameras captured the birth of poker boom and Harrington’s Boston toughness at the table is something that still resonates with those in the pre-Moneymaker generation. Having had the opportunity to play with Harrington once, I can attest to his on-the-felt charisma that was broadcast to millions in 2003.” – Jeff Walsh
#34 – Layne Flack
The first time Layne Flack went to the World Series of Poker in the late ’90s, he was there to work as a dealer. After one week in the box, he switched sides and started his WSOP career as a player. Now, over 20 years later Flack has won six WSOP titles and over $2.8 million in earnings. Although he earned his nickname of ‘Back-to-Back’ Flack before 2003, Flack lived up to his moniker after winning a bracelet in the $2,500 Limit Omaha Hi-Lo and then jumping right into a $1,500 Limit Hold’em Shootout and taking that one down as well.
#33 – Brian Rast
Las Vegas pro Brian Rast has proven himself to be a favorite in just about any tournament he enters, having picked up four bracelets in his career and earned over $6 million at the WSOP. One of only two people to have won the prestigious $50,000 Poker Players Championship more than once, Rast picked up his first PPC victory in 2011, denying Phil Hellmuth the win, and taking home $1.7M for first. Then in 2016, he bested current All-Time Money List leader Justin Bonomo to pick up his second Chip Reese Memorial Trophy and another $1.29M prize.
“Rast is a very special breed of poker player. He doesn’t play a 30-40 event schedule each summer in pursuit of Player of the Year points. He picks and chooses the events where he has an edge and then crushes them. Having won the Poker Players Championship twice, Rast has proven his mettle against the best players of his era. If we do this list again in ten years, I suspect Rast will be higher up the list.” – Lance Bradley, PocketFives Editor in Chief.
#32 – Jeff Madsen
In 2006, when 21-year-old Jeff Madsen won his first gold bracelet in the $2,000 No Limit Hold’em event for $660,948, he became the record holder for the youngest bracelet winner in history (a distinction that now belongs to Annette Obrestad). Madsen followed that performance in the same year with a victory in the $5,000 No Limit Hold’em Six Max for another $643,381. His success in his first year earned him WSOP Player of the Year honors. Madsen has returned to the Rio every year since 2006, accumulating 73 cashes for nearly $3M in earnings and adding another two bracelets in 2013 and 2015.
#31 – Antonio Esfandiari
One of the most popular players on the planet is the bracelet winner of what was the largest tournament ever held at the World Series of Poker, the 2012 $1M buy-in Big One For One Drop. ‘The Magician’ was literally lifted in the air, on the shoulder of his rail, after claiming the first-place prize of $18.3M, the current record for largest payout ever at the WSOP. The iconic image of a barefoot Esfandiari basking in the victory of a lifetime is the current peak of a WSOP career that dates back to 2003. Esfandiari claimed his first bracelet in 2004 ($2,000 Pot Limit Hold’em) and added a third bracelet after his One Drop win, by taking home a €1,100 No Limit Hold’em title from World Series of Poker Europe. In addition to his 48 cashes and over $21M in lifetime earnings, Esfandiari’s personality has been affiliated with the WSOP brand in front of the camera, both on the felt and in the commentary booth on ESPN.
For more discussion on PocketFives’ Top 50 Greatest Players in WSOP History, check out the latest episode of The Fives podcast.
Stay tuned to PocketFives as we continue to count down the 50 greatest players in WSOP history leading up to the start of the 2019 festival.